A U.S. Senate antitrust panel will proceed with a hearing on the lack of competition in the country’s ticketing industry following Ticketmaster’s troubles last week with its management of Taylor Swift ticket sales.
Tickemaster’s parent company, Live Nation, blames pre-sale problems for Swift’s Eras tour – the pop superstar’s first US tour in five years – on “unprecedented demand” and an attempt to keep ticket buyer bots out.
After registered fans struggled for hours to get hold of pre-sale tickets, and tickets soon appeared on resale for as much as US$22,700 (£19,100, A$33,500), Ticketmaster canceled sales to the general public. It later claimed that demand for Swift tickets “could have filled 900 stadiums”.
Swift has said it was “unbearable” for her to see fans struggling to get tickets and was assured that Ticketmaster can handle the demand.
The chaos has caught the attention of US politicians, many of whom have expressed concerns about how dominant Ticketmaster has become following its merger with the entertainment company Live Nation in 2010.
Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti has said he will launch a consumer protection investigation into the company after his office was bombarded with complaints from Swift fans.
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also criticizes the merger. “Daily reminder that Ticketmaster is a monopoly, that the merger with Live Nation should never have been approved and they must be curbed,” she said. tweeted. “Break them apart.”
On Tuesday, Senator Amy Klobuchar, who will chair the panel, and Senator Mike Lee, the top Republican on the committee, announced that the Senate hearing will continue. They have yet to give a date or a list of witnesses.
“The high rates, disruptions and site cancellations that customers have experienced demonstrate how Ticketmaster’s dominant market position means the company is not under pressure to constantly innovate and improve,” said Klobuchar. “We will hold a hearing on how consolidation in the live entertainment and ticketing industry is hurting both customers and artists.”
Ticketmaster denied any anti-competitive practices and said it remained under a consent decree with the Justice Department after the 2010 merger, adding that there was no “evidence of systemic consent decree violations”.
“Ticketmaster has a significant share of the primary ticketing services market due to the large gap that exists between the quality of the Ticketmaster system and the second best primary ticketing system,” the company said.
Klobuchar was one of three lawmakers who argued in a letter Monday that Ticketmaster and Live Nation should be pulled apart by the Justice Department if misconduct is found in an ongoing investigation.
The department has proven far more willing in recent years to take antitrust cases against giant corporations — including the ongoing December 2020 lawsuit against Google — and fight mergers.
Reuters contributed to this report