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Senate Judiciary Committee Holds Hearing on Ticket Industry Practices

On Tuesday, Jan. 24, the Senate Judiciary Committee held its highly anticipated hearing on competition in the ticket industry. “That’s the Ticket: Promoting Competition and Protecting Consumers in Live Entertainment” lasted over three hours, during which lawmakers questioned entertainment industry executives, artists and antitrust experts while Taylor Swift fans gathered outside in opposition to the current operations. 

Critics have accused Ticketmaster of being a monopoly, particularly after its merger with Live Nation in 2010. Outrage reignited during Swift’s botched presale process for her Eras tour back in November, which led to extended waits, excessive fees and website outages, leaving fans without their coveted entrance to the much-anticipated tour stops. 

Judiciary chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) spoke first and added some context to the situation. He stated: “Live Nation merged with Ticketmaster in 2010 in a deal that joined the country’s largest ticketing company with its largest event promoter. The Justice Department and Attorneys General from many states, including Illinois, sued to block the merger. The plaintiffs ultimately allowed the merger to go through, but put in place a consent decree with a set of conditions and divestitures designed to ensure competition in ticketing and live entertainment markets. Unfortunately, that consent decree does not appear to have been effective in the decade-plus since the merger Live Nation has consolidated its dominant position in the ticketing and live entertainment markets. And the result is a competition-killing strategy that has left artist and fans paying the price.”

Later in the day, Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), the chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights, added, “I just want to dispel this notion, that this is not a monopoly and then we can go from there about solutions.” She also added, “I believe in capitalism and to have a strong capitalist system, you have to have competition. You can’t have too much consolidation. Something that unfortunately for this country as an ode to Taylor Swift, I will say we know all too well.”

During yesterday’s hearing, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) spoke directly to the president and CFO of Live Nation Entertainment, Joe Berchtold, stating: “Mr. Berchtold, I want to congratulate and thank you for an absolutely stunning achievement. You have brought together Republicans and Democrats in an absolutely unified cause. And may I suggest respectfully that unfortunately your approach today in this hearing is going to solidify that cooperation because as I hear and read what you have to say, it’s basically, it’s not us, it’s everyone but us.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing on Tuesday stretched on for over three hours while addressing years of frustration and disapproval over high fees, questionable resale practices and other issues stemming from Swift’s ticket debacle. Attorney generals in many states set into motion consumer protection investigations, while many Democratic lawmakers requesting that Ticketmaster be broken up. Lawsuits filed by fans for what they believe is the company’s fraud and antitrust violations remain unresolved.

In her closing commentary, Klobuchar said: “It’s about fans. It’s about those events that bring us together, especially as we come out of this pandemic.” She continued, “People have loved going to see live music again, to see live concerts, to be part of that experience. One of our goals here, regardless of what state people are from or what party they belong to, is to give them that experience. To make them feel a part of a fan base or something that makes them feel good, or think about the lyrics to a song, or makes them just rejoice in being part of our arts, and part of our culture.”

Read more about the hearing here. Watch “That’s the Ticket: Promoting Competition and Protecting Consumers in Live Entertainment” here.

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