A US Senate antitrust panel will go ahead with a hearing about the lack of competition in the country’s ticketing industry after Ticketmaster’s problems last week managing the sale of Taylor Swift tickets.
Ticketmaster’s parent company, Live Nation, has blamed presale problems for Swift’s Eras tour – the pop superstar’s first US tour in five years – on “unprecedented demand” and an effort to keep out bots run by ticket scalpers.
After registered fans struggled with glitches for hours to get tickets in the presale, and tickets quickly began appearing for resale for as much as US$22,700 (£19,100, A$33,500), Ticketmaster canceled sales to the general public. It later claimed the demand for Swift tickets “could have filled 900 stadiums”.
Swift has said it was “excruciating” for her to watch fans struggling to secure tickets and that she had been assured Ticketmaster could handle the demand.
The chaos attracted the attention of US politicians, many of whom have voiced concerns about how dominant Ticketmaster has become after it merged with the entertainment company Live Nation in 2010.
Tennessee’s 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.
The congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has also criticized the merger. “Daily reminder that Ticketmaster is a monopoly, its merger with Live Nation should never have been approved, and they need to be reined in,” she tweeted. “Break them up.”
On Tuesday Senator Amy Klobuchar, who will chair the panel, and Senator Mike Lee, the top Republican on the committee, announced the Senate hearing would go ahead. They have yet to provide a date or a list of witnesses.
“The high fees, site disruptions and cancellations that customers experienced shows how Ticketmaster’s dominant market position means the company does not face any pressure to continually innovate and improve,” Klobuchar said. “We will hold a hearing on how consolidation in the live entertainment and ticketing industry harms customers and artists alike.”
Ticketmaster denied any anti-competitive practices and said it remained under a consent decree with the Department of Justice after the 2010 merger, adding there was no “evidence of systemic violations of the consent decree”.
“Ticketmaster has a significant share of the primary ticketing services market because of the large gap that exists between the quality of the Ticketmaster system and the next best primary ticketing system,” the company said.
Klobuchar was one of three lawyers who argued in a letter on Monday that Ticketmaster and Live Nation should be broken up by the Department of Justice if any misconduct was found in an ongoing investigation.
The department has proven in recent years to be much more willing to file antitrust lawsuits against giant companies – including the ongoing December 2020 lawsuit against Google – and to fight mergers.