A US Senate antitrust panel will move forward with a hearing into the lack of competition in the country’s ticketing industry, following problems Ticketmaster had last week handling the sale of Taylor Swift tickets.
Tickemaster’s parent company, Live Nation, blamed pre-sales problems for Swift’s Eras Tour – the pop superstar’s first US tour in five years – on “unprecedented demand” and an effort to prevent robots operated by ticket resellers.
After registered fans struggled with glitches for hours to get pre-sale tickets, and tickets soon started showing up for resale up to US$22,700 (£19,100, A$33,500), Ticketmaster has completely canceled sales to the general public. They then claimed that the Swift ticket request “could have filled 900 stadiums”.
Swift said it was “excruciating” for her to see fans struggling to get tickets and that she was assured Ticketmaster could handle high demand.
The chaos has caught the attention of US politicians, many of whom have expressed concern over Ticketmaster’s dominance after its merger with entertainment company Live Nation in 2010.
Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti said he would launch a consumer protection investigation into the company, after his office was bombarded with complaints from Swift fans.
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez 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 brought under control,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. “Break them.”
On Tuesday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who will chair the panel, and Sen. Mike Lee, the committee’s top Republican, announced that the Senate hearing would continue. They have not yet provided a date or list of witnesses.
“The high fees, site disruptions and cancellations customers have experienced show how Ticketmaster’s dominant market position means the company is under no pressure to innovate and continually improve,” Klobuchar said. . “We will hold a hearing on how consolidation in the live entertainment and box office industry is hurting customers and performers.”
In a statement, Ticketmaster denied any anti-competitive practices and said it remained under a consent decree with the Department of Justice after the 2010 merger, adding that there was no “evidence of systemic violations of the consent decree”.
“Ticketmaster holds a significant share of the primary ticketing services market due to the large gap between the quality of the Ticketmaster system and the next best primary ticketing system,” the company said.
Klobuchar was one of three lawmakers who argued in a letter Monday that Ticketmaster and owner Live Nation Entertainment should be taken down by the Justice Department if misconduct is found in an ongoing investigation.
The DOJ has proven in recent years to be much more willing to bring antitrust lawsuits against giant corporations – including the ongoing December 2020 lawsuit against Google – and fight mergers.
Reuters contributed to this report.