A US Senate antitrust panel will go ahead with a hearing into the lack of competition in the country’s ticketing industry after Ticketmaster’s problems last week in managing sales Taylor Swift tickets.
Ticketmaster’s parent company Live Nation has blamed 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 bots at the helm of ticket scalpers.
After registered fans struggled with glitches for hours to get tickets in the pre-sale, and tickets started selling quickly to resell for as much as US$22,700 (£19,100, A$33,500), Ticketmaster canceled sales to the general public. He later claimed that Swift’s tickets were in demand “900 stadiums could be filled“.
Swift said he was “excruciated” she watched her fans struggle to get tickets and was sure Ticketmaster could handle the demand.
The chaos has attracted the attention of US politicians, many of whom have expressed concern about how dominant Ticketmaster has become after its 2010 merger with entertainment company Live Nation.
Tennessee attorney general Jonathan Skrmetti has said he will launch a consumer protection investigation into the company after his office was bombed with complaints from Swift fans.
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has also criticized the merger. “A daily reminder that Ticketmaster is a monopoly, its merger with Live Nation should never have been allowed, and they must be reinstated,” she added 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 that the Senate hearing would go ahead. They have not yet provided a date or a list of witnesses.
“The high fees, site disruption and customer cancellations experienced show how Ticketmaster’s dominant position means the company is under no pressure to innovate and continually improve,” Klobuchar said. “We will hear how consolidation in the entertainment and live ticketing industry is hurting both customers and artists.”
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 has 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 the Justice Department should fire Ticketmaster and Live Nation if any misconduct is found in an ongoing investigation.
The department has proven in recent years that it is much more willing to file antitrust lawsuits against giant companies – including the ongoing lawsuit against Google in December 2020 – and to fight mergers .
Reuters contributed to this report