Ticketmaster Explains Taylor Ticket Mess to Congress

Lawmakers did the impossible on Tuesday (January 24), they came together from both sides of the aisle to grill Ticketmaster in the wake of the Taylor Swift ticketing debacle.

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(For more on Swift and Bruce Springsteen’s ticketing issues, see HEREHERE, and HERE.)

“I want to congratulate and thank you for an absolutely stunning achievement,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal said. “You have brought together Republicans and Democrats in an absolutely unified cause.”

The Senator was speaking to CFO Joe Berchtold, president of Live Nation, which is Ticketmaster’s parent company. Representatives from the ticketing giant blamed bots for an unprecedented attack on their service during Swift’s ticket sale. 

[RELATED: Taylor Swift Breaks Radio Songs Chart Record with “Anti-Hero”]

According to CNN, Ticketmaster said it canceled Swift’s concert ticket sales to the public because of “extraordinarily high demands on ticketing systems and insufficient remaining ticket inventory to meet that demand.” 

“Ticketmaster,” Berchtold said, was “hit with three times the amount of bot traffic than we had ever experienced” amid the “unprecedented demand for Taylor Swift tickets.” The bot activity “required us to slow down and even pause our sales. This is what led to a terrible consumer experience that we deeply regret.”

Berchtold also said, defending his company, which many say has (along with Live Nation) a relative monopoly over live events, does not set ticket prices, noting, “In most cases, venues set service and ticketing fees.” Adding that Live Nation’s venue pricing is “consistent with the other venues in the marketplace.” 

But that may not be the case, in the long run. At least that’s what Jack Groetzinger, CEO of SeatGeek, said. He went as far as to note many venue owners “fear losing Live Nation concerts if they don’t use Ticketmaster” and its services.

“Live Nation controls the most popular entertainers in the world, routes most of the large tours, operates the ticketing systems, and even owns many of the venues,” Groetzinger said to the Congressional lawmakers. “This power over the entire live entertainment industry allows Live Nation to maintain its monopolistic influence over the primary ticketing market.”

He added: “As long as Live Nation remains both the dominant concert promoter and ticketer of major venues in the US, the industry will continue to lack competition and struggle.”

He wasn’t the only one chiding Ticketmaster and Live Nation. Clyde Lawrence, a singer-songwriter on the witness panel, said, “Since both our pay and theirs is a share of the show’s profits, we should be true partners aligned in our incentives—keep costs low while ensuring the best fan experience. But with Live Nation not only acting as the promoter but also the owner and operator of the venue, it seriously complicates these incentives.”

[RELATED: Taylor Swift Fans File Second Lawsuit Against Ticketmaster[

Lawrence added that with the ticketing giant “we’ll see a 40%-ish or closer to 50% fee added on top.”

“To have a strong capitalist system, you have to have competition,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota. “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.’”

Sen. John Kennedy said whoever at Live Nation was in charge of the Swift incident “ought to be fired.”

Photo by Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images

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