Taylor Swift’s Ticketmaster mess sparks a US Senate antitrust hearing

The US Senate Antitrust Committee will proceed with a hearing on the lack of competition in the country’s ticketing industry following Ticketmaster’s troubles last week in managing Taylor Swift’s ticket sale.

Tickemaster’s parent company, Live Nation, blamed pre-sale problems with Swift’s Eras tour — the pop star’s first US tour in five years — on “unprecedented demand” and an attempt to block bots run by ticket hunters.

After registered fans suffered glitches for hours to get tickets in pre-sale, and soon tickets began turning up for resale for up to US$22,700 (£19,100, A$33,500), Ticketmaster canceled sales to the general public. It later claimed that demand for Swift tickets “could have filled 900 stadiums”.

Swift said that watching fans struggle for tickets was “painful” for her, and that she was sure Ticketmaster could handle the demand.

The chaos has attracted the attention of US politicians, many of whom have expressed concerns about the extent of Ticketmaster’s dominance after its merger with entertainment company Live Nation in 2010.

Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Scrimetti 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 has also criticized the merger. “A daily reminder that Ticketmaster is a monopoly, their merger with Live Nation should never be approved, and they should be reined in,” chirp. “break them up.”

On Tuesday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who will chair the committee, and Sen. Mike Lee, the top Republican on the committee, announced that the Senate hearing would go ahead. They have not yet provided a date or list of witnesses.

“The high fees, site downtime and cancellations experienced by customers show how Ticketmaster’s dominant position in the market means the company is under no pressure to innovate and continually improve,” Klobuchar said. “We will be holding a hearing on how consolidation in the live entertainment industry and the ticketing industry is hurting customers and artists alike.”

Ticketmaster denied any anti-competitive practices and said it was still subject to 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 basic ticketing services market due to the significant gap that exists between the quality of the Ticketmaster system and the next best basic ticketing system,” the company said.

Klobuchar was one of three lawmakers who argued in a letter Monday that Ticketmaster and Live Nation should be dismantled by the Justice Department if any misconduct is found in an ongoing investigation.

The department has proven in recent years to be more willing to file antitrust lawsuits against the giants — including the ongoing December 2020 lawsuit against Google — and to fight mergers.

Reuters contributed to this report

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