U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN.) and Mike Lee (R-UT.) announced testimony for a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing examining the lack of competition in the ticket industry, titled “That’s What Tickets Are: Promoting Competition and Protecting Consumers. Live Entertainment,” tomorrow ( January 24) will take place at 10 a.m. ET and will be streamed live here.
Prescribed witnesses include:
· Joe Berchtold, President and CFO, Live Nation Entertainment (which owns Ticketmaster)
· Jack Grotzinger, CEO, Sitzik (a New York-based ticketing platform and Ticketmaster competitor, which recently lost a seven-year deal with Ticketmaster after just one year at Barclays Center in Brooklyn)
Jerry Mickelson, CEO and President, JAM Productions (Chicago-based concert promoter, founded in 1972)
· Sal Nuzzo, Senior Vice President, James Madison Institute (a Florida-based free-market think tank)
· Kathleen Bradish, Vice President for Legal Advocacy, American Antitrust Institute (a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit whose mission is to promote competition for the benefit of “consumers, businesses, and society”).
· Clyde Lawrence, singer-songwriter of the band Lawrence
While Ticketmaster’s foes have been swirling around the hearing for the past few days, and the harsh words and accusations may be circulating, it’s unclear how much change can actually come from it unless Ticketmaster presents evidence of certifiable anti-competitive practices — that is, it can be proven that they unfairly pressured venues to use their services and not competitors.
Although JAM is a major regional promoter and Sitzik a strong competitor, the reluctance of many in the industry to criticize Ticketmaster before Congress is indicated by the artist listed as a witness: although Lawrence is a longtime New York-based sibling. The pair, signed to Beautiful Mind, a label founded by Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter John Bellion, aren’t on the same level as members of Taylor Swift or Pearl Jam.
Further clouding the matter is that the flashpoint for this hearing is the disastrous rollout of tickets for Taylor Swift’s “Eras” tour later this year, which suffered significant service failures and delays on Ticketmaster’s website in November that left thousands of fans frustrated, if not upset. . Due to not being able to buy concert tickets. However, that incident had little to do with anti-trust and more to do with astronomical demand selling too many tickets at once.
However, Sen. Klobuchar has been a longtime advocate of live entertainment, especially in the anti-trust world — he played a key role in the passage of the “Save Our Stages” bill in 2020, which brought $16 billion in federal pandemic relief to independent music venues and theaters. In November, Klobuchar wrote a letter to Ticketmaster expressing concern about the lack of competition in the ticketing industry and questioning whether the company was taking the necessary steps to best serve customers.
According to documents released Monday, Ticketmaster may point to increased competition in the ticketing industry, particularly in the secondary market; The fact that venues charge a large portion of controversial service fees that don’t show up until late in the buying process; And the fact that Live Nation has invested $1 billion to improve Ticketmaster’s infrastructure, anti-bot technology and tactics to eliminate fraud and defeat predatory actors in the secondary market.
The hearing will be held before the full Senate Judiciary Committee, including Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and incoming Ranking Member Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
In a statement announcing the hearing date last week, Klobuchar said, “The problems in America’s ticket industry became painfully clear when Ticketmaster’s website failed tens of thousands of fans hoping to buy tickets for Taylor Swift’s new tour, but these problems are not new. . . For many days, consumer high fees, long waits, and website failures, and Ticketmaster’s dominant market position means the company faces insufficient pressure to innovate and improve. At next week’s hearing, we’ll examine how consolidation in the live entertainment and ticketing industries hurts consumers and artists alike. Good Without competition to encourage service and fair pricing, we all suffer the consequences.”
Klobuchar, who has been particularly outspoken in his criticism of the ticketing giant since the Swift Ticketing debacle in October, spoke to Variety about the issues last month. “As they’ve said publicly, they should have done better at selling Taylor Swift tickets. We know this, but we believe it is not enough. I believe we need to get to the bottom of the problems in the ticketing industry,” he said. “What happens with monopolies is that people who are hurt by them are also afraid of them. They don’t want to come forward because they think they will be confused.”
“American consumers deserve the benefit of competition in every market, from grocery chains to concert venues,” Lee said. “I look forward to exercising our subcommittee’s oversight authority to ensure that anticompetitive mergers and exclusionary conduct do not cripple an entertainment industry already struggling to recover from pandemic lockdowns.”
diversity There will be more at the hearing as it develops Tuesday.