Will the Taylor Swift-Ticketmaster Senate hearing change anything?4 min read
Beyond the compilation video of senators quoting Taylor Swift songs, what will be the legacy of January’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on anticompetitive practices in the live entertainment industry?
Congress has held several such hearings over the decades, with Pearl Jam famously appearing in 1994 and concert industry executives testifying against the Ticketmaster-Live Nation merger in 2009. With the arrival of the latest installment, titled “That’s the Ticket: Promoting Competition and Consumer Protection in Live Entertainment,” which comes on the heels of Taylor Swift’s ticketing debacle, some observers may think little has changed — indeed, promoter Jerry Mickelson returned before the committee on Jan. 24, Echoing comments he made nearly 14 years ago opposing integration, questions remain about what will — or won’t — happen next.
As for whether a major artist can realistically mount a tour without using Ticketmaster, the short answer is yes – with one important caveat.
Pearl Jam tried to do so in 1995 after the band’s dust-up with the ticket company. Ultimately the team faced challenges with many venues that did not have an exclusive deal with Ticketmaster. As a result, multiple dates on the group’s “Sponsored by No One Tour” were either canceled or relocated. By the time Pearl Jam began touring nationally again in 1998, the band was again working with Ticketmaster.
However, a new major player has since emerged: AEG Presents, the nation’s second-largest live-entertainment company (after Live Nation). AEG representatives did not testify last week, but the privately held Philip Anschutz-owned company, founded in 2002, has its own in-house ticket service, AXS.
Jack Bryan, one of country’s hottest stars today — who released his “All My Homies Hate Ticketmaster” live album in December — is bypassing the source of said homies’ ire for his next arena tour by selling tickets through AXS. The company is using pre-registration and a lottery system, hoping to avoid the problems that have plagued Swift’s sales.
Still, it’s extremely difficult for superstar artists to avoid Ticketmaster venues at the stadium level. As Mickelson noted at the hearing, 93% of NFL teams and their facilities have exclusive ticketing agreements with the company. When traveling on that scale, few options exist, although trial witness Jack Grotzinger’s SitGik has contracts with two North American stadiums. In his testimony, Grotzinger revealed why his company ended its relationship with Brooklyn’s Barclays Center — just one year into the seven-year contract that Sitzik won from Ticketmaster. Barclays wanted to keep Seatzic for sporting events but use Ticketmaster for concerts; Some Ticketmaster critics say this is an example of the company using its Live Nation ownership to threaten Barclays (directly or implicitly) with the re-diction of the Live Nation tour unless it re-aligns with Ticketmaster. As yet, no direct evidence of such tampering has been revealed. Also, part of Ticketmaster’s appeal to facilities — beyond the service fees it shares with them — is its ability to market shows, reach concertgoers through its customer database, and its regional sales opportunities.
The antitrust issue will currently determine whether the DOJ will determine whether Live Nation and Ticketmaster will be exempt from a competitive monopoly and merger. The Judiciary Committee seemed supportive of such a move, though the DOJ has seen it twice — most recently in 2020, when it extended the consent decree approving the merger until 2025. Whether a third goround would give a different result.
Whether new legislation will emerge from the hearings, said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust and Consumer Rights and a leader of the hearings. diversity“We’re dealing with bipartisan legislation with some basic disclosures and some common sense rules.”
During the hearing, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., pointed to the Secondary Sales and Accountability in Concert Ticket Act (aka the BOSS Act), which he introduced in the Senate in 2019. The bill focuses on transparency Ticket transactions. It sets all-inclusive prices, requiring primary and secondary ticket sellers to disclose all fees before placing tickets in their carts. Primary ticket sellers must disclose the total number of tickets for sale to the general public, after industry holdbacks. The law will further hit the secondary market by stopping speculative sales where someone lists tickets they don’t own.
Musician Clyde Lawrence was the only witness to express reservations about the all-in prize. Band co-leader Lawrence previously wrote an op-ed in the New York Times calling attention to the “one-way deal mechanics of live shows”. “There is absolutely zero visibility or telling us how much they are,” he told the hearing [service] The fee will be When the show is already sold out, we log into Ticketmaster and find out the same way as everyone else.” So he hoped that ticket prices would also be itemized so that his fans could understand the full breakdown of costs.
Another solution was suggested by Mickelson, who pointed out that venues in the UK do not have exclusive ticketing agreements with sellers, leading to a more competitive market. In 2018, the US Government Accountability Office reported that service fees in the UK are 10%–15% of the face value of a ticket, compared to 27% in the US, although the current Congress may not have the appetite for government intervention in contractual relations.
All told, concertgoers can maintain some measure of hope for a good ticket-buying experience but they shouldn’t hold their collective breath: To quote Klobuchar, Taylor Swift: Given the events of the past few decades, disappointment is something ticket buyers know “all about.” Good.”
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