Joe Berchtold, president and CFO of TicketMaster parent co Live Nation Entertainment, sat through a three-hour burn by U.S. senators Tuesday following accusations that his company is a monopoly that hustled Taylor Swift fans out of seeing her live last fall, Deadline reports.
Back in November, legions of Swifties waited eagerly to grab tickets for the artist’s Eras Tour. The companies’ presale for “verified fans” not only crashed the Ticketmaster site but left fans waiting in long lines only to discover inflated ticket prices at the end of them. In fact, the situation was such a mess that Ticketmaster ended up canceling the general sale: the only way non-verified fans could score the precious tickets.
Congressman David N. Cicilline (D-RI) kicked off the criticism at that time, promptly followed by New York Democrat Alexandria Ocascio-Cortez who, said the two companies needed to be broken up.
Daily reminder that Ticketmaster is a monopoly, it’s merger with LiveNation should never have been approved, and they need to be reigned in.
Break them up.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) November 15, 2022
That sentiment was expressed by several angry U.S. senators on Tuesday, when Berchthold received a bipartisan browbeating in the chamber for the Taylor Swift incident and the alleged monopoly it holds over ticketing, promotion, and venues in live entertainment.
“You wouldn’t know sometimes who was speaking, a Democrat or Republican. They want to help consumers. There are concert fans that are in red states and blue states,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) told Deadline. “I think you are going to see some changes immediately — small changes, but some changes, it sounds like.”
She also cited reports that the Justice Department is investigating the entertainment behemoth, saying, “I don’t know that, but supposedly they are, and we have given them ample evidence to go forward.”
Under fire, Berchthold offered an apology for the ticketing fiasco. However, he then claimed that the entire incident was likely linked to a bot attack.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) blasted the company for not having the necessary security to defend against such cyber sieges. “How many times have you called the [Federal Trade Commission] and said, ‘We need your help?’” she demanded.
The legislators also heard from singer-songwriter Clyde Lawrence, who testified that if TicketMaster-Live Nation isn’t a monopoly, you’d never know it from the contracts artists feel compelled to sign, saying they “basically have no leverage in negotiations. If they want to take 10 percent of revenue and call it a facility fee, they can.”
As for the monopoly accusations, Berchtold argued that there’s still plenty of players in the live entertainment game. In fact, Deadline reports, he expressed the company’s conviction that there’s more now than even when Ticketmaster and Live Nation merged in 2010.
“We actually believe the ticketing business has never been more competitive,” he said, adding that his company owns just 200 of the 4,000 live venues in the U.S., and blamed much of the problems fans face in securing concert seats on “industrial scale ticket scalping.”
One competitor begged to differ. SeatGeek CEO Jack Groetzinger told the legislators that LiveNation’s stranglehold on their industry harkens back to the the studio system of Bogart-era Hollywood, when handful of bosses pretty much owned the actors and controlled distribution and exhibition until the feds got involved.
“They broke it up,” he said. “That is a solution you need to look at,”