Ticketmaster Senate Hearings and Taylor Swift Ticket Debacle Explained

Hell hath no fury than the inconvenience of a swift. Ticketmaster has been feeling the wrath of Taylor Swift fans since the Eras tour ticket debacle in November 2021, and now it's spreading all the way to the U.S. Senate. On January 24, Senators Richard Durbin and Amy Klobuchar chaired a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Ticketmaster and its parent company Live Nation, in part because of Eras Tour failed miserably. While Swift wasn't in attendance, her fans stood outside the U.S. Capitol holding protest signs - with three different senators using Swift's lyrics to make their point.

Previously, 26 Swifties (Swift’s favorite number is 13) from 13 states sued Ticketmaster on December 2, accusing the website of violating California’s Cartwright Act and Unfair Competition Law. The group filed a second lawsuit later that month, accusing Ticketmaster of violating antitrust laws, arguing that Swift was effectively forced to use the site to sell Eras Tour tickets because she had to perform at the largest stadiums in the U.S. to keep up with demand. Most of these are exclusive agreements with Ticketmaster.

"You can't have too much consolidation, which is unfortunate for the country, and as an ode to Taylor Swift, I would say we all know that all too well ."

However, the fight against Ticketmaster even predates Swift, as the Justice Department began investigating the company in 2018 over accusations of violating the merger agreement. But the failure of Eras Tour reportedly prompted them to launch a more formal investigation into the merger. Now, the Senate is leading a charge against Live Nation, calling for the company's alleged monopoly to be revoked to prevent a similar situation from happening again with Eras Tour. “That’s the whole definition of a monopoly,” Klobuchar said. "You can't have too much consolidation, which is unfortunate for the country, and as an ode to Taylor Swift, I would say we all know that all too well ."

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Here's everything you need to know about Ticketmaster hearings and ticketing disasters.

What Happened to Taylor Swift's Tour?

Taylor Swift and Amy Klobuchar. Tommaso Bodi/Jerrod Harris/Getty Images Entertainment

Ticketmaster's Verified Fan pre-sale for Swift's Eras tour began on November 15, but quickly turned into a disaster. Fans who received pre-sale codes faced hours-long virtual queues to get to the ticket purchase page. Ticketmaster suspended ticket sales multiple times due to the influx of foot traffic, causing them to postpone their scheduled CapitalOne cardholder pre-sale to the next day. Those trying to get in on the Capital One pre-sale didn't fare much better, facing expensive queues and fierce competition for tickets. This led Ticketmaster to cancel the public sale on November 18, citing insufficient supply to meet their anticipated demand.

Swift was outraged by what happened and wrote a letter to fans the same day general ticket sales took place. She didn't name Ticketmaster directly, but explained that "it's really hard for me to trust an outside entity" to provide services to her fans and to "watch mistakes happen" without any resolution.

Taylor Swift/Instagram

"People have a hard time getting tickets for a number of reasons," Swift wrote. "I'm not going to make excuses for anyone because we asked multiple times if they could handle the demand and we're sure they can. It's really amazing that 2.4 million people got tickets but it pisses me off that A lot of them felt like they had to go through several bear attacks to get their tickets."

What caused the Taylor Swift ticket fiasco?

During a Senate hearing, Live Nation president Joe Berchtold blamed the ticket fiasco on bots and scalpers who sabotaged verified fan pre-sales, saying Ticketmaster faced three times the bot traffic during pre-sales. This is in line with Ticketmaster's blog post about the disaster, which stated that "a staggering number of bot attacks and fans without code brought unprecedented traffic to our site," causing the total number of system requests to quadruple the usual number.

However, Jam Productions CEO Jerry Mickelson, a witness at the hearing, wasn't buying it. "To me, it's an incredible statement that the leading ticketing companies can't handle bots," he said. "You can't blame bots for what happened to Taylor Swift. There's more to this story that you're not hearing."

Despite this setback, the company maintains that bots have not completely taken over their servers and that all 2 million tickets available in the Verified Fan pre-sale "were sold to fans who received a Verified Fan Code" , less than 5% of tickets are posted on verified fan sites. resale market. Ticketmaster issued a public apology after canceling general sales, saying Swift would need to play 900 stadium shows to meet demand.

At the hearing, Berchtold again apologized for their role in the disaster. "We apologize to the fans. We apologize to Ms. Swift," he said. "We need to do better. We will do better. In hindsight, there are a few things we could have done better."

That still wasn't good enough for Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who criticized the company's response using a famous catchphrase from "Antihero." "Ticketmaster recklessly suggested that the advance ticket failure was Taylor Swift's fault because she doesn't play as many concerts," he said. "I would respectfully suggest that Ticketmasters look in the mirror and say: 'I am the problem. This is who I am.'"

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Is Ticketmaster a monopoly?

Many senators believe Ticketmaster and Live Nation have created a monopoly. When the two companies merged in 2010, Congress approved the merger only on the basis that they complied with a consent decree, which prohibited them from restricting music venues' use of Ticketmaster or retaliating against them for not using Ticketmaster or hosting concerts promoted by Live Nation. However, Durbin argued at the start of the hearing that the consent decree "doesn't appear to be effective," and Sen. Mike Lee asked if it was the right approach.

Jack Groetzinger, SeatGeek CEO and a witness at the hearing, claimed that after Brooklyn's Barclays Center started using SeatGeek for ticketing, the number of bookings for shows promoted by Live Nation dropped dramatically, leading them to return to using Ticketmaster a year after the switch. Berchtold blamed the drop in bookings on the opening of a new venue in the New York area and refuted reports that Live Nation holds 80% of the concert market, claiming they have a 50% to 60% market share.

"Karma is such a relaxing thought, I envy you, don't you?"

Live Nation denies accusations of becoming a monopoly and attributes its large share of the Tier 1 ticketing market to "the huge gap that exists between the quality of the Ticketmaster system and sub-optimal Tier 1 ticketing systems." They also pointed to platforms such as StubHub, SeatGeek and Vivid Seats as key competitors in the resale ticket market. "The Department of Justice itself recognized the competitive nature of the concert promotion business when Live Nation merged with Ticketmaster," they said in a statement in November 2022. "That dynamic has not changed."

What will a Senate hearing do?

The Senate hearing alone won't bring down Live Nation and Ticketmaster, but it will certainly be a major catalyst for investigations into the companies. The merger is one of the few issues that transcends party lines, with both Democratic and Republican senators arguing that "completely unmerging" should be an option. Lee explicitly set his sights on the company using a line from Swift's midnight song "Karma," which was inspired by his daughter. "Karma is a soothing thought, which I envy you, isn't it?" he asked. "That's what I'm saying."