(WASHINGTON) — It was a Ticketmaster meltdown that sent millions of Taylor Swift fans spiraling: lockouts, delays, hours of confusion and soaring aftermarket prices amid reports of scalpers.
During the November presale for Swift’s upcoming “Eras” tour, Ticketmaster was forced to halt purchases for her shows, citing “extraordinarily high demands” and “insufficient remaining ticket inventory,” drawing outcry from Swifties — and the artist herself.
At the time, Ticketmaster said that “every ticket was sold to a buyer with a Verified Fan code.”
“While it’s impossible for everyone to get tickets to these shows, we know we can do more to improve the experience and that’s what we’re focused on,” the company said in November.
Now they will face lawmakers: On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing to examine “how consolidation in the live entertainment and ticketing industries harms customers and artists alike,” according to a statement — addressing the bad blood between Ticketmaster and musicians, fans and the industry.
Lawmakers will focus on Live Nation and Ticketmaster’s 2010 merger, which has given the company an outsized influence on the market — with critics highlighting how they can raise ticket prices, shut out smaller venues and smaller artists and sideline rival ticket companies. The merger drew particular scrutiny from some members of Congress in the wake of the Swift ticketing fiasco.
“If it’s Taylor Swift fans that move some of my colleagues on monopolies, great,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a member of the committee, told ABC News’ Rachel Scott ahead of Tuesday’s hearing.
“Some of the things that came out of the Taylor Swift concert were larger than life because it’s Taylor Swift. But many of the things were things we’ve been hearing for years [about ticketing issues], and it’s time to take this on. The fees are too high, and there’s not enough competition,” Klobuchar, D-Minn., said.
Top executives from the ticketing industry are set to testify, including the president and CFO from Live Nation, Joe Berchtold, and SeatGeek CFO Jack Groetzinger.
During Berchtold’s opening statement, which was obtained by ABC News, he will point the blame at ticket-scalping, arguing that “breaking the law using bots and cyberattacks to try to unfairly gain tickets contributes to an awful consumer experience.”
“There are problems in the ticketing industry — problems that we believe can and should be addressed through legislation. Many are the direct result of the industrial-scale ticket scalping that goes on today, which is a $5 billion dollar industry in concerts alone and is fueled by practices that run counter to the interests of artists and fans,” Berchtold plans to say.
Singer-songwriter Clyde Lawrence, from the band Lawrence, is also expected to testify with his bandmate Jordan Cohen. They say it’s the overwhelming control Live Nation has over the industry that leads to lopsided deals.
“Our place is to tell some of the experiences that we have from the unique perspective of artists that are really hands on … and just talk about some of the ways that we’ve run into road bumps about trying to get a fair deal for ourselves,” Lawrence told Rachel Scott.
The musicians said that, as one example, they receive no profit from the fees Ticketmaster adds onto tickets: “We have zero say in setting what they are and we have zero participation in any of that money,” Cohen said.
“We are looking to Live Nation, as the leader of the industry, to just give us a crumb, give us some breadcrumbs. I don’t know if the government needs to get involved. That’s, again, not our area of expertise,” Cohen said. “But we would just hope that the industry leaders make a little bit of change.”
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