Live Nation says a bot attack led to a ‘terrible consumer experience, which we deeply regret.’

The president and chief financial officer of Live Nation testified that the biggest problem it faced with the Taylor Swift tour was an onslaught of bots that crowded out fans and attacked Ticketmaster’s servers.

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Live Nation Entertainment’s president and chief financial officer told a Senate Judiciary panel that bots attacked Ticketmaster’s servers and crowded out fans when tickets for Taylor Swift’s tour went on sale.CreditCredit...Justin Lane/EPA, via Shutterstock

Joe Berchtold, the president and chief financial officer of Live Nation Entertainment, used his testimony to dispute many of the central complaints that are commonly made against his company: that Live Nation does not face meaningful competition; that it squeezes too much money from venues and concertgoers, and that its size and dominance insulate it from the need to make technological innovations.

In his testimony to the committee, Mr. Berchtold acknowledged problems with the Taylor Swift ticket sale. “In hindsight there are several things we could have done better,” he said.

Mr. Berchtold argued that the biggest problem it faced with the Taylor Swift tour was an onslaught of bots that crowded out real fans and attacked Ticketmaster’s servers, forcing the company to pause its sales. “This is what led to a terrible consumer experience, which we deeply regret,” he said.

Jerry Mickelson, chief executive officer of Jam Productions, responded to Mr. Berchtold’s assertion. “For the leading ticket company not to be able to handle bots is, for me, an unbelievable statement. You can’t blame bots for what happened to Taylor Swift, there’s more to that story that you’re not hearing,” he testified later.

As to the larger questions of competition in the ticketing marketplace, Mr. Berchtold argued that it was greater than ever, and said that Ticketmaster had to fight to retain its business. While Ticketmaster had an estimated 80 percent of major concert venues at the time of its 2010 merger with Live Nation, the company has lost market share since then, Mr. Berchtold said.

In the past, Live Nation has been accused — including by the Justice Department — of using the leverage of its control of concert tours to coerce venues to sign with Ticketmaster.

“We hear people say that the ticketing markets are less competitive today than they were at the time of the Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger,” Mr. Berchtold said. “That’s simply not true.”  He pointed to SeatGeek, Eventbrite and other players in the field, as well as to a robust resale market.

In his testimony, Mr. Berchtold rebutted complaints that Ticketmaster had failed to upgrade its systems by saying that the company had invested over $1 billion to improve its technology.

He also suggested that the biggest problems facing ticketing, like bots and scalping, were best tackled by Congress itself.

“There are problems in the ticketing industry — problems that we believe can and should be addressed through legislation,” Mr. Berchtold said.