Ticketmaster Hearing Takeaways: After Taylor Swift Debacle, Some Senators Call Live Nation a ‘Monopoly’

The Senate Judiciary Committee explored whether the merger of Live Nation, the giant concert company, and Ticketmaster, the leading ticket seller, has harmed consumers by stifling competition.

ImageSix witnesses seated in a hearing room at a table with placards giving their names, and people seated behind them.
Live Nation and Ticketmaster came under scrutiny at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday, with lawmakers and witnesses from competing ticketing services asking whether their merger had stifled competition.Credit...Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times
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4 Takeaways from the Senate’s hearing on Ticketmaster, Taylor Swift and competition.

Live Nation came under fierce questioning from lawmakers and competitors at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday that explored whether the company’s 2010 merger with Ticketmaster, which formed a colossus without equal in the multibillion-dollar live music business, had stifled competition and hurt consumers.

Here are four takeaways from the hearing, which was called after Ticketmaster had problems in November selling tickets to Taylor Swift’s coming tour, leaving millions of frustrated fans unable to buy tickets.

Ticketmaster came under fierce criticism.

One of the most striking things was the sheer number of lawmakers expressing concern — not only about how Ticketmaster handled, or mishandled, Taylor Swift’s ticket sales, but on the larger question of Live Nation’s enormous market power and the effect on consumers. Near the end of the hearing, Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, pressed Joe Berchtold, Live Nation’s president and chief financial officer, over how Ticketmaster controls ticket resales on its platform, calling it a monopoly. “You leverage market power in one market to get market power in another,” he said.

The anger was bipartisan.

Democrats and Republicans alike criticized Live Nation and discussed possible remedies including new legislation and even whether Live Nation-Ticketmaster, merged since 2010, should be broken up. For a Congress that is implacably divided on many issues, it was a remarkable display of consensus.

Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, summed it up when he told Mr. Berchtold, the Live Nation executive: “I want to congratulate and thank you for an absolutely stunning achievement: You have brought together Republicans and Democrats in an absolutely unified cause.”

Ticketmaster apologized for the problems with Taylor Swift tickets, but largely blamed bots and other external pressures for its problems.

Mr. Berchtold acknowledged that the company could have handled Ms. Swift’s tickets differently, such as spreading out the sales over a longer period of time. But he largely pointed to an assault from bots — automated programs from scalpers that seek out tickets — as the primary problem, saying that the bots had even attacked Ticketmaster’s servers. “This is what led to a terrible consumer experience, which we deeply regret,” he said.

But several senators did not seem to accept that explanation, and suggested that Ticketmaster, the industry leader, should have better protections in place to prevent such bot traffic. “This is unbelievable,” said Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee. She added, “Why is it that you have not developed an algorithm to sort out what is a bot and what is a consumer?”

The next steps remain unclear.

Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, who called the hearing, said in a summation near the end that some of the problems in ticketing, including how bots can be counteracted, and whether there should be limits on the reselling of tickets, could be dealt with through legislation.

But she said that the larger questions of the day — whether Live Nation-Ticketmaster is a monopoly, and if so what action should be taken about it — were best handled by the Justice Department. Live Nation operates under an agreement called a consent decree, which was required by the Justice Department to approve the companies’ merger, and in 2020, the department extended it by five years. The Justice Department has already been investigating the company for many of the issues raised Tuesday; the near-unanimous criticism from lawmakers may add political pressure for the department to act.

The New York Times
Jan. 24, 2023, 2:26 p.m. ET

Watch: Senators grill Live Nation on the ‘bot activity’ it blamed for the Taylor Swift ticket fiasco.

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Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee grilled Joe Berchtold, the president of Live Nation, over his claim that bot activity caused the botched Ticketmaster rollout for Taylor Swift’s Eras tour.CreditCredit...Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times

A top Live Nation executive’s claim that bot activity was to blame for the botched rollout of ticket sales for Taylor Swift’s “Eras” tour led to tense exchanges with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle on Tuesday, who castigated the company at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on anticompetitive behavior in the ticketing industry.

Ticket “bots” are generally used by ticket scalpers, who employ sophisticated software to buy up massive numbers of tickets the moment they are released and have been a major problem for vendors, venues and customers alike. Live Nation’s president and chief financial officer, Joe Berchtold, blamed an onslaught of bot attacks for forcing the company to pause sales of the Swift tickets in November, and suggested that such issues were best handled by Congress through legislation.

Though senators at Tuesday’s hearing acknowledged the need for stricter federal enforcement on the issue, some — including Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee — did not take kindly to finger-pointing from the world’s largest concert company.

“You told me yesterday you have a hard time distinguishing between a bot attack and a consumer,” Ms. Blackburn said to Mr. Berchtold. “But the local power company down here that is not the billion dollar company you are — they can tell when they’ve got a bad actor in their system. They’ve figured out how to define a bot in their system, but you can’t?”

Maggie Astor
Jan. 24, 2023, 12:53 p.m. ET

The hearing has ended.

Anushka Patil
Jan. 24, 2023, 12:51 p.m. ET

As the hearing begins to wrap up, Taylor Swift has yet to make any public comments about it. In November, she called the debacle around ticket sales for her Eras tour “excruciating,” but didn’t name Live Nation directly.

Matt Stevens
Jan. 24, 2023, 12:38 p.m. ET

Senator Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee, represents one of Taylor Swift’s spiritual homes — Nashville — and has been aggressively pressing Berchtold on why Live Nation cannot get a handle on bots. “Why is it,” she asked, “that you have not developed an algorithm to sort out what is a bot and what is a consumer?”

Matt Stevens
Jan. 24, 2023, 12:28 p.m. ET

The Ticketmaster debacle united Democrats and Republicans in criticism.

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The hearing was more bipartisan than most.Credit...Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times

You may have watched earlier iterations of the Senate Judiciary Committee in recent years. When they are debating whether to confirm a Supreme Court nominee, for instance, they tend not to be very collegial.

But the trouble that Ticketmaster had last year selling tickets to Taylor Swift fans seems to have united lawmakers from both parties, who used Tuesday’s hearing to criticize the botched sale and to ask tough questions about whether Live Nation’s merger with Ticketmaster had hurt consumers.

Addressing Joe Berchtold, the president and chief financial officer of Live Nation Entertainment, Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, offered mocking praise.

“Mr. Berchtold, I want to congratulate and thank you for an absolutely stunning achievement: You have brought together Republicans and Democrats in an absolutely unified cause,” he said.

Senator John Kennedy, Republican of Louisiana, called the sale “a debacle.”

“Mr. Berchtold, I’m not against big, per se. I’m against dumb,” Mr. Kennedy told the Live Nation president. “The way your company handled the ticket sales with Ms. Swift was a debacle.”

The collaborative tone was evident from the beginning of the hearing, which was among the first to take place in 2023. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the top Republican on the committee, used his opening remarks to offer optimism, suggesting that the Senate Judiciary Committee will be able to work together well in the new Congress. He said he hoped the committee could help “make a better experience for the consumer.”

Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, called the hearing, and has long positioned herself as a moderate Democrat eager to work across the aisle to get things done.

“This is all the definition of monopoly,” she said early in the hearing, “because if Live Nation is so powerful that it doesn’t even need to exert pressure. It doesn’t need to threaten. Because people just fall in line.”

And for much of the next hour, many of her colleagues — Democrats and Republicans alike — made clear they actually agreed.

Matt Stevens
Jan. 24, 2023, 12:26 p.m. ET

After probing from Senator Amy Klobuchar, officials from Live Nation and SeatGeek spent some time arguing over just how much of the market Live Nation controls, and whether it is a monopoly. Klobuchar, at one point, read from a 2018 New York Times story and asked Berchtold, the Live Nation president, to comment on its findings.

Anushka PatilAishvarya Kavi
Jan. 24, 2023, 12:11 p.m. ET

Closely watching the Ticketmaster hearing today: Swifties.

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Credit...Kenny Holston/The New York Times

Ticketmaster expected to be grilled by senators during Tuesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on anticompetitive behavior in the ticketing industry. But also watching closely, and bringing their own heat, were Taylor Swift’s fans.

“I think Swifties have figured something out,” Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, noted in his opening comments for Tuesday’s hearing, which was prompted by the fiasco surrounding Ticketmaster’s sales for Swift’s upcoming Eras Tour. “They’re very good at getting their message across.”

Plans for fans to protest Ticketmaster outside the hearing — at least one of which was made by Jennifer Kinder, a lawyer representing fans in a lawsuit against Ticketmaster’s parent company — resulted in a small turnout on Capitol Hill.

One of the plaintiffs in that lawsuit, Jenn Landry, said she took at last-minute flight from her home in Houston, Texas, to Washington, D.C., to attend the hearing, and that it had taken her husband eight hours to successfully buy tickets for the Eras tour.

“I didn’t think it was right. It felt like the game was rigged,” Ms. Landry said. Her sign modified a lyric from Swift’s song “All Too Well” to reference the ticket debacle: “We remember your incompetence all too well.”

Plenty more fans appeared to be streaming the hearing online, and a link to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s livestream of the proceedings was widely shared by fan social media accounts on Tuesday morning.

“I’m having the time of my life right now, watching this courtroom stream,” said Erin Knox, a 21-year-old fan from New York State who, like many others, tweeted live reactions to the proceedings. “I have waited my entire fangirl-hood to see Ticketmaster get called out.”

The fervor wasn’t exclusive to music fans. “As a Swiftie and antitrust policy nerd, this hearing is my Olympics,” Shira Stein, a Washington correspondent for the San Francisco Chronicle, noted on Twitter.

And several senators — or their staff members — appeared to have prepared Swift references for the fans they knew would be watching, including Senator Amy Klobuchar and the judiciary committee itself. It tweeted a Swift song title ahead of the hearing, asking: “…Ready for it?”

Aishvarya Kavi
Jan. 24, 2023, 11:58 a.m. ET

There are fewer than a dozen protesters gathered in front of the Capitol, just down the street from the hearing, waving homemade signs against Ticketmaster and shouting, “Break it up!” Among them are plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Ticketmaster. A few cars have honked in return.

Matt Stevens
Jan. 24, 2023, 11:52 a.m. ET

“Mr. Berchtold, I’m not against big, per se. I’m against dumb,” Kennedy told the Live Nation president. “The way your company handled the ticket sales with Ms. Swift was a debacle.”

Ben Sisario
Jan. 24, 2023, 11:49 a.m. ET

Senator John Kennedy, Republican of Louisiana, proposes making tickets non-transferrable. This would kill scalpers, but many consumers like to be able to resell or transfer tickets if they wish. What happens if you can’t get a babysitter?

Matt Stevens
Jan. 24, 2023, 11:46 a.m. ET

“It’s not us, it’s everyone but us,” Blumenthal says, summarizing what he says is Live Nation’s position. He cannot help himself and adds: “Ticketmaster had the temerity to imply that the debacle involved in pre-ticket sales was Taylor Swift’s fault because she was failing to do too many concerts. May I suggest respectfully that Ticketmaster ought to look in the mirror and say, ‘I’m the problem, it’s me.’”

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Credit...Andrew Harnik/Associated Press
Ben Sisario
Jan. 24, 2023, 11:42 a.m. ET

Blumenthal says, “Unwinding the merger ought to be on the table.”

Ben Sisario
Jan. 24, 2023, 11:41 a.m. ET

Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, underscored the bipartisanship on this issue — and the apparent bipartisan anger at Live Nation — by mock congratulating Berchtold: “You have brought together Republicans and Democrats in an absolutely unified cause.”

Ben Sisario
Jan. 24, 2023, 11:38 a.m. ET

Executives spar over what drove a Ticketmaster competitor out of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

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SeatGeek replaced Ticketmaster at Barclays Center in Brooklyn last year, but the arena switched back to Ticketmaster this month, only one year into SeatGeek’s contract.Credit...Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

The executives from Live Nation and SeatGeek sparred over what happened behind the scenes at Barclays Center in Brooklyn — a major arena where SeatGeek unseated Ticketmaster a little more than a year ago, but which recently switched back to Ticketmaster, barely one year into SeatGeek’s seven-year contract.

Jack Groetzinger, the chief executive of SeatGeek, noted that the number of Live Nation shows going to Barclays decreased after the company took over the ticketing, citing reporting by The New York Times that showed the venue hosted fewer shows from other promoters as well.

According to data from the tracking service Pollstar, Barclays got 13 Live Nation-promoted tours in the year after Barclays took over; in the years before the pandemic, when Ticketmaster was in place there, Barclays tended to get about two dozen Live Nation shows annually.

Mr. Groetzinger said that Barclays executives had asked SeatGeek to change their contract, to sell tickets only for Brooklyn Nets games — and that they would use Ticketmaster for concerts. SeatGeek refused that request and agreed to part ways with the venue, he said.

Joe Berchtold, Live Nation’s president, disputed that account. He noted the arrival of a new venue in the market — the UBS Arena on Long Island, not far away — and pointed to the other data in The Times’s account that indicated that not only Live Nation sent fewer shows to Barclays, but also many independent promoters.

Ben Sisario
Jan. 24, 2023, 11:35 a.m. ET

Senator Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee, is pressing Live Nation hard about its failure to handle bot traffic. “This is unbelievable,” she says, pointing to other industries that she says handle bots better. “You ought to be able to get some good advice and figure this out.”

Ben Sisario
Jan. 24, 2023, 11:31 a.m. ET

Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, pushed back against Live Nation’s self-description as being “artist first” in its business. Talking to Clyde Lawrence, the musician, Cornyn said, “For your band to make 6 bucks out of a $42 ticket price doesn’t strike me as artist-first.”

Matt Stevens
Jan. 24, 2023, 11:16 a.m. ET

Berchtold, the Live Nation executive, pushes back on what he says is old data suggesting that Live Nation controls 80 percent of the market. He says its market share is closer to 50 to 60 percent. In 2018, The New York Times reported that Ticketmaster controlled ticketing at 80 of the top 100 concert venues in the United States.

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Credit...Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times
Matt Stevens
Jan. 24, 2023, 11:09 a.m. ET

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

Ben Sisario
Jan. 24, 2023, 11:08 a.m. ET

The chief executive of SeatGeek calls for breaking up Ticketmaster and Live Nation.

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“The only way to restore competition in this industry is to break up Ticketmaster and Live Nation,” said Jack Groetzinger, the chief executive of SeatGeek, on Tuesday.Credit...Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times

Jack Groetzinger, the chief executive of SeatGeek, a smaller but aggressive competitor to Ticketmaster, was the first in the hearing to broach the big question facing regulators: whether the 2010 merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster should be undone.

“The only way to restore competition in this industry,” he said, “is to break up Ticketmaster and Live Nation.”

SeatGeek has been competing vigorously against Ticketmaster for about five years in trying to sign up venues to ticketing deals. The company has had some successes, including with the Dallas Cowboys and Jujamcyn Theaters, one of the major theater owners on Broadway.

But in his testimony, Mr. Groetzinger argued that the environment is not fair. A lack of competition stifles innovation, he said, and he added that some venues — presumably venues that SeatGeek wants to sell ticketing services to — report that they “fear losing Live Nation concerts if they don’t use Ticketmaster.”

“As long as Live Nation remains both the dominant promoter and ticketer of major venues in the U.S.,” he said, “the industry will continue to lack competition and struggle.”

Maggie Astor
Jan. 24, 2023, 11:04 a.m. ET

If you’re watching the testimony, you may have heard the unfamiliar term “vertical merger.” That refers to a merger in which one company joins with another in the same supply chain, as in the Live Nation case: A company that ran tours and managed artists merged with a ticketing company. That’s in contrast to horizontal mergers, in which one company joins with a competitor in the same industry. Think one car manufacturer merging with another.

Matt Stevens
Jan. 24, 2023, 11:04 a.m. ET

Top officials at Live Nation and SeatGeek are arguing over a New York Times story about ticket vending at the Barclays Center. You can read it here.

Jan. 24, 2023, 10:53 a.m. ET

A musician who is testifying has written that ‘Live Nation’s control of the live music ecosystem is staggering.’

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“Musicians, don’t trust Live Nation with your livelihood,” Clyde Lawrence, of the band Lawrence, wrote in an opinion essay for The New York Times last month.Credit...Jeff Hahne/Getty Images

One of the witnesses who appeared at the hearing was Clyde Lawrence, the leader of the band Lawrence, whose song “False Alarms” contains the lyric “Live Nation is a monopoly.

He wrote in an opinion essay in The New York Times last month that “Whether it meets the legal definition of a monopoly or not, Live Nation’s control of the live music ecosystem is staggering.”

Ben Sisario
Jan. 24, 2023, 10:51 a.m. ET

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

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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.

Ben Sisario
Jan. 24, 2023, 10:48 a.m. ET

Senator Amy Klobuchar accuses Live Nation of being a monopoly that harms consumers.

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Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota accused Live Nation and its subsidiary Ticketmaster of being a monopoly that harms consumers.CreditCredit...Kenny Holston/The New York Times

Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, who has been a longtime critic of Live Nation, directly accused the company in her opening statement of being a monopoly that harms consumers.

Ms. Klobuchar summarized many of the common complaints against Live Nation and its subsidiary Ticketmaster, including that the company uses its power over tours to pressure venues to sign deals with Ticketmaster, even when they don’t want to — in violation of the company’s consent decree with the Justice Department that was a condition of its merger in 2010.

According to Ms. Klobuchar, many venues have spoken to lawmakers about Live Nation and Ticketmaster, and reported that “even if they are not out there threatening them, they’re afraid to go to someone else because then they are not going to get the acts they want.”

“This is all the definition of monopoly,” she said, “because if Live Nation is so powerful that it doesn’t even need to exert pressure. It doesn’t need to threaten. Because people just fall in line.”

She also said, “I believe in capitalism,” and noted the importance of healthy competition in the market.

Ms. Klobuchar added, with a nod to the hearing’s most invoked, if absent, person: “You can’t have too much consolidation, something that unfortunately for this country, as an ode to Taylor Swift, I will say that we know all too well.”

Ben Sisario
Jan. 24, 2023, 10:47 a.m. ET

Jerry Mickelson, a longtime independent concert promoter in Chicago, notes a frustrating situation familiar to most of Live Nation’s competitors: “Pepsi doesn’t earn money from Coke. But our competitor, Live Nation, makes money from selling tickets to our concerts.”

Ben Sisario
Jan. 24, 2023, 10:44 a.m. ET

How we got here: In 2010, the Justice Department allowed the two most dominant companies in the live music business — Live Nation, which ran tours and managed artists, and Ticketmaster, the largest ticketing company — to merge. A consent decree prohibited Live Nation from using its control of talent and tours to pressure venues to continue to use Ticketmaster as their vendor. Under the merger, Ticketmaster became a subsidiary of Live Nation Entertainment.

Ben Sisario
Jan. 24, 2023, 10:35 a.m. ET

Jack Groetzinger, the chief executive of the rival ticketer SeatGeek, says, “The only way to restore competition in this industry is to break up Ticketmaster and Live Nation.”

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Credit...Win Mcnamee/Getty Images
Matt Stevens
Jan. 24, 2023, 10:33 a.m. ET

“In hindsight, there are several things we could have done better,” Berchtold says.

Ben Sisario
Jan. 24, 2023, 10:32 a.m. ET

Berchtold apologizes for the Live Nation problems that failed Taylor Swift and her fans, but argues that bot attacks were the key problem. This will certainly come under questioning from the senators.

Matt Stevens
Jan. 24, 2023, 10:26 a.m. ET

The first witness this morning is Joe Berchtold, the president and chief financial officer of Live Nation Entertainment.

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Credit...Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times
Matt Stevens
Jan. 24, 2023, 10:30 a.m. ET

Berchtold opens by arguing that Live Nation’s system is “best in class.” But he acknowledges that there are “problems” in the ticketing industry.

Matt Stevens
Jan. 24, 2023, 10:22 a.m. ET

Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, says Congress should be asking whether the consent decree was the right move.

Matt Stevens
Jan. 24, 2023, 10:23 a.m. ET

He also cannot resist a Taylor callout. He says he was left “on the bleachers” — a nod to the song “You Belong With Me” — and says Taylor fans are “very good at getting their message across.”

The New York Times
Jan. 24, 2023, 10:19 a.m. ET

Ticketmaster also came under scrutiny after Bad Bunny’s Mexico City concert.

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At a Bad Bunny concert in Mexico City on Dec. 9, many patrons’ tickets, purchased directly from Ticketmaster, were rejected as fakes by malfunctioning scanning machines.Credit...Eduardo Verdugo/Associated Press

Swifties were not the only pop music fans furious with Ticketmaster last year. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota alluded to the problems that Bad Bunny fans had with it.

As Bad Bunny played to a curiously sparse stadium floor in Mexico City last month, thousands of fans were outside, trying desperately to get into the venue. Some went as far as to scale the stadium fence after their tickets — many valid, and purchased directly from Ticketmaster — were rejected as fakes by malfunctioning scanning machines.

Some of the people denied entry to the show had saved large portions of their salaries to buy tickets in a country where the median monthly income is much lower than in the United States. The fiasco prompted Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, to condemn Ticketmaster and demand that the company reimburse valid ticket holders.

Ticketmaster agreed to do so. A few days after the concert, it said in a statement that an “unprecedented number of fake tickets” had been purchased from unofficial vendors, and that those fake tickets had created a system malfunction at the entrances to the stadium.

Matt Stevens
Jan. 24, 2023, 10:16 a.m. ET

Klobuchar says live events have become out of reach for many. “This is the definition of a monopoly,” she says.

Matt Stevens
Jan. 24, 2023, 10:13 a.m. ET

In her opening remarks, Senator Amy Klobuchar, as all Swifties do, quotes Taylor Swift. She slips in an allusion to a Swift song, “All Too Well.”

Matt Stevens
Jan. 24, 2023, 10:12 a.m. ET

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the top Republican on the committee, strikes an upbeat tone, suggesting he hopes the Senate Judiciary Committee will be able to work in a bipartisan way in the new Congress. He says he hopes the committee can help “make a better experience for the consumer.”

Ben Sisario
Jan. 24, 2023, 10:09 a.m. ET

Durbin says that Live Nation and Ticketmaster’s consent decree — the regulatory agreement that allowed those companies to merge in 2010 — “does not appear to have been effective.”

Ben Sisario
Jan. 24, 2023, 10:06 a.m. ET

Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, the Judiciary Committee chairman, opens the hearing with a gavel at 10:04 a.m.

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Credit...Kenny Holston/The New York Times
Maggie Astor
Jan. 24, 2023, 9:53 a.m. ET

The hearing will be starting in a few minutes. Taylor Swift is not expected to be there.

Lauren McCarthy
Jan. 24, 2023, 9:39 a.m. ET

Here’s how to watch the Senate hearing on Ticketmaster.

The Senate hearing on Tuesday, titled “That’s the Ticket: Promoting Competition and Protecting Consumers in Live Entertainment,” will focus on Ticketmaster as a dominant force in the ticketing industry after the company came under scrutiny for botched sales in recent months.

Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, called the hearing to convene witnesses that include a top Live Nation executive along with some of its competitors in ticketing and concert promotion; experts on antitrust and market competition; and a performing artist.

The Times will provide live video at nytimes.com, accompanied by analysis from reporters, when the hearing, headed by Senator Richard Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, starts at 10 a.m. The hearing will also be carried live on the Senate Judiciary Committee website and C-SPAN.

Jan. 24, 2023, 9:03 a.m. ET

Mishandled sales for Taylor Swift’s tour enraged her fans, and attracted the attention of lawmakers.

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Taylor Swift called the ticketing problems “excruciating.”Credit...Chris Pizzello/Invision, via Chris Pizzello/Invision/Ap

It was the meltdown of Ticketmaster’s sales for Taylor Swift’s upcoming Eras Tour that attracted the attention of lawmakers, and renewed their questions about whether the giant ticket seller’s 2010 merger with Live Nation, the world’s largest concert company, had reduced competition to such an extent that consumers were being harmed.

When Ms. Swift announced the tour, her first since 2018, the demand for tickets was sure to outstrip the supply. “Midnights,” the album Swift released in October, enjoyed the biggest debut week of any album in seven years.

But Ticketmaster’s attempt to sell tickets to the concerts through a special presale quickly turned into a debacle, with Swift’s fans, who are known as Swifties, complaining of technical difficulties, hourslong wait times and many ultimately failing to secure tickets.

After the troubled presale ended — the company had used its Verified Fan program, which requires buyers to register in advance to try to ensure tickets go to fans instead of resellers — Ticketmaster canceled its planned sale of tickets to the general public.

Some lawmakers accused Ticketmaster of monopolistic behavior. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted: “Daily reminder that Ticketmaster is a monopoly,” adding that the company’s merger with the concert promoter Live Nation “should never have been approved.” She concluded, “Break them up.”

Greg Maffei, the chairman of Live Nation Entertainment, which owns Ticketmaster, apologized for the problems in an interview on CNBC in November and said that the issues were caused in part by Ms. Swift’s huge popularity. “We could’ve filled 900 stadiums,” he said.

Swift later posted a statement on her social media calling the situation “excruciating.”

“There are a multitude of reasons why people had such a hard time trying to get tickets and I’m trying to figure out how this situation can be improved moving forward,” she said in the statement. “I’m not going to make excuses for anyone because we asked them, multiple times, if they could handle this kind of demand and we were assured they could.”

A group of Swift fans later filed a lawsuit accusing Ticketmaster’s parent company of anticompetitive conduct.

Ben Sisario
Jan. 24, 2023, 9:02 a.m. ET

Senators expressed concern that Ticketmaster’s merger with Live Nation had stifled competition.

A top executive of the concert giant Live Nation apologized Tuesday at a Senate committee hearing for the problems that left millions of frustrated Taylor Swift fans unable to buy tickets to her upcoming tour, but he came under tough questioning from lawmakers and competitors about whether the company’s 2010 merger with Ticketmaster had stifled competition and hurt consumers.

The executive, Joe Berchtold, the president and chief financial officer of Live Nation Entertainment, said that an onslaught of bots had attacked Ticketmaster’s servers during the Swift sale in November, ultimately forcing the company to pause its sales. “This is what led to a terrible consumer experience, which we deeply regret,” he said as he testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

But he faced pointed questions about the state of competition in the ticketing industry. Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, accused the company of being a monopoly that harms consumers.

Jack Groetzinger, the chief executive of SeatGeek, a smaller but aggressive competitor to Ticketmaster, called for the merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster to be undone.

“The only way to restore competition in this industry,” he said, “is to break up Ticketmaster and Live Nation.”

  • Tough scrutiny, including from Washington, is nothing new for Ticketmaster, which in 2010 merged with Live Nation, the world’s largest concert company, to form a colossus with no equal in the multibillion-dollar live music business. The company put on more than 40,000 events around the world and sold 485 million tickets in 2019, the last year unaffected by the pandemic for which it has disclosed data. It owns or otherwise controls more than 300 venues and puts on major festivals like Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo and Governors Ball.

  • The hearing, titled “That’s the Ticket: Promoting Competition and Protecting Consumers in Live Entertainment,” was called by Senator Klobuchar. Last year, Ms. Klobuchar, along with Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, urged the Justice Department to investigate anticompetitive behavior by Live Nation and Ticketmaster. They also complained about issues like high fees.

  • Live Nation operates under an agreement called a consent decree, which was required by the Justice Department to approve the companies’ merger. In 2020, the department extended it by five years, and it is said to be investigating the company again for violations of that agreement, which sets out rules for how Live Nation and Ticketmaster can behave in the marketplace.

  • Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, the Judiciary Committee chairman, said at the top of the hearing that the consent decree “does not appear to have been effective.”

  • The witnesses at today’s hearing include a top Live Nation executive along with some of its competitors in ticketing and concert promotion; experts on antitrust and market competition; and a performing artist.