BLOG: Senate Hearing Puts Spotlight on Consumer, Competition Issues in Ticketing Market

On January 24, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing titled, “That’s the Ticket: Promoting Competition and Protecting Consumers in Live Entertainment.” The hearing was held after Ticketmaster’s systems failed during the presale for Taylor Swift's new tour, leaving millions of fans stuck in virtual queues for hours waiting to buy tickets, and left others empty handed. Protect Ticket Rights applauds the Senate’s Judiciary Committee for holding this hearing and for the bipartisan consensus that reforms in the ticketing market are desperately needed.

Ticketmaster’s market power and vertical integration were key subjects during the Senators’ opening speeches. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) said that Ticketmaster dominates not only ticketing, but venues and promotion too. Sen Mike Lee (R-UT) agreed, adding that the 2010 merger between Ticketmaster and Live Nation should not have been approved. Sen. Lee also questioned whether the behavioral remedies that were offered by the DOJ in the consent decree were too weak.


Comments from Panelists

Live Nation’s Joe Berchtold blamed the Taylor Swift sale’s problems on bots, claiming that they infiltrated Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan program. Bots are illegal and Protect Ticket Rights was proud to support the BOTS Act which established the prohibition. That’s why we’re skeptical of Ticketmaster’s claims as the company did not report this alleged bot attack to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Ticketmaster also admitted in a now deleted blog post that bots were not the issue with the presale. These issues were all explored in detail by the hearing’s witnesses.

SeatGeek’s CEO Jack Groetzinger testified on the effect of Ticketmaster’s alleged market dominance, saying, “Ticketmaster’s estimated market share is over 70% of the US primary ticketing market…Live Nation is also the largest promoter of major concerts in the world promoting more than 73% of the top 25 tours in in the US in 2021.” Sal Nuzzo of the James Madison institute put these statistics in context for fans concerned about Ticketmaster’s control of the market, saying, “there are actual harms to consumers from anticompetitive practices.”

Sen. Klobuchar did not let up on questioning Live Nation/Ticketmaster and Berchtold on the company’s market power. She pointed to Jam Production’s Jerry Mickelson’s testimony where he stated that “87% of Billboard’s Top 40 Tours in 2022 were ticketed by Ticketmaster in the U.S.” Sen. Klobuchar also noted that Live Nation’s revenue had jumped from $5 billion in 2010 to $11.5 billion in 2019. She continued that Live Nation “still tickets 80 of the top 100 arenas in the country,” and finished with the statement that Live Nation/Ticketmaster is a monopoly and should be recognized as one, and once that is established solutions to the problem can be discussed.


Questions from Senators

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) asked important questions about ticket transferability. In response, Sal Nuzzo pointed to the fact that as an individual purchasing a ticket, he would like to have the ability to sell it if he pleases. Nuzzo then said, “close to, if not a majority, of the tickets on the resale market are going for under the market value.” Bradish brough the argument for transferability back to Ticketmaster’s market power and said, “I think it goes to a regulatory solution to something that should be a competition issue.” Protect Ticket Rights strongly supports the right of consumers to do what they wish with their purchased tickets and appreciates the Senator’s questions on this topic

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) asked Berchtold what percentage of the ticketing market that Ticketmaster holds. Berchtold responded “between 50% and 60%.” SeatGeek’s Groetzinger disagreed and said Ticketmaster has “87% of the ticketing contracts at the NBA and the NHL arenas, they have 93% of the ticketing contracts at the NFL stadiums.”


Looking Ahead

2023 could be the most important year in ticketing of the last decade. After reform efforts stalled out due to the Covid pandemic, issues with sales for Taylor Swift and Bruce Springsteen have reinvigorated interest in this market from Congress and regulators. Protect Ticket Rights will continue to monitor developments in this space and advocate for consumers.

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