Last week, amid a multitude of fan complaints, Live Nation’s Ticketmaster faced criticism and regulatory scrutiny from lawmakers. Now, a Senate investigation into “the lack of competition in the ticketing industry” has officially been announced.
The latest round of pushback against Ticketmaster and Live Nation stemmed from the inability of many Taylor Swift diehards to secure passes to the forthcoming Eras Tour. After the much-anticipated tour’s pre-sale crashed, Ticketmaster opted to cancel the public on-sale altogether, and both Live Nation chairman Greg Maffei and Swift herself addressed the matter.
Furthermore, Ticketmaster’s business model had been the subject of public criticism (from artists, fans, activists, and different lawmakers than those mentioned above) in 2022 even before the Taylor Swift ticketing fiasco.
On this front, it also came to light last week that the Department of Justice had reportedly launched an antitrust investigation into Live Nation and Ticketmaster (which merged in 2010) earlier in the year. Live Nation proceeded to issue a related statement the day after the story broke.
Bearing in mind the multifaceted background details associated with the recent criticism of Live Nation – which reported its “highest quarterly attendance ever” during Q3 2022 – a U.S. senator six days ago called on the business’s president and CEO, Michael Rapino, to answer a series of questions concerning his company’s antitrust decree, ticket availability, and more.
This same lawmaker, Senator Amy Klobuchar, has now joined Senator Mike Lee in jointly announcing the initially mentioned “hearing to examine the lack of competition in the ticketing industry.” Though the timetable at hand is unclear (the “date and witnesses will be announced at a later date”), the senators’ formal release on the subject specifically mentions “significant service failures and delays on Ticketmaster’s website.”
Elaborating upon the nature of the hearing in a statement, Senator Klobuchar relayed in part: “Last week, the competition problem in ticketing markets was made painfully obvious when Ticketmaster’s website failed hundreds of thousands of fans hoping to purchase concert tickets. The high fees, site disruptions and cancellations that customers experienced shows how Ticketmaster’s dominant market position means the company does not face any pressure to continually innovate and improve.”
And in a statement of his own, Senator Lee highlighted the broader advantages of competition for the entertainment industry following the devastating impact of COVID-19 lockdown measures and large-gathering bans.
“American consumers deserve the benefit of competition in every market, from grocery chains to concert venues,” the senator said. “I look forward to exercising our Subcommittee’s oversight authority to ensure that anticompetitive mergers and exclusionary conduct are not crippling an entertainment industry already struggling to recover from pandemic lockdowns.”
Notwithstanding the ongoing outrage and continued calls for the separation of Live Nation and Ticketmaster, it’s unclear whether the entities could have avoided the Eras Tour fallout altogether, as demand simply seems to have far outstripped the availability of passes.
But it’s possible that the overarching inspection of Live Nation’s operations could bring unflattering (and wholly controllable) components of the business’s practices, including the exorbitant pricing of “platinum” passes and the reportedly shameful response to the Astroworld tragedy, back into the spotlight.