Congressional hearing seeks a solution for Ticketmaster monopoly

Story by Max Guerrera and Andrea Valadez

Ticketmaster was issued a warning by the Senate on its hold over the ticketing industry during a hearing on Tuesday, Jan. 24. The hearing came after fan outrage following Taylor Swift’s The Eras tour ticket presale. The company, which was acquired by Live Nation in 2010, blamed bot activity for low ticket supply and extremely high fees.

The bipartisan Senate Judiciary Committee led by Senators Amy Klobuchar and Mike Lee focused on Ticketmaster and Live Nation’s ownership of major venues that dominate the market. The hearing is meant to strengthen antitrust laws, and better the live concert experience, making shows accessible for all fans.

In order to regain fans’ trust, Ticketmaster must provide “full transparency for consumers on convenience fees and why the fees are added on top of each other,” said  fifth-year Mia Lepe, the vice president of California State University Monterey Bay’s (CSUMB) newly founded Swifties club. 

Live Nation dominates 70% of the concert market.  Live Nation CFO Joe Bechtold claimed during the hearing they control a minority of venues in the market. However, the 400 venues they do own or have restrictive contracts with receive a majority of the demand, contributing to the monopolization of the industry. 

He blamed the “terrible consumer experience” during the Eras Tour presale on bot attacks and is pushing for Congress to expand the BOTS Act, the 2016 bill that prohibits scalpers from purchasing tickets in large quantities. While this may make it somewhat easier for fans to secure tickets, cracking down on resellers won’t solve the monopolization of the market. 

Lepe believes that “the government needs to step in and break down the monopoly… Ticketmaster doesn’t care about us at the end of the day and I doubt that they’re gonna break it up themselves.”

Klobuchar said Ticketmaster locks the venues that they don’t own into several year long contracts, making it nearly impossible for competitors to sell tickets. According to Klobuchar, “If you don’t have competition, bad things can happen and prices are way too high.” 

Some ticketmaster fees have been up to 75% the price of the ticket although they claim to have little say in setting fees. Berchtold later revealed that “the fees are set by Live Nation venues.”

When it comes to the Eras Tour fiasco specifically, “Ticketmaster knew the demand was enormous… it’s to their advantage to slow the process down and do the pick a seat option, which drives prices up… The higher the ticket price, the higher the fee,” said Jerry Mickelson, co-founder of the legendary Chicago promotion agency Jam Productions.

The longer the contract, the greater the risk of a competitive advantage, making it more difficult for other ticket distributors to enter the market according to SeatGeek CEO Jack Groetzinger. 

Ticketmaster’s stance is that they have an “artist first business model” and work to support artists and provide them with as much success as possible. However, artists who perform at Live Nation venues have no freedom to determine who will be involved in promotions and ticket sales. This takes away artists’ abilities to negotiate on behalf of their fans and fulfill creative visions. 

Clyde Lawrence, the frontman for the band Lawrence, testified at the hearing that it would be great to have the option to shop around and find out if another ticketing company would be able to offer a better deal and lower fees. Live Nation’s ironclad contracts prevent artists from having the freedom to consider other options. 

“There’s not been a single time in our career where we’ve performed at a Live Nation venue where we had the option to not have Live Nation be the promoter or ticketmaster be the ticketing company,” said Lawrence. 

He also said venues don’t set the fees, contrasting what the Ticketmaster representative said.

In regards to Swift’s involvement, Lepe said that the CSUMB Swifties believe “Taylor has been very quiet, we love her… but at the end of the day she’s a capitalist and I don’t feel like there was initiative taken.” 

While Swift has expressed her frustration with the situation, she hasn’t yet spoken up on the monopolization of the ticketing industry. Many fans hope that Swift will take action in the form of boycott or protest.

Screenshot by Max Guerrera

Leave a Reply

Recent Articles

The Birds are coming back

Bird E-Scooters that students have been familiar with at California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) were removed shortly after last year's commencement, and they...

Assassins at CSUMB

Have you ever considered becoming an assassin? If so, this may be an opportunity for you.  MB Assassin is a student-organized event at California State...

How “The Creator” sheds a new light on artificial intelligence

In today's day and age, technology is all around us. With technological advancements coming at an exponential rate, the conversation surrounding tech has also...

Related Articles