Today marked the beginning of the Senate hearing prompted by the fiasco that was the Ticketmaster sale for Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour. The arguments center largely around how Ticketmaster handled the sale for the pop star’s arena tour and the debate about monopolizing the ticket industry following the Live Nation and Ticketmaster merger in 2010. Present at the hearing was the president and CFO of Live Nation, and while he admitted what happened was bad, he also defended Ticketmaster, arguing that the ticketing industry has bigger problems.
During the hearing, Joe Berchtold apologized to the fans, and acknowledged the poor customer experience. He also noted the problems with bots and ticket scalping. He said during the hearing, via Deadline:
We apologize to the fans. We apologize to Taylor Swift. We need to do better and we will do better.
For context, Ticketmaster crashed multiple times during the pre-sale, and fans were left waiting for hours just to get into the seat map. Following the fiasco that was the pre-sale, Ticketmaster canceled the public sale. Taylor Swift addressed the issue, where she expressed her frustration about the situation. While Ticketmaster did apologize for the brouhaha, and some fans were able to get tickets after the pre-sale, there are still many left without tickets, and some went to great lengths to get into the Eras Tour. Also, some fans were so livid, they decided to sue Ticketmaster over the presale debacle.
All of this is what led to the Senate getting involved, and holding a hearing regarding the sale and the overall trouble with Ticketmaster sales. Swift and the Swifties were not the first or last singer and fanbase to have this problem with the ticketing company.
Berchtold said that the company regrets how much went wrong during the Eras Tour sale, and explained, via NYT:
This is what led to a terrible consumer experience, which we deeply regret.
Berchtold also explained during the hearing that Live Nation is the “best in class,” according to NYT. However, he also noted there are problems with the ticket industry as a whole. He explained that bot attacks were one of the reasons the sale went so poorly, saying in “hindsight” they could have “done better.”
Also, Berchtold explained that the way to fix the larger ticketed problem is through Congress. He acknowledged the issue at hand with the Swift sale, and then he said part of the solution is the creation of legislation from the federal government. While many senators and witnesses questioned the merger between Ticketmaster and Live Nation, the company's CFO said they have “lost, not gained, market share” since 2010 (via Deadline).
The president and CFO of Live Nation defended the company, saying there is “industrial scale ticket scalping,” and that ticket prices are not set by Ticketmaster, they’re set by the artist. However, per Deadline, it’s been criticized that extremely high fees are tacked on by the company during a sale.
Representatives from companies like Seat Geek, who is one of Ticketmaster's competitors, and Jam Productions, an independent producer of live entertainment, were present to testify at the hearing. Jerry Mickelson, the chief executive at Jam Productions called out Ticketmaster, and the Swift sale specifically, saying it pointed out a bigger problem, per NYT. He explained that it’s “unbelievable” a company like Ticketmaster couldn’t handle bots, and that there is “more to that story” that hasn’t been told yet.
Both Republicans and Democrats spoke out against Ticketmaster during the hearing. This is a bipartisan issue as Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, pointed out via NYT:
I want to congratulate and thank you for an absolutely stunning achievement: You have brought together Republicans and Democrats in an absolutely unified cause.
From the Republican Party, Senator John Kennedy, from Louisiana, explained that what happened during Swift’s sale “was a debacle.” Senator Marsha Blackburn, a Republican from Tennessee, also pointed out that she didn’t understand why Ticketmaster hadn’t “developed an algorithm” to know the difference between bots and customers. Overall, both parties were frustrated about what had happened with Ticketmaster.
The hearing came to an end for the day, and there currently is no solution. The Eras Tour is next in Swift’s lineup of upcoming projects, it will be interesting to see what comes of this hearing and if it will affect ticket sales in the future, for both the Midnights singer and other performers.