Amy Klobuchar Seizes On Taylor Swift Snafu To Press Ticketmaster On Concerns Over Lack Of Industry Competition

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), the chair of the Senate antitrust subcommittee, fired off a letter to Ticketmaster on Thursday amid concerns that the outages on its site for Taylor Swift concerts reflect a lack of competition in the business.

In a letter to Live Nation Entertainment CEO Michael Rapino, Klobuchar wrote that she had “serious concerns about the state of competition in the ticketing industry and its harmful impact on consumers. Reports about system failures, increasing fees, and complaints of conduct that violate the consent decree Ticketmaster is under suggest that Ticketmaster continues to abuse its market positions.”

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Klobuchar has been a critic of the concert ticket market, and argued that Ticketmaster’s “power in the primary ticket market insulates it from the competitive pressures that typically push companies to innovate and improve their services. That can result in the types of dramatic service failures we saw this week, where consumers are the ones that pay the price.”

A Ticketmaster spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

But the company did issue a general response to the situation, explaining that the demand for tickets when they went on sale earlier this week, coupled with bot attacks, “drove unprecedented traffic on our site, resulting in 3.5 billion total system requests – 4x our previous peak.”

“It usually takes us about an hour to sell through a stadium show, but we slowed down some sales and pushed back others to stabilize the systems,” the company said. “The trade off was longer wait times in queue for some fans.” They estimated that about 15% of interactions across the site experienced issues, and “that’s 15% too many, including passcode validation errors that caused fans to lose tickets they had carted.”

Ticketmaster said that more than 2 million tickets were sold on Tuesday, the most ever sold for an artist in a single day.

“The biggest venues and artists turn to us because we have the leading ticketing technology in the world – that doesn’t mean it’s perfect, and clearly for Taylor’s on sale it wasn’t.” the company said. “But we’re always working to improve the ticket buying experience. Especially for high demand on sales, which continue to test new limits.”

The company also announced on Thursday that a planned public on-sale for Swift tickets had been canceled “due to extraordinarily high demands on ticketing systems and insufficient remaining ticket inventory to meet that demand.”

Live Nation is under a consent decree from its 2010 merger with Ticketmaster, put in place as part of a settlement agreement with the Justice Department.

The consent decree was extended in 2019 for an additional 5 1/2 years after the DOJ concluded that Live Nation violated restrictions placed on its merger, which combined ticket, promotion, concert and management businesses. Among other things, the conditions prohibit Live Nation threatening to withhold concerts from a venue if it chooses another ticketing firm to handle sales.

Other lawmakers also have jumped on the issue. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY) wrote on Twitter this week that the system overload was a “daily reminder that Ticketmaster is a monopoly, it’s merger with LiveNation should never have been approved, and they need to be reigned in. Break them up.”

But Greg Maffei, the CEO of Liberty Media, the largest shareholder in Live Nation, told CNBC on Thursday that the overload was “a function of Taylor Swift. The site was supposed to open up for 1.5 million verified Taylor Swift fans. We had 14 million people hit the site, including bots, which are not supposed to be there.”

He added, “Though AOC may not like every element of our business, interestingly, AEG, our competitor, who is the promoter for Taylor Swift, chose to use us because, in reality, we are the largest and most effective ticket seller in the world.”

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