Ticketmaster Called a Monopoly at U.S. Senate Hearing

Samantha Elkins, Print-Co-Editor-in-Chief

On Tuesday, Jan. 24, the United States Senate held a hearing to discuss the largest ticket sale and distribution company, Live Nation Entertainment (LNE). The company consists of Live Nation, an events sale and venue operator, and Ticketmaster, a ticket seller and distributor. The two companies merged together in 2010, now controlling an estimated 70% of the ticket and venue sales market.  

Complaints surrounding LNE’s hold on the live entertainment industry have existed for some time, but complaints amplified following pop star Taylor Swift’s Era’s Tour tickets sale on Ticketmaster. After 14 million fans spent upwards of ten hours waiting in the queue to receive tickets, some trying for multiple days and ending up ticketless, Ticketmaster canceled the general sale due to high demand and created an outrage. Although Swift’s fan base and sought after live shows contributed to the shortage of tickets, consumers felt LNE abused its power as the country’s largest entertainment sales market. 

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing to discuss whether LNE holds a monopoly and to assess whether the lack of competition in the ticketing industry has negatively impacted customers. At the three-hour hearing, senators told the President and CFO of LNE, Joe Berchtold that the company intimidates competition, which violates the Justice Department’s agreements on the merger of Ticketmaster and Live Nation in 2010. Ticketmaster disputed these claims.

Berchtold publicly apologized to Swift and her fans for the technical problems following Swift’s ticket sale last November. During the pre-sale, many tickets disappeared from customers’ check-out carts, which Berchtold attributes to online bots. This explanation caused senators to question why Ticketmaster does not have existing software to protect tickets from third-party buyers and bots. 

Mike Lee, U.S. Senator for Utah alongside many other senators quoted famous Swift song lyrics throughout the hearing. Lee addressed the idea of limiting the ticket transfers as “a nightmare dressed like a daydream.” Additionally, senators quoted songs such as “All too Well,” “You Belong with Me” and songs from Swift’s newest album, “Midnights.”