The head of Live Nation, the parent company of Ticketmaster, testified before the U.S. Senate judiciary committee on Tuesday and said a slew of peeler robots were responsible for Taylor Swift’s mishandling of ticket sales for her latest tour.
Live Nation merged with Ticketmaster in 2010, making it the main channel for artists and venues in the US. While the company has been criticized for its dominance in the live events industry for the past decade, it has come under new, intense scrutiny in November after crashes and glitches in the ticketing service for fans trying to buy Swift tickets.
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Live Nation’s president and CFO, Joe Berchtold, said in his keynote address to the committee that the cause of the company’s technical glitches was a flood of swimming boats that made it difficult for the company to get tickets for real fans.
Berchtold said there was “unprecedented demand for Swift tickets” when tickets for his first tour in five years, the Eras tour, went on pre-sale in November.
“We knew that bots would attack discounted products, and we planned accordingly. We then encountered three times more bot traffic than we’ve ever experienced, and for the first time in 400 Verified Fan sales, they were chasing our Verified Fan access code servers,” Berchtold said. While we failed to get any tickets, the attack required us to slow down or even pause our sales.”
“This is what led to a terrible consumer experience that we deeply regret,” he said.
Berchtold said there were “a few things we could have done better, including making surprising sales over a longer period of time and doing a better job of setting fans’ expectations for getting tickets,” but he encouraged senators to take “industrial robbers who broke the law” seriously. using bots and cyberattacks to unfairly try to win tickets”.
Berchtold highlighted Ticketmaster’s problems with bots, while senators on the committee questioned Live Nation’s power over its competitors, highlighting its dominating behavior in the market.
Amy Klobuchar, chair of the U.S. Senate anti-trust subcommittee, said in her keynote Tuesday that Live Nation not only dominates ticket sales, it also has venues and “locks.”[s]” transforms other venues into private deals.
“People are afraid to go to someone else because they fear they won’t get the question they want,” Klobuchar said. “That’s the definition of a monopoly because Live Nation is so powerful it doesn’t even need to pressure, it doesn’t need to threaten because people are lining up.”
“There are several consequences for not delivering the service,” he said. Taylor Swift “just one example. Whether it’s Bruce Springsteen, BTS or Bad Bunny, or the Pearl Jam or Pixies of the past, fans, artists and venues are facing real problems with Live Nation.”
Klobuchar said the trial was a “bilateral effort” that attracted the interest of both parties on the matter.
Senator Richard Blumenthal told Berchtold that Live Nation’s finger pointing at the peeler bots ignores the control the company has in the market. Blumenthal pointed out that Live Nation can track down scalpers and report them to authorities.
“You have unlimited power to go after bots – you now have the resources and knowledge to take effective action,” Blumenthal said, referring to the Better Online Tickets (Bots) Act, passed by Congress in 2016 that fines bot-using scalps. . “If you have concerns about artists, consumers, venues, and the public interest, you will act in accordance with existing laws.”
Berchtold said Live Nation supports stronger implementation of bots, but “we have limited power over something that isn’t implemented consistently.”
“We absolutely agree that there are many problems in the industry and as a leading player we have an obligation to do better,” he said.
Jerry Mickelson, co-founder of Jam Productions, a promotional company, criticized Ticketmaster’s inability to deal with bots in witness testimony.
“One of the things they need to do as a ticketing company is to find solutions against bots. “It’s pretty unbelievable that the leading ticket company can’t handle the bots,” he said.
Mickelson pointed out that Ticketmaster is making more money when selling tickets for artists like Taylor Swift, as tickets get expensive through dynamic prices.
Jack Groetzinger, CEO of SeatGeek, a Ticketmaster competitor, said in witness testimony that Live Nation has placed longer contracts—usually 10-year contracts instead of the standard five-year contracts—to alienate its competitors. Venues are often worried about losing concerts if they go with a Ticketmaster competitor.
“We want competition in this industry. It will be very difficult to change anyway. Longer contracts make this harder, which [Live Nation] he’s been struggling lately.”
Millions of Taylor Swift fans have struggled to get tickets for her Eras tour following disruptions with the Ticketmaster pre-sale. Although Ticketmaster used the Verified Fans program to ensure that tickets go to fans instead of going against bots, tickets quickly began reselling online for up to $22,700.
Ticketmaster eventually canceled sales to the public, citing extremely high demand. The company said it eventually sold more than 2 million tickets for the tour and could fill 900 stadiums with ticket requests.
In a statement, Swift criticized Ticketmaster, saying: “It’s really hard for me to trust an outside entity with these relationships and loyalties, and it’s unbearable for me to watch mistakes happen irreversibly.
“I’m not going to make excuses for anyone because we’ve asked them many times if they can meet this type of request and we’re sure they can. It’s really incredible that 2.4 million people got tickets, but it really pisses me off that most of them feel like they’ve been attacked by a few bears to get them.”