The full Senate Judiciary Committee has opened its hearing on competition within the ticketing industry this morning and a number of witnesses have already set high stakes for the congressional probe, calling for drastic action in the ticketing space.
Moments after Live Nation president Joe Berchtold shared lengthy remarks on the causes of the Taylor Swift ticket crash, SeatGeek CEO Jack Groetzinger, one of Ticketmaster’s main competitors told Congress, “Live Nation controls most popular entertainers, routs most of the tours, tickets most of the concerts and owns many of the venues,” noting “this power allows Live Nation to maintain its monopolistic influence over the primary ticketing market.”
The 2010 consent decree governing the merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster created “has not worked at all and violated the consent decree since its inception,” Groetzinger said.
“The only effective remedy is a structural one – the disillusion of the common ownership of Ticketmaster and Live Nation,” he testified.
Jerry Mickelson, longtime promoter with Jam Concerts in Chicago who spoke out against the merger during Congressional hearing in 2010, called the deal “a vertical integration on steroids” and said its arena promotion business has decreased 90 percent since the merger.
Berchtold argued that the company’s marketshare of the concert market is close to 50 to 60 percent, not 80 percent as many have claimed. He also denied allegations that the company used its market size to punish competitors.
“It is absolutely our policy to not pressure, threaten or retaliate against venues by using content as part of the ticketing discussion.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) encouraged critics of the company and people who are fed up with the system that exists right now to “continue your criticism” as the Department of Justice takes a third look at Live Nation following a 2019 inquiry into the company.
“If the Department of Justice establishes violations of the consent decree, unwinding the merger ought to be on the table,” Blumenthal testified. “If the Department of Justice establishes facts that involved monopolistic and predatory abuses, there ought to be structural remedies that include breaking up the company.
Before taking his turn asking questions to witnesses, outspoken Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) told Berchtold: “I’m not against big, but I am against dumb and the way your company handled Ms. Swift’s tickets was a debacle. Whoever at your company was in charge of that should be fired.”
This is a developing story — check back for updates.
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