NPR | By Rachel Treisman / Published January 24, 2023 at 5:09 AM ET
The Senate Judiciary Committee holds its much-anticipated hearing into Live Nation and the lack of competition in the ticketing industry on Tuesday.
And while lawmakers grill entertainment executives and antitrust experts, some of Ticketmaster’s most vocal critics will be protesting just steps away on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol: Taylor Swift fans.
Critics have long accused Ticketmaster of being a monopoly, especially after its controversial merger with Live Nation (now its parent company) in 2010. But outrage reached a new pitch after its botched presale process for Swift’s The Eras Tour in November, when long wait times, exorbitant fees and website outages left thousands of fans frustrated and empty-handed.
After years of complaints about high fees, murky resale practices and other issues, the incident seemed to galvanize fans and lawmakers alike. Attorneys general of several states launched consumer protection investigations, many Democratic lawmakers called for Ticketmaster to be broken up and dozens of Swift fans sued the company for fraud and antitrust violations.
The company did not respond to NPR’s request for comment for this story. In a public apology to Swift and her fans at the time, Ticketmaster blamed overwhelming demand for crashing its site.
“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 Swift The Eras Tour onsale it wasn’t,” it said at the time. “But we’re always working to improve the ticket buying experience. Especially for high demand onsales, which continue to test new limits.”
Live Nation issued a statement in November denying monopoly allegations and saying it “does not engage in behaviors that could justify antitrust litigation, let alone orders that would require it to alter fundamental business practices.” It also argued that the industry hasn’t fundamentally changed in the dozen years since regulators approved the companies’ merger.
Jennifer Kinder, the Dallas-based attorney representing Swift fans in their lawsuit, told NPR on Monday that both legal action and legislative changes will be important in holding Ticketmaster accountable.
Kinder helped organize Tuesday’s protest — and flew in from Texas to participate — to send a message to leaders of both the company and the committee probing it.
“That’s what we’re hoping, is that Sen. [Amy] Klobuchar, Sen. [Dick] Durbin really begin to ask very tough questions of Ticketmaster and how consumers are treated and how artists are treated,” she said. “Now, we’ve only had four days’ notice to organize a protest, but we’re hoping that people come and collectively with their voice, Ticketmaster sees us, knows that we’re here and we’re not going away.”