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Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar leads US Senate court hearing into Ticketmaster ‘debacle’

Recalling the days gone by when her Bakers Square waitress’s money was enough to pay for tickets to see Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar co-led a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday exploring the alleged monopoly of Ticketmaster on the gig industry.

The Democratic senator and her Republican partner leading the hearing, Mike Lee of Utah, accused Ticketmaster of breaching a ‘consent decree’ with the Justice Department that the ticketing company had agreed to follow Congressional antitrust concerns over its merger with the biggest concert promotions. company, Live Nation, in 2010.

Since this merger with Ticketmaster, Live Nation has also taken ownership or control of over 200 music venues nationwide and become managers of many top artists.

This multi-faceted dominance was cited by many speakers during Tuesday’s hearing as a monopoly – an unchecked industry dominance that led to the collapse that left millions of Swift fans in queues. virtual waiting for hours and without tickets when his concerts went on sale in November via Ticketmaster.

“To have a strong capitalist system, you have to have competition,” Klobuchar said in remarks at the start of the nearly three-hour hearing in Washington. “We need to make sure we have competition to bring down prices, bring innovation and stop fiascos.”

“As an ode to Taylor Swift, I’ll say we know Very good,added Klobuchar.

The Live Nation president spoke and answered questions during the first hearing of the new 118th Congress, as did antitrust experts and competing CEOs of ticketing company SeatGeek and Midwest-based promotion company Jam Productions. .

Ticketmaster is the largest ticket seller in the world. The company is responsible for around 70% of tickets sold for major US concert venues, with around 500 million sold each year.

“Today’s Ticketmaster is best in class for driving big sales, marketing concerts, preventing fraud and getting tickets into the hands of real fans,” said Live Nation President and CFO, Joe Berchtold, in his opening testimony.

Its competitors, however, said Live Nation/Ticketmaster had unlimited control over the industry, forcing many artists and venue operators to work with the $17 billion company even when they wanted to avoid it.

Jerry Mickelson, president of Chicago-based Jam Productions — which co-manages the St. Paul’s Palace Theater and is a frequent First Avenue partner at larger gigs in the Twin Cities — said his company is often forced to use Ticketmaster in larger rooms.

“Pepsi doesn’t make money from Coke, but our competitor Live Nation makes money selling tickets to our concerts,” Mickelson said.

When asked by Klobuchar, Mickelson spoke about the Twin Cities concert scene: He cited the difference in volume and level of concerts at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul compared to the Target Center in Minneapolis – the former Ticketmaster-affiliated venue. , while the latter uses competitor AXS for ticket sales.

“Look at the number of shows playing Xcel and you’ll see they far exceed the number of shows playing Target” Center, Mickelson said.

Xcel Center currently has 12 concerts on its 2023 schedule, including Bruce Springsteen, Janet Jackson and Live Nation-managed Madonna. Target Center has five gigs booked, the biggest of which is Zach Bryan — a country singer who titled his recent live album “All My Friends Hate Ticketmaster” to protest the corporation’s control of the industry.

Tuesday’s hearing marked another high-profile foray into the gigging industry by Klobuchar, after successfully co-running the so-called Save Our Stages grant program for independent music venues such as First Ave in 2021.

Singer Clyde Lawrence of the namesake New York band Lawrence, which performed at First Ave last year, was the only musician to testify on Tuesday. He broke down how little money artists make at Live Nation-run venues versus what the company makes from artist fees, concessions, and often even merchandise sales.

“We have virtually no leverage,” said Lawrence, who said his band typically only made $6 off the advertised $30 ticket price at a venue controlled by Live Nation/Ticketmaster – and only received nothing of the $12 added to the price of Ticketmaster’s fee.

Responding to Lawrence’s testimony – and claims by Live Nation’s CFO that it operates on an “artist-first” model – Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said bluntly, “For your band to earn 6 $ on a $42 ticket price doesn’t strike me as an artist first and foremost.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., backhandedly praised Live Nation CEO: ‘You brought Republicans and Democrats together…’ he deadpanned, but then lashed out at Berchtold .

“As I hear and read what you have to say, it’s basically ‘it’s not us,'” Blumenthal said. “The thing is, Live Nation and Ticketmaster are the 800-pound gorilla here. You have clear dominance and monopoly control.”

Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., cited the size of the merged company.

“I’m not against fat people, per se, I’m against idiots,” Kennedy said. “The way your company handled ticket sales for Miss Swift was a debacle. And whoever in your company was in charge of that should be fired.”

Berchtold cited “a relentless arms race” with “bots” – tech-savvy, automated ticket resellers who snatch up prime seats – as the main culprit for why fans have been stuck in queues of tickets. virtual wait for many hours on the day Swift’s tour went on sale. through Ticket Master.

Live Nation’s chief financial officer has also repeatedly denied that his businesses operate as a monopoly. “The ticketing market has never been more competitive,” he said.

Speaking after the hearing, Klobuchar exclaimed: “It was so bipartisan that you couldn’t even tell sometimes which party [the senators] are in.”

She is working with Republican lawmakers to draft “specific ticketing legislation,” and she believes the Justice Department now has strong audience evidence to use in an antitrust investigation.

“There are many remedies [the DOJ] can sue,” she said.

Klobuchar also hopes that Live Nation/Ticketmaster will now improve on its own: “Live Nation has made commitments in this courtroom.” she says.

The audience is unlikely to do the “Swifties” of Twin Cities any good. Fans who weren’t in the lucky minority to snag tickets to the singer’s two concerts at US Bank Stadium on June 23 and 24 via Ticketmaster are now considering paying more than $400 for the cheapest seats on resale sites such as StubHub and SeatGeek; plus costs.

startribune Gt Itly

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