Live Nation, SeatGeek, Antitrust Inst. Heads Scheduled for Hearing
Live Nation Entertainment President and CFO Joe Berchtold will represent the entertainment giant in Washington on Tuesday morning as the Senate Committee on the Judiciary holds its hearing on the live entertainment and ticketing business. “That’s the Ticket: Promoting Competition and Protecting Consumers in Live Entertainment” is scheduled for 10 a.m. at the Hart Senate Office Building, and will be streamed live for those who aren’t able to make it to Washington.
Others on the witness list released by the committee include SeatGeek CEO Jack Groetzinger, Jam Productions President/CEO Jerry Mickelson, singer-songwriter Clyde Lawrence, and a pair of leaders from opposing advocacy groups, Sal Nuzzo of the free market James Madison Institute and Kathleen Bradish of the American Antitrust Institute.
Tuesday’s hearing is expected to center largely on Live Nation Entertainment and its outsized role in the live entertainment and ticketing business. The entertainment giant that came about when Live Nation merged with Ticketmaster in 2009 – after having consolidated most of the largest regional concert promotions businesses in North America – has long been accused by critics of operating as a de facto monopoly. The hearing was scheduled in the wake of a fresh wave of criticism following the messy presale in November for Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour.
Live Nation and Ticketmaster have been dogged for years by allegations that they regularly violated the terms of a 2010 consent decree that set out rules for how the combined companies would have to behave. A 2019 the Department of Justice investigation found numerous instances of behavior that violated the terms of the agreement, but all the entertainment giant got for the violations were some fines and an extension of the decree, which is still in effect to this day. A new DOJ investigation is reportedly underway, coming to light in the wake of the Swift tour mess and subsequent calls by numerous lawmakers to break up the companies.
“The issues within America’s ticketing industry were made painfully obvious when Ticketmaster’s website failed hundreds of thousands of fans hoping to purchase tickets for Taylor Swift’s new tour, but these problems are not new,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar said in a press release announcing the hearing. Klobuchar is chair of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights, which is leading the hearing before the full Judiciary Committee. “For too long, consumers have faced high fees, long waits, and website failures, and Ticketmaster’s dominant market position means the company faces inadequate pressure to innovate and improve.”
Groetzinger’s inclusion is both logical, and well-timed in many respects. SeatGeek has grown from its start as a ticket resale marketplace/search engine to a primary ticketing service that has had success poaching some of Ticketmaster/Live Nation’s clients in recent years. Multiple NFL and NBA organizations use SeatGeek’s systems, as do their home venues. The company has also made substantial headway in the live theatre world, as well as a strong showing in soccer, both in the U.S. and UK. The company was also involved with ticketing the Taylor Swift tour in a handful of venues it has as clients, though all access codes were run through Ticketmaster’s “verified fan” system.
Just last week, word came that Brooklyn’s Barclays Center was abruptly dropping SeatGeek in favor of Ticketmaster after just over a year in a long-term contract. No reasons were given for the switch, but it is notable that data indicates that in years prior to the COVID pandemic and its halt on live entertainment, Barclays Center averaged between 20-25 Live Nation-promoted tours playing at the venue per year. Since making the switch, only 13 Live Nation shows played the Brooklyn arena, with acts including Daddy Yankee, The Who, Post Malone, Twenty One Pilots, Journey, Tool, Dua Lipa, Billie Eilish and a “one-night-only” performance by Harry Styles were routed through UBS Arena on Long Island, which does use Ticketmaster as its ticketing agent.
Last Updated on January 23, 2023 by Dave Clark