Ticketmaster Live Updates: Senate Holds Hearing After Taylor Swift Debacle

Joe Berchtold, president and chief financial officer of Live Nation, acknowledged problems with Taylor Swift ticket sales. “In retrospect, there are a lot of things we could have done better,” he said. debt…Justin Lane/EPA, via Shutterstock

Joe Berchtold, chairman and chief financial officer of Live Nation Entertainment, used his testimony to refute several of the central complaints commonly made against his company: that Live Nation faced no meaningful competition; It squeezes more money out of venues and concerts, and its size and dominance precludes the need to innovate technologically.

In his testimony to the committee, Mr. Berchtold agreed. “In retrospect, there are a lot of things we could have done better,” he said.

The biggest problem facing the Taylor Swift tour, Mr. Berchtold argued. “This led to a terrible consumer experience, and we deeply regret it,” he said.

Jerry Mickelson, CEO of Jam Productions, Mr. responded to Berchtold’s claim. “It’s an incredible statement to me that a leading ticket company can’t handle bots. You can’t blame bots for what happened to Taylor Swift, there’s a lot more to the story that you’re not hearing,” he later testified.

As for the bigger questions of competition in the ticket market, Mr. Berchtold argued that it’s bigger than ever, and Ticketmaster will have to fight to keep its business. Although Ticketmaster had 80 percent of major concert venues at the time of its 2010 merger with Live Nation, the company has since lost market share, Mr. Berchtold said.

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In the past, Live Nation — including the Judiciary — has used the leverage of control of concert tours to force venues to sign deals with Ticketmaster.

“We hear people say that ticket markets are less competitive today than they were during the Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger,” Mr. Berchtold said. “That’s not true.” He pointed to SeatGeek, Eventbrite and other players in the field, as well as a strong resale market.

In his testimony, Mr. Berchtold denied complaints that Ticketmaster had failed to improve its systems, saying the company had invested more than $1 billion to improve its technology.

He also suggested that the biggest issues facing the ticket like bots and scalping are best tackled by the Congress.

“There are problems in the ticketing industry – which we believe can and should be solved by legislation,” Mr. Berchtold said.

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