Washington — Senators and ticketing giant Live Nation Entertainment had a heated exchange at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday. The lawmakers were questioning the CEO of Ticketmaster over his business practices and last year’s ticket sales disaster for Taylor Swift’s upcoming stadium tour.
Some senators were also able to show that they, or their staff, are well-versed on the discography of pop stars.
Joe Berchtold, president and CEO at Live Nation Entertainment, knew he was in trouble as soon as he walked into the room. He quickly began to receive barbs from senators, who questioned if the merger of Live Nation Entertainment and Ticketmaster in 2010 was stifling competition within the live events sector.
“The truth is that Live Nation-Ticketmaster here is the 800-pound gorilla,” Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat said. “This entire concert ticket system is a mess. It’s a monopolistic mess.”
One witness described the impact of Live Nation’s reach and power. He suggested that Ticketmaster and Live Nation should be disbanded and never get back together.
Jack Groetzinger (CEO of SeatGeek, a rival ticketmaster company) stated that the only real solution is a structural one. We must improve the industry by restoring competition.
Among all the discussion about whether Live Nation’s merger was harmful to consumers, some fearless senators and one witness sneaked in some Swift lyrics when they could.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Democrat from Minnesota
- “Competition policy is very significant to me. I believe in capitalism. To have strong capitalist systems, you need competition. I’m going to ode Taylor Swift and say that we know’All Too well.
Sen. Sen. Mike Lee, Republican from Utah
Sal Nuzzo is senior vice president at The James Madison Institute
- “In this area we would argue that consumer welfare is very clearly defined. It reflects the industry’s issues and challenges. The dominant market player would argue that their growth has enabled them to innovate and make advancements that are greatly beneficial to consumers. A few million Taylor Swift fans might respond, ” that’s why we can’t afford nice things.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Democrat from Connecticut
Scott MacFarlane, CBS News congressional correspondent, asked Blumenthal if there were any other actions the Senate could take than bringing the head of Live Nation in front of Congress. He recited a line from Swift’s “Anti-Hero” song: “Ticketmaster should stand up and look in the mirror, and say, “It’s me that’s the problem.”
Ticketmaster was able to repeat his joke during the round of questioning at the hearing. “Ticketmaster should look in the mirror, and say, “I’m the problem.” It’s me.'”
The room was lightened by his comment.