By Hunter Dunteman
Minnesota’s U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar expressed concern Thursday, Nov. 17, over competition in the entertainment ticketing industry after Ticketmaster queues for an upcoming Taylor Swift tour garnered public outrage.
In a letter to Ticketmaster President and CEO Michael Rapino, Klobuchar, who serves as chair of a Senate subcommittee that handles competition policy and antitrust regulations, accused the company of abusing its market position.
“I write to express serious concerns about the state of competition in the ticketing industry and its harmful impact on consumers,” Klobuchar wrote. “Reports about system failures, increasing fees, and complaints of conduct that violate the consent decree Ticketmaster is under suggest that Ticketmaster continues to abuse its market positions.”
Ticketmaster and their parent company, LiveNation, currently dominate the live entertainment ticketing industry. Klobuchar claimed that dominance insulates the company from the need and drive to innovate and improve, resulting in service failures.
The letter comes two days after droves of Taylor Swift fans complained online that glitches and outages on Ticketmaster’s website complicated their ability to purchase tickets to the award-winning artist’s upcoming tour — her first tour in roughly five years.
In a Thursday statement, Ticketmaster said that while it had anticipated a strong demand for the tour, the site logged nearly 3.5 billion system requests — more than four times the site’s previous peak.
“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’s on sale it wasn’t,” Ticketmaster’s statement reads. “But we’re always working to improve the ticket buying experience. Especially for high demand on sales, which continue to test new limits.”
Over two million tickets were sold on the first day sales opened.
Klobuchar recalled she was skeptical of a Ticketmaster-LiveNation merger during a 2011 hearing before a Senate committee.
“At that hearing, you appeared as a witness and pledged to ‘develop an easy-access, one-stop platform that can deliver … tickets,’” Klobuchar wrote, “and you said that you were ‘confident this plan will work.’ It appears that your confidence was misplaced.”
Klobuchar concluded her letter requesting Rapino answer five questions by Nov. 23.
The questions included:
Are you still “confident” that your plan to develop an “easy-access, one-stop platform” that will be a “trusted business partner” is working?
Typically, what percentage of high profile tour tickets are available to the general public compared to those allocated to pre-sales, radio stations, VIPs, and other restricted sales opportunities? Please provide specific recent examples.
Ticketmaster has been repeatedly accused of violating the requirements of its consent decree with the Department of Justice. Is Ticketmaster aware of any complaints that have been made to it or to government agencies about potential noncompliance with the consent decree in the last twelve months? If so, please provide details about each alleged incident.
In the last twelve months, how much have you invested in upgrading your systems to address demand surges, and specifically, what improvements did those investments generate?
In the last three years, has the Ticketmaster Board of Directors received information about decree compliance? If so, please provide copies of any materials provided to any Board member on this topic.