KLOBUCHAR: “Whether it’s for fans, performers, promoters, or venue operators, we need to make sure we have competition to bring prices down and bring innovation in and stop the fiascos”
WASHINGTON - At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the problems in America’s ticketing markets, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights, highlighted the need to promote competition in the ticketing industry to protect consumers.
“Whether it’s for fans, performers, promoters, or venue operators, we need to make sure we have competition to bring prices down and bring innovation in and stop the fiascos,” said Klobuchar. “Today, Live Nation doesn’t just dominate ticketing… Live Nation is so powerful it doesn’t even need to exert pressure, it doesn’t need to threaten, because people just fall in line.”
“The live event experience has become increasingly out of reach for so many fans… a recent study found that for some tickets it’s as high as 75 percent of face value,” Klobuchar continued. “Restoring competition to our markets is about making sure fans get fair prices and better service.”
Klobuchar organized this hearing after reports of significant service failures and delays on Ticketmaster’s website in November left fans unable to purchase concert tickets for Taylor Swift’s new tour.
In November, Klobuchar wrote a letter to Ticketmaster expressing concern about the lack of competition in the ticketing industry and questioning whether the company is taking necessary steps to provide the best service it can to consumers.
Thank you very much Chair Durbin, Ranking Member Graham, for holding this hearing and working with Senator Lee and myself. This is clearly a bipartisan endeavor, we have interest from both sides of the aisle and I think you all know as Senator Durbin mentioned, that competition policy is very important to me.
I believe in capitalism, and to have a strong capitalist system you have to have competition. You can’t have too much consolidation, something that unfortunately for this country, as an ode to Taylor Swift, I will say, we know all too well.
In over 75 percent of our industries ranging from agriculture to pharmaceuticals to tech to live events, a smaller number of large companies now control more of the business than they did 20 years ago.
At the end of last year, I worked with members of this Committee and our bipartisan partners, particularly I want to mention Senator Grassley, and over in the House, Neguse, Cicilline, and Buck, to update our merger fees statutes that have not been updated for decades. That is going to bring in 100 million dollars a year for our enforcement agencies, from the Justice Department to the FTC. It is really important. We also passed a key bill that Senator Lee has been advocating for on venue with the tech companies and allowing the state AGs to keep the cases in the states where they bring them. I think you’re gonna see more cases and more investigations coming out of the Justice Department. Watch for it. And I think that’s going to be very important.
But why am I here today and have taken this on? I love music. So, I grew up in the suburbs, in high school I remember loading into Johnny Royer’s van with my friends and going off to see Led Zeppelin and the Cars and Aerosmith. And now I don’t think it’s very easy for high school kids to make their money at Baker Square Pie Shop on the weekends and buy tickets to these major concerts.
My state has also made more than its share of contributions to music, from Prince to Bob Dylan to Lizzo, and in fact, First Avenue, the iconic event space where Prince got his start and was made famous in the movie Purple Rain, is a point of pride for the people in our state, and it’s one of the reasons Senator Cornyn and I worked so hard to pass the Save Our Stages Bill, which was the biggest investment in the arts in the history of America.
So whether it’s for fans, performers, promoters, or venue operators, we need to make sure we have competition to bring prices down and bring innovation in and stop the fiascos.
Today, Live Nation doesn’t just dominate the ticketing—it’s about 70 percent of the big concert market—but also, they own many of the major venues. And for the venues that they don’t own, they tend to lock in on three, five, seven year agreements, which means that the competitors that are out there aren’t able to even compete when it comes to the ticketing. Finally they dominate the promoting. So we have talked to many venues, some of which aren’t willing to come forward, unlike one of them that is here today, but that say even if they are not out there threatening them, they are afraid to go to someone else because then they are not getting the acts that they want. This is all a definition of monopoly.
Because Live Nation is so powerful that it doesn’t even need to exert pressure, it doesn’t need to threaten, because people just fall in line. They continue to expand. Ticketmaster has gotten into the ticket resale game so they can charge fees when the ticket is first sold, and then additional fees on the resale of the same ticket.
The live event experience has become increasingly out of reach for so many fans. One GAO study found that 27 percent of the ticket price was the fees. A recent study found that for some tickets it’s as high as 75 percent of face value.
And we also know it affects service. As millions of Taylor Swift fans found out last fall, there are few consequences for failing to deliver the service.
But Taylor Swift, I think is important for our colleagues and all to note, is just one example. Whether it’s Bruce Springsteen or BTS or Bad Bunny or in the past, Pearl Jam or the Pixies, fans, artists, and venues are facing real issues with Live Nation.
I’m hopeful this can be a constructive hearing. The purpose of this hearing, one, so the public can find out what is happening - sometimes that on its own gets change. Secondly, investigations are reportedly going on, we have not had that confirmed, out of the Justice Department. This is helpful for them. And the third reason is so that our colleagues on a bipartisan basis can work together on legislation. Senator Blumenthal’s been involved in this issue for many years, and we can do something, not just to strengthen our antitrust laws, which we must do generally, but also specifically in the ticketing industry when it comes to transparency and resale and the like.
Restoring competition to our markets is about making sure that fans get fair prices and better service. Concertgoers today should be able to have those same experiences I had when I was in high school, when it didn’t cost very much to just be able to go see a band and remember it forever. Thank you.