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Ticketmaster’s Taylor Swift fiasco sparks Senate antitrust hearing

Kevin Mazur via Getty Images

Ticketmaster's chaotic handling of Taylor Swift's tour ticket sales has brought the company under increased scrutiny, including from lawmakers. Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Mike Lee (R-UT), the chair and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust and Consumer Rights, have announced a hearing to gather evidence on competition in the ticketing industry. They have yet to confirm when the hearing will take place or the witnesses that the committee will call upon.

Swift's fans overwhelmed Ticketmaster's systems in the gold rush for tickets to her first tour in five years. Ticketmaster says presale codes went out to 1.5 million people, but 14 million (including "a staggering number" of bots) tried to buy tickets. The company said it was slammed with 3.5 billion total system requests, four times its previous peak. When fans were able to make it to the seat selection screen, many effectively had tickets snatched out of their hands as tried to put them in their carts.

There was supposed to be a general sale for the remaining tickets last Friday, but Ticketmaster canceled that, citing "extraordinarily high demands on ticketing systems and insufficient remaining ticket inventory to meet that demand." Even though the level of interest in Swift's stadium shows was evidently through the roof, Ticketmaster's management of the process has raised a lot of questions. Swift said Ticketmaster assured her and her team that it could handle the demand. However, she said the mayhem “pissed me off.”

After the presale mess, Klobuchar (who wrote to Ticketmaster to ask if the company is taking appropriate measures to provide the best service it can) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal said they were concerned about "the state of competition in the ticketing industry." Others, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called for Ticketmaster's parent, Live Nation, to be broken up.

Along with selling event tickets, the company owns and operates many venues and manages several major artists. Last week, it was reported that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has been conducting an antitrust investigation into Live Nation for several months.

“Last week, the competition problem in ticketing markets was made painfully obvious when Ticketmaster’s website failed hundreds of thousands of fans hoping to purchase concert tickets. The high fees, site disruptions and cancellations that customers experienced shows how Ticketmaster’s dominant market position means the company does not face any pressure to continually innovate and improve,” Klobuchar said in a statement. “That’s why we will hold a hearing on how consolidation in the live entertainment and ticketing industry harms customers and artists alike. When there is no competition to incentivize better services and fair prices, we all suffer the consequences.”

Ticketmaster has said it's adhering to a 2010 consent decree it has with the DOJ that allowed its merger with Live Nation to go ahead. “Ticketmaster has a significant share of the primary ticketing services market because of the large gap that exists between the quality of the Ticketmaster system and the next best primary ticketing system,” it added in a statement to Deadline.