Jan. 24, 2023, 10:51 a.m. ET
Jan. 24, 2023, 10:51 a.m. ETVideoLive Nation Entertainment’s president and chief financial officer told a Senate Judiciary panel that bots attacked Ticketmaster’s servers and crowded out fans when tickets for Taylor Swift’s tour went on sale.CreditCredit…Justin Lane/EPA, via Shutterstock
Joe Berchtold, the president and chief financial officer of Live Nation Entertainment, used his testimony to dispute most of the central complaints which are commonly made against his company: that Live Nation doesn’t face meaningful competition; that it squeezes an excessive amount of money from venues and concertgoers, and that its size and dominance insulate it from the necessity to make technological innovations.
In his testimony to the committee, Mr. Berchtold acknowledged problems with the Taylor Swift ticket sale. “In hindsight there are several things we could have done higher,” he said.
Mr. Berchtold argued that the largest problem it faced with the Taylor Swift tour was an onslaught of bots that crowded out real fans and attacked Ticketmaster’s servers, forcing the corporate to pause its sales. “That is what led to a terrible consumer experience, which we deeply regret,” he said.
Jerry Mickelson, chief executive officer of Jam Productions, responded to Mr. Berchtold’s assertion. “For the leading ticket company to not have the opportunity to handle bots is, for me, an unbelievable statement. You may’t blame bots for what happened to Taylor Swift, there’s more to that story that you just’re not hearing,” he testified later.
As to the larger questions of competition within the ticketing marketplace, Mr. Berchtold argued that it was greater than ever, and said that Ticketmaster needed to fight to retain its business. While Ticketmaster had an estimated 80 percent of major concert venues on the time of its 2010 merger with Live Nation, the corporate has lost market share since then, Mr. Berchtold said.
Prior to now, Live Nation has been accused — including by the Justice Department — of using the leverage of its control of concert tours to coerce venues to sign with Ticketmaster.
“We hear people say that the ticketing markets are less competitive today than they were on the time of the Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger,” Mr. Berchtold said. “That’s simply not true.” He pointed to SeatGeek, Eventbrite and other players in the sphere, in addition to to a sturdy resale market.
In his testimony, Mr. Berchtold rebutted complaints that Ticketmaster had didn’t upgrade its systems by saying that the corporate had invested over $1 billion to enhance its technology.
He also suggested that the largest problems facing ticketing, like bots and scalping, were best tackled by Congress itself.
“There are problems within the ticketing industry — problems that we imagine can and must be addressed through laws,” Mr. Berchtold said.