US Senate Judiciary Committee prepares for ticketing hearing


Front-row seats are brilliant, right? Possibly not if you’re Joe Berchtold, president and chief financial officer of Live Nation Entertainment. He’ll be in front of the US Senate Committee on the Judiciary today as one of the key witnesses for its ‘That’s The Ticket: Promoting Competition and Protecting Consumers in Live Entertainment’ hearing.

Live Nation and Ticketmaster are very much in the sights of politicians on the committee, so Berchtold will be expecting what the Big Book Of Political-Hearings Clichés demands we call a grilling.

Fellow witnesses include SeatGeek CEO Jack Groetzinger; Jam Productions CEO and president Jerry Mickelson; The James Madison Institute SVP Sal Nuzzo; American Antitrust Institute VP for legal advocacy Kathleen Bradish (whose organisation has been a longtime critic of Live Nation-Ticketmaster); and singer-songwriter Clyde Lawrence.

Senator Amy Klobuchar, a key figure on the committee, talked to Rolling Stone about the context for the hearing, making it clear that Berchtold will be facing some tough questioning.

“In the live music industry, there’s the unique fact that you’ve got a company that has 70% of tickets for major concert venues. However you look at it, that’s a monopoly,” she said. “And when you have monopolies, you get problems, and you’ve seen it in everything from of course, Taylor Swift, but also Harry Styles to BTS [and] Bruce Springsteen… it is a critical moment for us to step back and to look at what is going on and why.”

Questions about Ticketmaster exclusivity deals with venues; fees charged to fans; and wider issues of bots and scalpers will be key to the hearing, added Klobuchar. “How can we change the conditions and the rules of the game so we actually can spawn competition? I want to hear that from them.”

Billboard offered a glimpse at some of the likely answers from Live Nation, courtesy of Berchtold’s planned statement at the hearing. It reported that he will aim to focus attention on the bots and scalpers, including their role in the chaotic Taylor Swift onsale last year.

“In this forum where we are here to discuss public policy, we also need to recognize how industrial scalpers breaking the law using bots and cyberattacks to try to unfairly gain tickets contributes to an awful consumer experience,” Berchtold will say.

And competition? “We hear people say that ticketing markets are less competitive today than they were at the time of the Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger. That is simply not true,” he will say. Predicting that political hearings will be fiery is a road to disappointment, but we’ll set our expectations for ‘sparky’ with some confidence. It all kicks off at 10am ET and will be streamed here.

Written by: Stuart Dredge