Durbin Questions Witnesses During Judiciary Committee Hearing On Problems In America’s Ticketing & Live Entertainment Markets

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today questioned witnesses at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing examining the lack of competition in the ticketing industry titled, “That’s the Ticket: Promoting Competition and Protecting Consumers in Live Entertainment.”  Durbin began by asking Clyde Lawrence of the band Lawrence about the pricing of tickets before pressing Joe Berchtold, President and CFO of Live Nation Entertainment (Ticketmaster), about the lack of transparency in ticket fees. 

Durbin then asked Jack Groetzinger, CEO of SeatGeek, about how Live Nation is able to leverage its dominance in concert promotion and venue ownership when it competes for ticketing business against SeatGeek.  A recent New York Times article details how hardly one year into a seven-year contract, BSE Global, the parent company of Barclays Center, canceled its partnership with SeatGeek and returned to Ticketmaster.  Per the New York Times article: “…data from Pollstar, a trade publication that covers the live music business, shows that Barclays Center received 13 Live Nation-promoted tours in the year after SeatGeek took over the venue’s ticketing business — a drop for Barclays, which in the years before the pandemic had tended to get about two dozen Live Nation events annually.”

“They [Ticketmaster] used their power of the marketplace to diminish the number of acts at that venue and the venue decided they needed to go back to Ticketmaster,” Durbin said.

When asked to respond, Mr. Berchtold argued that it was due to another venue opening in the marketplace and that the number of shows going to Barclays from all the major promoters went down as a result of that increased competition.  

“The threat is real.  It has been documented and it happens across many venues,” Mr.Groetzinger responded.  

Durbin then asked Jerry Mickelson, President and CEO of Jam Productions, about the influence of bots in the ticketing industry.

“Mr. Berchtold defended his market position in one element, saying it was a ‘battle of the bots,’” Durbin said.  “Have you run into that phenomenon?” 

Mr. Mickelson responded: “A ticketing company… one of the things they are supposed to do is have solutions to bots.  And for the leading ticket company not to be able to handle bots is, for me, a pretty unbelievable statement.  You can’t blame bots for what happened to Taylor Swift.  There’s more to that story that you’re not hearing.”

Finally, Durbin asked Kathleen Bradish, Vice President for Legal Advocacy at American Antitrust Institute (AAI), about Mr. Berchtold’s three suggestions at the end of his testimony to help fix the problem at hand.

“You probably heard Mr. Berchtold’s suggestions or read in his testimony three things he thinks needs to be done, which included all-in pricing on the tickets, fighting deceptive URLs as an example, and creating a civil action under the BOTS Act.  Any reaction from you to those suggestions?” Durbin asked. 

Ms. Bradish responded: “None of those suggestions go to the core of what we’ve been talking about today which is the antitrust problem—the fact that Live Nation Ticketmaster, because of its market power, has the incentive to do things to exclude competition… I appreciate those suggestions… but it does not change the fact that Live Nation Ticketmaster is a monopoly and will act, because that’s its incentive, to exclude competition.” 

Video of Durbin’s questions in Committee is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s questions in Committee is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s questions in Committee is available here for TV Stations.