Senate holds hearing as fans protest : NPR

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A ticketmaster website is shown on a computer screen in November, the month in which Taylor Swift tickets go on sale in advance.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A ticketmaster website is shown on a computer screen in November, the month in which Taylor Swift tickets go on sale in advance.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Senate Judiciary Committee has its long-awaited hearing on Live Nation and the lack of competition in the ticket industry on Tuesday.

And while lawmakers grilled entertainment executives and antitrust experts, some of Ticketmaster’s most vocal critics will be protesting a few steps away on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol: fans by Taylor Swift.

Critics have long accused Ticketmaster of being a monopoly, especially after its controversial merger with Live Nation (now its parent company) in 2010. But the outrage reached a new pitch after its botched pre-sales process for Swift’s The Eras Tour in November, when long wait times. , exorbitant fees and website outages have left thousands of fans frustrated and empty-handed.

After years of complaints about high fees, shady resale practices and other issues, the incident seemed to galvanize supporters and lawmakers alike. Attorneys general of several states have launched investigations into consumer protection, many Democratic lawmakers have called for Ticketmaster to be broken up and dozens of Swift fans have sued the company for fraud and antitrust violations.

The company did not respond to NPR’s request for comment for this story. Phil public apology to Swift and her fans at the time, Ticketmaster blamed high demand for the crash of its site.

“The biggest venues and artists turn to us because we have the world’s leading ticketing technology – that doesn’t mean it’s perfect, and clearly Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour sellout wasn’t,” said the the time. “But we always work to improve the ticket buying experience. Especially for high demand onsales, which continue to test new limits.”

A Living Nation issued a statement in November it denied allegations of monopoly and said it “does not engage in conduct that could warrant antitrust litigation, let alone orders that would require it to change fundamental business practices.” It also claimed that the industry has not fundamentally changed in the decades since regulators approved the merger of the companies.

Protesters made anti-Ticketmaster tee shirts for Tuesday’s event.

Jenn Landry/Jennifer Kinder

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Jenn Landry/Jennifer Kinder

Protesters made anti-Ticketmaster tee shirts for Tuesday’s event.

Jenn Landry/Jennifer Kinder

Jennifer Kinder, the Dallas-based attorney representing Swift’s fans in their lawsuit, told NPR on Monday that both legal action and legislative changes will be important to holding Ticketmaster accountable.

Kinder helped organize Tuesday’s protest — and flew in from Texas to participate — to send a message to leaders of both the company and the committee trying it.

“That’s what we’re hoping for, is that Sen. [Amy] Klobuchar, Sen. [Dick] Durbin is really starting to ask very hard questions of Ticketmaster and how they treat consumers and how they treat artists,” she said. “Now, we only had four days’ notice to organize a protest, but we’re hoping people will come. and collectively with their voice, Ticketmaster sees us, knows we’re here and we’re not going away.”

A session can accomplish three main things, says Klobuchar

Klobuchar (D-Minn), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights, told Morning Edition early Tuesday asking tough questions is exactly what it plans to do – especially when it comes to its fees and technology. issues.

While acknowledging that bands have tried to take on Ticketmaster for decades, Klobuchar says the picture looks different in 2023.

“What’s different now is that this is not a unique problem,” she explains. “We’ve seen consolidation in 75% of the industries in this country, and people are catching on. Taylor Swift fans have definitely caught on. I’m going to get whatever allies I have to take on this case.”

Klobuchar sees three main issues with Ticketmaster: It controls more than 70% of the market for tickets and live events, it controls much of the promotion of those events, and it either owns or has long-standing exclusive contracts with many great places.

“So that’s a trio of problems that leads to two things,” she says. “One is what you see – it’s not just Taylor Swift, it’s Bad Bunny, BTS, Bruce Springsteen, Harry Styles, all these artists have problems with tickets, because there’s no incentive when you’re a monopoly. Second , fees, hidden fees. A recent government study found that 27% of the ticket price was fees you can’t even see what they are from this company.”

So what exactly can the Senate do? Klobuchar says the hearing will give the public a chance to see what’s going on, and also create evidence under oath that could be useful in any future investigations (such as one reported by the Department of Justice which is said to have been launched before the sale of Swift tickets).

In addition, she adds, it will educate legislators, by stopping them from passing legislation.

“There are Republicans interested in this right now, on the fees, on the fact that they try to lock in these multi-year contracts,” she says. “All these things are ripe for legislation.”

And she says the Justice Department has a variety of tools to dilute the power of major companies, from implementing and enforcing consent decrees to breaking up of companies.

“Our markets and our economy are based on competition,” she says. “If you don’t have competition, you’ll have things happen like what happened with the Taylor Swift concert, because there’s nowhere else to go.”

Protesters say this is an issue anyone can get behind

Protesters are hoping to send a message Tuesday, and Kinder, the attorney, says she’s seeing t-shirts and banners with all sorts of slogans: Ticketswindle, Ticketmonopoly, Stay Mad Swifties, a Ticketmaster logo with a line through it. in it.

One sign tells Ticketmaster “your reputation has never been worse,” referring to a Swift song, Kinder said. Another quotes a different Swift lyric: “If it feels like a trap, you’re already in one,” over a large image.

“And it’s the … big picture of what we’ve all experienced, the queue where it says ‘you’re 2,000 more in line,'” she said.

Kinder had help organizing the protests — including from activists associated with Free Britney, the movement calling for an end to Britney Spears’ conservation.

One of those lawyers, Melanie Carlson, has been researching the issue for years and alleges that Live Nation directly profited by Spears’ conservator

“It’s shocking that she could perform for thousands of people and everyone in the industry knew about it, and yet no one said anything,” Carlson told NPR in a phone interview Monday. “And that is the level of power that must be broken. And that is our fight against Ticketmaster and Live Nation.”

Beyond that, Carlson said she’s seen various artist fandoms go crazy on Ticketmaster over the years, from complaints about costs to scalpers to “the ability to even have a chance at getting tickets.”

Carlson has been trying to unite those groups in recent months, and he’s not surprised that it took an artist of Swift’s stature to finally do it — even as Carlson saw disappointed Swifties widely mocked as “just privileged young women who want to get a life.”

“People tend to ridicule interests that are predominantly female… And what people need to go back and see is that: Don’t they have a favorite band? And some of those concerts aren’t the best moments of their lives?” Carlson says. “So if we join together, we can all enjoy music more freely and the artists will have more freedom too, because the monopoly controls the artists through management, promotion, venues. [and] tickets.”

Carlson says this is “the least partisan issue” they’ve ever been a part of, noting Ticketmaster’s widespread popularity. When screening US Capitol Police officer Carlson asked if they were expecting any counter-protesters on Tuesday, she laughed.

“I was like, ‘No, everybody hates Ticketmaster.’ It’s the most non-partisan, neutral movement in the whole world, probably,” Carlson adds. “So, yes, I think it’s so feasible to break them up.”

Carlson doesn’t expect Tuesday’s hearing itself to change anything, given the length of the legislative process. But she hopes that the rally outside of it will build momentum for more people to join and push for an equitable system.

“What I do know is that fans at their local level are better served if their economy is benefiting from having more small businesses that are involved with the music industry,” adds Carlson. “That money stays in the economy instead of being siphoned off by mega-corporations in Beverly Hills, Calif. And they will have a better chance of going to more concerts because they will be more affordable.”

Because the organizers of the protests were not expecting a large turnout on such short notice, they are also encouraging people to show up online by bringing up the hashtags #FansUnite and #BreakUpTicketmaster on Twitter.

And they also say that they hope that people will continue to speak out against Ticketmaster. It is likely that they will have another chance to do so when the plaintiffs in the fraud case have their first court hearing in mid-March.

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