Live Nation set to blame touts and bots for Taylor Swift ticketing meltdown at Congressional hearing today

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By | Published on Tuesday 24 January 2023

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Live Nation President and CFO Joe Berchtold will be answering questions posed by the US Senate Judiciary Committee later today during a session that will put the spotlight on all things ticketing. It’s the session that was prompted by the issues that occurred last November around the presale of tickets to Taylor Swift’s upcoming tour by the live giant’s Ticketmaster platform.

Those issues – and the resulting hoo haa online – heightened the debate around Live Nation’s dominance in the US live business, as a major promoter and venue operator, as well as the biggest player in ticketing via Ticketmaster.

This was good news for the live giant’s critics, including those involved in a new campaign calling for regulators to further scrutinise the relationship between the different Live Nation divisions, and the ongoing impact of the merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster more then a decade ago.

However, according to Billboard, Berchtold will tell senators that the problems that occurred when presale tickets for the Taylor Swift tour were sold via Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan system had nothing to do with Live Nation’s market dominance and everything to do with the pesky ticket touts.

Billboard has seemingly seen the opening statement Berchtold will deliver later today, in which he will say that touts – or scalpers to use the US term – employed bots to try to access tickets from the presale on an unprecedented scale. And while Ticketmaster expected the bots to be active as Swift’s tickets went on sale, it did not anticipate that level of bot activity.

“We were hit with three times the amount of bot traffic than we had ever experienced”, he will claim, “and for the first time in 400 Verified Fan onsales they came after our Verified Fan access code servers. While the bots failed to penetrate our systems or acquire any tickets, the attack required us to slow down and even pause our sales. This is what led to a terrible consumer experience that we deeply regret”.

The use of so called bots by touts to hoover up tickets from primary ticketing sites is illegal in the US. With that in mind Berchtold – whose arguments are set to be backed up in a written statement from a certain Garth Brooks – will urge law makers to focus less on his company’s market dominance and more on how to better regulator the touts.

Of course, unlike in Europe, where Live Nation and Ticketmaster bailed on their secondary ticketing businesses, in the US the live giant still operates its own ticket resale marketplaces. Though, presumably, Berchtold would argue that his company likes to work with good honest responsible touts, and not the big bad bot-happy brigade. Which may or may not work as an argument.

Also due to speak during today’s Congressional session are Jack Groetzinger, CEO of Ticketmaster rival SeatGeek; Jerry Mickelson, CEO of Chicago-based promoter JAM Productions; singer-songwriter Clyde Lawrence; and Sal Nuzzo and Kathleen Bradish, who both represent think tanks with a focus on the free market and competition law.



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