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Senate subcommittee issues subpoena to Live Nation and Ticketmaster after Taylor Swift ticketing fiasco

New York (CNN) — After ticket meltdowns for Taylor Swift and Bruce Spingsteen concerts earlier this year, the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations has issued a subpoena to Live Nation and Ticketmaster “for documents related to the company’s ticket pricing, fees, and resale practices.”

The statement released Monday said the subpoena follows a months-long inquiry by the committee after the ticketing fiascos.

“Live Nation has egregiously stonewalled my Subcommittee’s inquiry into its abusive consumer practices—making the subpoena necessary,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, who chairs the subcommittee. “This subpoena demands that the company promptly comply with our request for documents essential to understand its business practices. American consumers deserve fair ticket prices, without hidden fees or predatory charges. And the American public deserves to know how Ticketmaster’s unfair practices may be enabled by its misuse of monopoly power.”

Live Nation is the parent company of Ticketmaster. A Live Nation spokesperson said in a statement that it has “voluntarily worked with the Subcommittee from the start, providing extensive information and holding several meetings with staff.”

The company said it asked for standard confidentiality measures for sensitive matters such as artist and client compensation.

“Thus far the Subcommittee has refused to provide such assurances, but if and when those protections are in place we will provide additional information on these issues,” the spokesperson said.

The subpoena requests the documents related to Live Nation and Ticketmaster’s ticket pricing, fees, and resale practices as well as the company’s relationship with artists and venues. It also requests financial data and communications relating to the high-profile ticketing controversies last year.

Ticketmaster has drawn the ire of Congress since its botched handling of presale tickets for Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour.

Pre-sale tickets for “The Eras Tour” frustrated Swift fans across the country in a debacle that stayed in the headlines for weeks. In November, “Verified Fans” were sent a presale code — but when sales began, heavy demand snarled the website and millions of Swifties could not get their hands on a ticket. Presale tickets for Capital One card holders brought similar frustration — and then Ticketmaster canceled sales to the general public, citing “extraordinarily high demand” and “insufficient remaining ticket inventory.”

In a blog post that has since been taken down, Ticketmaster said its “Verified Fans” system, a mechanism aimed at eliminating bots by giving presale codes to individuals, couldn’t keep up with the intense demand. Roughly 3.5 million people signed up for the program to buy Swift tickets, its “largest registration in history.” That unprecedented demand, combined with a “staggering number of bot attacks as well as fans who didn’t have invite codes” drove “unprecedented traffic” to its site, Ticketmaster said, and, essentially, broke it.

Ticketmaster apologized to Swift and her fans for the “terrible experience” some had trying to purchase tickets and said it would work to “shore up our tech for the new bar that has been set by demand” for Swift’s tour.

The apology wasn’t enough for both Swifties and members of the government.

Lawmakers grilled a top executive of Live Nation in January in a three-hour hearing.

“I want to congratulate and thank you for an absolutely stunning achievement,” Blumenthal said to Live Nation president and CFO Joe Berchtold during the January hearing. “You have brought together Republicans and Democrats in an absolutely unified cause.”

Berchtold had partly blamed the Swift ticketing incident on the bots, emphasizing that Ticketmaster does not set ticket prices, does not determine the number of tickets put up for sale and that “in most cases, venues set service and ticketing fees,” not Ticketmaster.

Fans also took Ticketmaster to Los Angeles court in March, filing a lawsuit for “unlawful conduct” in Swift’s chaotic tour sale. The plaintiffs claim that the ticketing giant violated antitrust laws, among others.

The lawsuit alleges Ticketmaster and its parent company were anti-competitive, imposing higher prices on fans in the presale, sale and resale market. It claims Ticketmaster forces concertgoers to exclusively use its site and controlled all registration and access to Swift’s “The Eras Tour.” The lawsuit is ongoing.

Article Topic Follows: Biz/Tech

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