US senator questions Ticketmaster after complaints about Taylor Swift’s sales

LOS ANGELES/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Ticketmaster on Thursday faced questions from a Democratic senator about its sales practices, two days after fans of Taylor Swift complained about the site being out of order and a long wait to purchase tickets for her upcoming US tour.

In a letter to Ticketmaster Live Nation Entertainment Inc.’s parent, (LYV.N)Senator Amy Klobuchar, chair of the Senate Antitrust Committee, expressed “grave concern about the state of competition in the ticket industry and its harmful impact on consumers.”

“Ticketmaster’s strength in the core ticketing market insulates it from the competitive pressures that typically drive companies to innovate and improve their services,” Klobuchar added in the letter, which she released publicly. “That could lead to the kinds of dramatic failures of service that we’ve seen this week, where it’s the consumers who pay the price.”

Ticketmaster said in a statement Thursday that it expected huge ticket demand to see Swift perform on her first tour in five years, but that intense interest, combined with bot attacks, has resulted in “unprecedented traffic to our site” and inconvenience to some fans.

“Major artists and venues turn to us because we have the world’s leading ticketing technology – which doesn’t mean it’s perfect, and it clearly wasn’t for Taylor For Sale,” the statement said. “But we’re always working to improve the ticket buying experience.”

The company added that about 15% of interactions across the site had problems and that it sold 2 million tickets on Tuesday.

That day, Swift’s fans swarmed Ticketmaster and faced long waiting times, with many unable to purchase tickets. Ticketmaster’s statement did not address any of Klobuchar’s competition concerns.

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In her letter, Klobuchar asked Live Nation CEO Michael Rapinoe to answer questions including how much the company spent upgrading technology to handle the surge in demand, and what percentage of high-profile tour tickets were booked for pre-sales. Ticketmaster’s statement did not respond to these questions.

Live Nation and Ticketmaster merged in a 2010 deal approved by the Department of Justice. The government can challenge a full merger but rarely does. In her letter, Klobuchar said she was skeptical of collecting at the time.

Ticketmaster has irked artists and fans for decades. In the mid-1990s, grunge band Pearl Jam decided to tour without using Ticketmaster but found it too impractical and returned to the service after 14 months.

(Reporting by Lisa Richwin in Los Angeles and Diane Bartz in Washington) Editing by Jerry Doyle and Matthew Lewis

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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