Live Nation and Ticketmaster Will Finally Face the Music

Kaspars Grinvalds /
Kaspars Grinvalds /

Live Nation Entertainment and their Ticketmaster subsidiary have been subpoenaed by the Senate. Reportedly, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) sent Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino a letter where he shared details about the subpoena. At the root of it, he says that their refusal to combatant bots and scalpers has created an artificially inflated market that hurts consumers.

In a statement on November 20th, Blumenthal said, “Live Nation has egregiously stonewalled my Subcommittee’s inquiry into its abusive consumer practices — making the subpoena necessary. 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.”

When event promoter Live Nation and the world’s biggest ticket vendor Ticketmaster joined forces more than a decade ago, fans were quick to call the service a monopoly. While federal officials have all but refused to follow suit, the recent problems with mega tours from Bruce Springsteen and, most notably, Taylor Swift highlighted the long-known problems.

Fans would be prepped and logged in to be ready to buy the best seats they could find. Despite special memberships in fan clubs and holding a specific brand of credit card, they couldn’t get in on these pre-sales. The scalpers and bots were too much, and the website would crash or it would sell out. When they went on sale to the public, the same thing would happen. Within days, and in some cases minutes, the tickets were being resold on the same website for an exorbitant fee.

For Ticketmaster, the resale section of their online site just made sense. Scalpers could buy tickets from them in bulk and pay a hefty convenience and transfer fee for each ticket. Then they would be re-sold at a significant markup to desperate fans. This markup would include the fees from Ticketmaster in the price, and then Ticketmaster would add those same fees (sometimes at a higher rate) to re-transfer the tickets.

In essence, a $100 face-value ticket could end up costing $150 after just the fees were added. Tack on the scalper’s fee, and you could easily be looking at $400-$500 for someone like Swift, Springsteen, or KISS.

Back in March, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations launched its probe, and per Blumenthal’s panel, Taylor Swift and Bruce Springsteen were specifically cited. Looking into documents as well as the internal communications of leaders at the companies, they are laser-focused.

Narrowing down to the “ticket pricing, fees, and resale practices as well as the company’s relationship with artists and venues. The request covers annual financial data related to fees, the company’s recommendations for ticket pricing, business strategies regarding ticket pricing, secondary ticketing and bots, communications relating to high-profile incidents in 2022, and customer research and surveys regarding ticket pricing and fee.”

For months now, the Senate maintains they have been trying to get Live Nation and Ticketmaster to cooperate, but they refuse to disclose the requested information. According to a spokesperson for the duo, they would be happy to do so, but they believe that confidentiality terms that they have with vendors and such need to be upheld.

What a sad and pathetic world they live in to think that’s to be expected.

The very items they are seeking to have kept confidential are the same areas under investigation and the core of the corruption. Artist compensation and fees around the performance are all crucial, and the American public also deserves to know how bad it is. For decades we thought purchasing tickets meant we were supporting the bands we loved. We grew up thinking touring was where the main money was made.

In the last 20 years or so, it suddenly became that touring was where bands lost money. Instead, merch was the key. It held the highest profit margins, took up the least amount of space, and was easily handled by someone for little to no money beyond tips. Now venues have even come after a chunk of that.  All in all, that money ends up making its way back to Ticketmaster through the venue, and nobody wins with this monopoly.