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Dems, GOP, other witnesses pile on Live Nation president at Senate hearing
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Live Nation president and CFO Joe Berchtold faced pressure from all sides on a number of issues during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday dealing with competition and consumer protection in the ticketing industry.
Live Nation came under fire in November after Ticketmaster – which it merged with in 2010 – crashed during a Taylor Swift concert pre-sale, leaving thousands of fans frustrated and without tickets. This was just one subject addressed at the hearing, as senators and other witnesses also focused on anti-competitive practices or effects that resulted from the merger.
"Mr. Berchtold, I want to congratulate and thank you for an absolutely stunning achievement. You have brought together Republicans and Democrats in an absolutely unified cause," Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., observed in the middle of the hearing after Berchtold had already been on the receiving end of accusations and grillings for nearly two hours. Blumenthal added that this unified stance will likely "solidify" due to Berchtold's responses, which the senator characterized as basically saying, "It's not us, it's everyone else," despite Live Nation being the 800-pound gorilla" with "dominance" in the marketplace.
One example of Berchtold claiming a lack of power was in a discussion of high fees added to ticket prices, which customers are often unaware of until late in the purchasing process. Clyde Lawrence, a singer-songwriter from the band Lawrence who testified at the hearing, said those fees are often 40-50% on top of the base price. While Berchtold insisted that Ticketmaster does not set the fees, the venues do, Lawrence said that his band asks venues before shows what the fees/total ticket price will be, and they say they are not responsible for them.
TAYLOR SWIFT TICKETMASTER CRISIS SPARKS SENATE JUDICIARY HEARING, LIVE NATION AND SEATGEEK CALLED AS WITNESSES