LOS ANGELES/WASHINGTON, Nov 17 (Reuters) – Ticketmaster faced questions on Thursday from a Democratic U.S. senator over its sales practices, two days after Taylor Swift fans complained about website outages and long waits to buy tickets to her upcoming U.S. tour.
In a letter to Ticketmaster parent Live Nation Entertainment Inc (LYV.N), Senator Amy Klobuchar, chair of the Senate antitrust panel, voiced “serious concern about the state of competition in the ticketing industry and its harmful impact on consumers.”
“Ticketmaster’s power in the primary ticket market insulates it from the competitive pressures that typically push companies to innovate and improve their services,” added Klobuchar in the letter which she released publicly. “That can result in the types of dramatic service failures we saw this week, where consumers are the ones that pay the price.”
Ticketmaster said in a statement on Thursday that it had anticipated heavy demand for tickets to see Swift perform on her first tour in five years, but that extreme interest, combined with bot attacks, led to “unprecedented traffic on our site” and inconvenience for some fans.
“The biggest venues and artists turn to us because we have the leading ticketing technology in the world – that doesn’t mean it’s perfect, and clearly for Taylor’s on sale it wasn’t,” 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 experienced issues and that it sold 2 million tickets on Tuesday.
That day, Swift fans swarmed the Ticketmaster website and encountered long wait times, with many unable to buy tickets. The Ticketmaster statement did not respond to any of Klobuchar’s competition concerns.
In her letter, Klobuchar asked Live Nation Chief Executive Michael Rapino to answer questions including how much the company had spent to upgrade technology to handle demand surges, and what percentage of high-profile tour tickets were reserved for presales. The Ticketmaster statement did not respond to these questions.
Live Nation and Ticketmaster merged in a 2010 deal approved by the Justice Department. The government can challenge a completed merger but rarely does so. Klobuchar, in her letter, said she had been skeptical of the combination at the time.
Ticketmaster has angered artists and fans for decades. In the mid-1990s, the grunge band Pearl Jam decided to tour without using Ticketmaster but found it too unwieldy and returned to the service after 14 months.
Reporting by Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles and Diane Bartz in Washington
Editing by Gerry Doyle and Matthew Lewis
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