the law

Senate Targets Ticketmaster With Antitrust Bill

Senator Amy Klobuchar and Live Nation CFO Joe Berchtold. Photo-Illustration: Vulture. Photos: Getty Images

Months after holding a hearing critical of Live Nation and Ticketmaster in the Judiciary Committee, the Senate is taking action against the ticketing giant. Senators Amy Klobuchar, who co-organized that January hearing, and Richard Blumenthal, a key critic, introduced the Unlock Ticketing Markets Act on April 26, which specifically takes aim at the controversial multi-year exclusivity contracts that Ticketmaster often uses with venues. Those contracts were a focal point of the hearing and of criticism against Ticketmaster — which came about after a disastrous sale for Taylor Swift’s Eras tour, among other major tours — for allegedly allowing the Live Nation–owned company to become a monopoly. “Without competition to incentivize better services and fair prices, we all suffer the consequences,” Klobuchar said in a statement that did not mention Ticketmaster by name but was clear in its target. A Live Nation representative responded to the bill with a statement to Rolling Stone, calling ticketing “more competitive than ever.” “Ticketmaster wins business because it offers the best product available for venues, and the length of contracts is generally decided by venues and the guaranteed payments they want to help support their expenses,” the representative said.

The bill followed another, introduced April 25, that would mandate that ticket platforms show a price that includes all fees, a practice known as all-in pricing. The Transparency in Charges for Key Events Ticketing, or TICKET, Act, was introduced by Senators Maria Cantwell and Ted Cruz, chair and ranking member of the Commerce Committee. It’s just the latest political attention toward those fees, after New York made all-in pricing the law last year and even President Joe Biden called out “junk fees” in ticketing. Cantwell promised the bill was only part of forthcoming “comprehensive legislation” against junk fees. “When families budget for a night at a ball game or to hear their favorite band, they shouldn’t have to worry about being surprised by hidden fees that suddenly raise the final cost of tickets well over the advertised price,” she said. The act would also have ticket platforms show an itemized list of fees (which sometimes total over half the ticket price), and would have resale platforms specifically note “speculative” tickets, or tickets being resold without the reseller actually having the ticket yet. All-in ticketing has been an easier fix for Ticketmaster to get behind, and Live Nation praised the legislation as “a good starting point” to Rolling Stone.

In that statement, Live Nation called on Congress to enact other ticketing fixes as well, including “ensuring artists can determine how their tickets can be resold, banning speculative tickets and deceptive websites, and strengthening the BOTS Act.” Some individual artists have already done that by banning or restricting resale for new shows, including the Cure, Pearl Jam, U2, and Zach Bryan. Pearl Jam and U2 also used all-in pricing for its recent tickets, while the Cure’s Robert Smith somehow even got a portion of exorbitant Ticketmaster fees refunded for fans. One thing those artists still can’t do, though, is negotiate venues’ Ticketmaster contracts themselves.

Senate Targets Ticketmaster With Antitrust Bill