By Diane Bartz and Moira Warburton
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee opened a hearing Tuesday on ticket industry competition issues after lawmakers raised concern about the disrupted sale of Taylor Swift concert tickets.
The president of Ticketmaster parent Live Nation, Joe Berchtold, told the committee in written testimony that "industrial-scale ticket scalping" was to blame for the company's problems late last year in the Swift sale.
Ticketmaster, which has been unpopular with fans for years, has drawn fresh heat from U.S. lawmakers over how it handled ticket sales for Swift's "Eras" tour, her first in five years. Experts say that Ticketmaster commands more than 70% market share of primary ticket services for major U.S. concert venues.
"In hindsight there are several things we could have done better – including staggering the sales over a longer period of time and doing a better job setting fan expectations for getting tickets," Berchtold said.
SeatGeek Chief Executive Jack Groetzinger said in written testimony that "innovation in live event ticketing has been stunted" because Live Nation "controls the most popular entertainers in the world, the ticketing systems, and even many of the venues."
Groetzinger added that 12 years after the merger "Ticketmaster’s stranglehold on the primary ticketing market endures, insulated from meaningful competition despite a highly unpopular product offering whose failings have become front page headlines."
Ticketmaster has argued that bots used by scalpers were behind the Taylor Swift debacle, and Berchtold is expected to ask for more help in fighting bots that buy tickets for resale, sometimes at astronomical prices.
Other witnesses include Jerry Mickelson, president of JAM Productions, who has been among critics of Ticketmaster.
In November, Ticketmaster canceled a planned ticket sale to the general public for Swift's tour after more than 3.5 billion requests from fans, bots and scalpers overwhelmed its website.
Senator Amy Klobuchar, who heads the Judiciary Committee's antitrust panel, has said the issues that cropped up in November were not new and potentially stemmed from consolidation in the ticketing industry.
In November, the company denied any anticompetitive practices and noted it remained under a consent decree with the Justice Department following its 2010 merger with Live Nation, adding that there was no "evidence of systemic violations of the consent decree."
A previous Ticketmaster dispute with the Justice Department culminated in a December 2019 settlement extending the consent agreement into 2025.
(Reporting by Diane Bartz, Moira Warburton and David Shepardson)