In January, the US Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings on the ticket market, providing a bipartisan slamming of Ticketmaster and Live Nation for decreasing competition in the market by controlling venues, tickets and artists. The next month Senators Amy Klobuchar (Democrat) and Mike Lee (Republican) – Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights – sent a letter to Live Nation following up on their testimony and pressing them further on the lack of competition in the ticketing industry. From the reaction of several live entertainment mega personalities, the hearing clearly sent a message that the senate might seriously consider providing additional protections for consumers.

As a result of the senate thrashing, in response Irving Azoff, the industry guru, former CEO of Ticketmaster and chairman of Live Nation Entertainment, immediately convened a panel of experts at the Pollstar Live! annual conference.

The panel included megastar Garth Brooks, Madison Square Garden executive chairman James Dolan and  former attorney general for the United States Department of Justice’s antitrust division Makan Delrahim. The “Ticketing Real Talk” panel was billed as “a frank and freewheeling discussion from true stake-holders of the live music business.”

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What it became was regurgitation of the same stale primary ticketing talking points, as well as a full frontal attack on the US Senate.

Azoff opened by stating that Washington’s politician’s treatment of artists has historically been awful. He complained that the debate has shifted from “ticket prices” to “ticket fees”, lamenting that “I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that Washington isn’t focused on the real issue and is screwing artists and their fans, our government has a long history of screwing artists.” Now in full attack mode, he swung for the fences by further exclaiming that the senators “are in the great company of Iran, North Korea and China on that one.”

Dolan responded that senate “politicians are not worried about consumers, just reelection and clicks.”

Although most of the discussion centered on attacking the US senators who questioned their ticketing tactics and monopoly, there were some other interesting and somewhat surprising comments during this Washington politician slam fest. Brooks, the country star who has been selling out venues and making millions of dollars for a generation, and who gave the proverbial finger to the ticket consumer in written testimony to the senate, professed that “dynamic pricing is a bad idea.”

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When discussing having additional ticketing companies in the market, he supported the idea stating, “consumers benefit from competition.”

Less surprisingly, Dolan, when asked about Ticketmaster’s role participating in the secondary market while publicly attacking secondary ticket selling, stated that “you can’t expect Ticketmaster to abandon the secondary market…that’s not fair.”

As a counter strategy, he also repeated several times that Live Nation Entertainment should hire the lobbyists currently employed by the ticket sellers and that they should employ a strategy used by the National Association of Ticket Brokers and form an association.

Despite all the fluff and attacks on the Senate, the panel never really focused on what Azzoff said was the real issue, how to provide affordable tickets to the fans. While he wanted to focus on “ticket prices”, he also wanted to avoid the discussion regarding “ticket fees”, though he would probably not win on either topic in a fair panel discussion.

If they were going to have a frank discussion, they would have had ticket resellers on the panel debating the pluses of the secondary market, who could highlight competitors such as a smaller company MegaSeats, a ticketing website that bills itself as a “no fees” marketplace. Despite the anti-consumer strategies employed by Ticketmaster such as floor pricing, dynamic pricing, and massive fees, MegaSeats ticket prices consistently come in lower than the competition, and oftentimes below face value.


Next Up: Azoff’s cozy relationship with Washington – Will the Senate Protect the Consumers from the Live Nation/Ticketmaster Monopoly