In January, the US Senate Judiciary Committee held public hearings on the ticket market, seemingly committing a bipartisan body slamming Live Nation Entertainment (formerly Ticketmaster and Live Nation) for decreasing competition in the market by controlling venues, tickets and artists, leading many to speculate that it has driven higher ticket prices.
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 LNE pressing them further on their testimony, as well as a lack of competition in the ticketing industry. After receiving a monotonous response from LNE, Senators Klobuchar and Lee sent evidence from their bipartisan hearing to the Department of Justice and called on them to continue examining LNE’s anti competitive conduct.
It all sounds impressive – a tough hearing, tough talk, tough letters to the DOJ. It would also lead one to believe that the US Senate is serious about correcting the mistake they made nearly 14 years ago when they approved the merger of the two biggest entities in the live entertainment industry. The merger led to the creation of a cartel that has accelerated the decimation of competition and skyrocketing ticket prices.
But what you saw at the hearing – the tough talk and promises of real action – is what you will really get?
A little over a month after the hearings Irving Azoff, the live entertainment industry guru and representative of mega acts such as Garth Brooks, as well as the former CEO of Ticketmaster and chairman of Live Nation, immediately convened a panel of “experts” at the Pollstar Live! annual conference. The panel included Brooks, Madison Square Garden executive chairman James Dolan and former attorney general for the United States Department of Justice’s antitrust division Makan Delrahim. They immediately launched a full frontal attack on the US Senate. Their reaction to the hearing, including suggesting that the US Senate supported policies which treated artists as if they were in Iran, North Korea and China, and politicians only care about reelection and clicks, made one believe that perhaps the senate was going to do something to protect the consumers.
But alas, as always, when powerful people are allowed to talk as much as they want, the truth almost always seems to seep out. Less than eighteen minutes into the 55 minute discussion, Azoff noted that he and his wife had dinner with a sitting US Senator who, according to his words, stated “now the show is over, that was just a show.”
If the hearing was not going to lead to real change, why did these live entertainment titans have such a visceral reaction to the hearing? There are probably a few reasons, but two that seem fairly obvious. First, Azoff stated that despite the assurance by the unnamed senator that “the show is over” and nothing further would occur as a result of the hearing, he was concerned that it might possibly encourage local and state governments to increase their advocacy for the consumers. A larger fight on more fronts would be unacceptable to the titans in live entertainment.
The second unstated but just as obvious thought is that autocrats do not like to be questioned by anyone, including US Senators. As the panel suggested several times during the discussion, Washington politicians do not know what they are doing, do not care about the consumers and fans, and should ultimately stick to taking their donations for reelection bids.
And maybe he is correct. If he can casually have lunch with a US Senator to get the lay of the land on potential legislation that personally affects him (and I would bet that he probably is not a registered lobbyist), he may be right. Nothing is going to happen.
The burning questions to be answered – who was the senator and who paid for lunch?
Next Up: What will be the Senate’s Response to Azoff’s revelation that the “show is over”?
Last Updated on March 29, 2023 by Dave Clark