Live Nation Entertainment, which is facing major scrutiny over allegations of monopolistic business practices and battling against consumer-friendly legislation at both the federal and local level across the United States, has reportedly hired the top-grossing firm in Washington D.C. to lobby on its behalf – bolstering its already enormous lobbying efforts.

According to Politico, Live Nation retained former Sen. Mark Pryor, a onetime colleague of President Joe Biden, and former Senate Democratic aide Andrew Usyk of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck toward the end of March to lobby on ticket sales legislation, according to a disclosure filed this week.

Brownstein is the third new firm added to Live Nation’s roster of outside lobbyists since December, when a botched presale for Taylor Swift’s latest tour weeks earlier revived scrutiny of Live Nation’s 2010 merger with Ticketmaster and the joint company’s dominance in the ticketing and concert promotion industries. The debacle brought to light news of a new Justice Department investigation into whether Live Nation has been complying with an agreement put in place when DOJ approved the merger, and has drawn interest in potential legislation for ticketing reforms.

Interestingly, Pryor was the author of a 2021 New York Times Op-Ed calling on the Biden Administration to reinvigorate its antitrust enforcement – arguing in favor of precisely the kind of enforcement that is being considered necessary by many against the company he is now being paid a retainer by.

“Whereas the antitrust laws used to focus on limiting corporate power and concentration, antitrust law since the ’80s has been redefined by government agencies and academics to bolster corporate growth rather than preserve competition,” he wrote. “Over the past four decades, American antitrust enforcement institutions like the Justice Department have eroded, a devastating trend that has been unfortunately facilitated across partisan lines. Some of the greatest failings of the past 40 years occurred during the eight years of the Obama administration, during which monopolization enforcement cases came to a grinding halt.”

Coming out of January’s Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on ticketing, Live Nation continued its trend of spending at unprecedented levels in the context of live entertainment industry lobbying. It spent more than $1 million in 2022 on lobbying, with it likely that 2023 will see an even higher bill for the California company. Billboard reports that its 2022 lobbying expense was more than four times what the company spent on such efforts as recently as 2019. That is more than double what Oak View Group spent ($570,000) and many times more than companies like SeatGeek ($170,000) and AEG ($140,000).

Among those lobbyists are Seth Bloom, a longtime general counsel for the Senate antitrust subcommittee, who was hired after that same committee announced plans for hearings examining the company’s market power and alleged abuses. Another is Jonathan Becker, who was a former chief of staff for Sen. Kobuchar. The company also recently hired longtime external counsel and antitrust attorney Dan Wall in-house as Executive Vice President for Corporate and Regulatory Affairs. It was Wall who wrote the company’s evasive responses to direct questions arising out of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings in January, which were rejected by Klobuchar and co-chair Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT).

Legislatively and in the court of public opinion the Live Nation Entertainment strategy appears very straightforward: Blame literally everything on ticket resale, “bots” and “scalpers” ruining everybody’s chance at tickets. It has spent lavishly on a marketing campaign in support of so-called “FAIR” ticketing reforms, which would effectively ignore any allegations of its own wrongdoing or need to change its behavior related to deceptive marketing through ticket holdbacks and efforts to eliminate competitors through walled-garden “mobile-only” ticketing schemes. Instead, it says the only fair ticketing system is one that artists (and by extension the giant promotional companies like Live Nation that control the entirety of the ecosystem in North America and increasingly abroad) can control entirely from the moment tickets go on sale to the moment the show is over.

https://twitter.com/don_shano/status/1633973741850861568?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1633973741850861568%7Ctwgr%5Ee408049e78552b2aabc174b47a73ba29ae72ece8%7Ctwcon%5Es1_&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.ticketnews.com%2F2023%2F03%2Flive-nation-lobbying-balloons-amid-efforts-to-kill-competition%2F

It is unclear to what extent the marketing effort has seen any success thus far. Live Nation’s proposed reforms got a lot of support from industry insiders that would benefit directly from them, but didn’t seem to gain any support from lawmakers.

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At the federal level, the only meaningful legislation that has thus far been proposed since the January hearing at the Senate has been decidedly anti-Live Nation – the “Junk Fee Prevention Act” proposed last month would legislate all-in pricing (which Live Nation has indicated it’s fine with, as have most other ticketing operations on both the primary and resale sides) and also mandate transparency on holdbacks, which is something that companies like Live Nation have lobbied against at all costs any time they have been proposed.

Case in point – a proposed law in Tennessee had a measure in it that would make it illegal to hold back more than 55% of tickets for any event going on sale in the state. But that measure was dropped after industry forces (specifically Ticketmaster) lobbied against their inclusion.

“We were trying hard to make sure we wrote a bill that could pass,” says Tennessee Sen. Heidi Campbell (D—Nashville), who authored the bill. “Artists actually don’t like to work with ticket companies if they can’t hold back some of the [tickets],” she said. “It’s part of the negotiation they have with them, so we decided the better thing was to make sure it passed, and we want artists to feel comfortable for them.”

Several states are looking to pass consumer-friendly ticket reforms like Tennessee was aiming to this session, including measures that require tickets be transferrable, or issued in a format that can be moved freely without input or restriction by the initial ticket seller. Six states have such protections in place already, and their importance is becoming increasingly apparent as artists have been increasingly convinced by Live Nation/Ticketmaster (and other primary box office competitors) to weaponize ticket transfer restrictions in order to lock tickets to the initial buyer. Such restrictions are enabled by mobile-only ticketing systems like Ticketmaster’s “Safe Tix” system, and are specifically designed to eliminate competition from resale marketplaces by making the initial seller the only possible place where tickets can be listed for resale, often with price caps, and price floors, in place.

Naturally, the “fair” ticketing campaign paints laws like New York, Connecticut, Utah, Colorado, Illinois, and Virginia that ban such restrictions as “pro-scalper” – rather than pro-consumer.

https://twitter.com/fairtixreforms/status/1645396210058928128

Rumor has it that there are at least two other bills being considered at the federal level that would deal with consumer ticketing issues, in addition to the Junk Fee act already launched. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) is reportedly working on legislation with Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) that Live Nation is aggressively lobbying – likely led by the recent lobbyist hires with direct connections to the lawmaker. More legislation is expected this summer from Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) of the Senate Science, Commerce & Transportation Committee.

It is unclear what direction such legislation will take, but it’s an easy bet that Live Nation and Ticketmaster are going to be paying quite a bit to be in the room where it happens.