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After Taylor Swift and Bruce Spingsteen concert tickets were busted earlier this year, the Senate Investigations Subcommittee issued a subpoena to Live Nation and Ticketmaster “for documents relating to ticket prices, the company’s rates and resale practices.”
The statement released Monday said the subpoena follows a months-long investigation by the committee after the ticketing fiascos.
“Live Nation has outrageously obstructed my subcommittee’s investigation into its abusive consumer practices, necessitating the subpoena,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, who chairs the subcommittee. “This subpoena requires the company to promptly comply with our request for documents essential to understanding its business practices. American consumers deserve fair ticket prices, without hidden fees or predatory fees. And the American public deserves to know how Ticketmaster’s unfair practices were enabled by its abuse of monopoly power.”
Live Nation is the parent company of Ticketmaster. A spokesperson for Live Nation said in a statement that it had “voluntarily collaborated with the subcommittee since its inception, providing extensive information and holding several meetings with staff.”
The company said it required standard confidentiality measures for sensitive matters such as artist and client compensation.
“The subcommittee has thus far refused to provide such safeguards, but if and when such protections are in place we will provide further information on these issues,” the spokesperson said.
The subpoena requests documents related to Live Nation and Ticketmaster’s ticket prices, commissions and resale practices, as well as the company’s relationship with artists and venues. It also requests financial data and communications relating to high-profile ticket disputes last year.
Ticketmaster has drawn the ire of Congress for its poor handling of advance ticket sales for Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour.
Presale tickets for “The Eras Tour” frustrated Swift fans across the country in a debacle that remained in headlines for weeks. In November, “verified fans” were sent a pre-sale code, but when sales began, high demand flooded the website and millions of Swifties were unable to get their hands on a ticket. Pre-sale tickets for Capital One cardholders brought similar frustration — and then Ticketmaster canceled sales to the general public, citing “extraordinarily high demand” and “insufficient ticket inventory remaining.”
In a blog post that has since been removed, Ticketmaster said its “Verified Fans” system, a mechanism aimed at weeding out bots by providing pre-sale codes to individuals, was failing to keep up with intense demand . About 3.5 million people signed up to the program to purchase Swift tickets, its “largest registration in history.” That unprecedented demand, combined with a “staggering number of bot attacks and fans who didn’t have invite codes,” brought “unprecedented traffic” to his site, Ticketmaster said, and essentially shut him down.
Ticketmaster apologized to Swift and her fans for the “terrible experience” some had trying to purchase tickets and said it would work to “strengthen our technology for the new level that has been set by demand” for the tour by Swift.
An apology was not enough for either the Swifties or members of the government.
Legislators grilled a top Live Nation executive in January in a three-hour hearing.
“I want to congratulate and thank you for an absolutely extraordinary achievement,” Blumenthal told Live Nation President and Chief Financial Officer Joe Berchtold during the January hearing. “You have brought Republicans and Democrats together in an absolutely united cause.”
Berchtold had done it has partly blamed the Swift ticketing incident on botspointing out that Ticketmaster does not set the price of tickets, does not determine the number of tickets offered for sale, and that “in most cases, venues set service and ticketing fees,” not Ticketmaster.
Fans also took Ticketmaster to court in Los Angeles in March, file a lawsuit for “unlawful conduct” in Swift chaotic tour sale. The plaintiffs allege that the ticket giant violated antitrust laws, among other things.
The lawsuit alleges that Ticketmaster and its parent company were anticompetitive, charging higher prices to fans in the pre-sale, on-sale and resale market. It claims Ticketmaster forces concertgoers to use its site exclusively and controls all registrations and access to Swift’s “The Eras Tour.” The lawsuit is ongoing.
– CNN’s Samantha Kelly, Jennifer Korn and Camila Bernal contributed to this report.