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Live Nation responds to proposed new ticketing regulations in the US

By | Published on Tuesday 2 May 2023

Live Nation

With ticketing still very much in the spotlight in American political circles, two proposals were unveiled last week in US Congress proposing new regulation of the sector. One was welcomed by live giant Live Nation, the other less so.

It was all the problems that occurred last year around the sale of Taylor Swift tickets via the Verified Fan system run by Live Nation’s Ticketmaster that pushed ticketing back up the political agenda in Washington.

There are an assortment of issues frequently raised about the ticketing business. Some relate to the market dominance of Live Nation and Ticketmaster, created by the merger of those two companies back in 2010.

Others relate to primary ticketing in general, including complaints about fees and the lack of transparency around ticket sales. And then there are all the issues regarding secondary ticketing and the good old ticket touts.

Although Ticketmaster is still actively involved in the US secondary ticketing market itself, Live Nation would nevertheless prefer any political debate around ticketing to focus on resale. That said, it – and other ticketing platforms – have also generally supported the push for more transparency around the fees charged on all ticket sales, ie on both primary and secondary sites.

The main proposal is that all ticket sellers in the US should communicate upfront, through advertising and on the first screen of any purchase, the total price of a ticket including any fees that will be charged, rather than initially only stating the ticket price without the fees included.

Many believe that the best way to achieve that is through regulation, otherwise the platforms that voluntarily adopt more transparency about fees will be disadvantaged, as the tickets they are selling will appear more expensive in adverts and on search engines.

Seeking to steer the ongoing political debate, earlier this year Live Nation published its own five point plan for better regulating the ticketing business.

Four of the five points related to secondary ticketing – for example banning speculative resale, where touts advertise for sale tickets they don’t actually have yet, and a ramping up of the existing BOTS Act which prohibits to use of special software to hoover up tickets for in-demand shows from primary ticketing sites.

But the final point in that five point plan called on lawmakers to “mandate all-in pricing nationally”. It went on: “Avoid surprises at check out and give fans the ability to easily compare prices as they shop by mandating all-in pricing that shows the full out of pocket cost of the ticket and fees right upfront”.

One of the proposals unveiled in US Congress last week basically does just that. Its backers are Senators Ted Cruz and Maria Cantwell, the latter being Chair of the Senate’s Commerce Committee.

She said of the proposals: “When families budget for a night at a ballgame or to hear their favourite band, they shouldn’t have to worry about being surprised by hidden fees that suddenly raise the final cost of tickets well over the advertised price. The price they say should be the price you pay”.

With the rather clunky backronym name of the Transparency In Charges For Key Events Ticketing Act – so it’s the TICKET Act, see? – the new rules being proposed by Cruz and Cantwell would require all ticket sellers to display the total ticket price – including all required fees – in any advertisement, marketing or price list.

They would also have to communicate the total ticket price and a breakdown of any fees included in that price at the beginning of the ticket buying process. And, adding a little bit of extra regulation to resale, the seller would also have to tell the customer if they don’t yet have the ticket they are selling, ie it’s a speculative sale.

“We appreciate the good work of Senators Cantwell and Cruz”, Live Nation said in response to the proposals. “This bill is a good starting point – we support all-in pricing”. That said, “in order to protect fans and artists more can and should be done”. It then listed the other aspects of its five point plan not covered by the Cruz/Cantwell proposals.

Those include: “Ensuring artists can determine how their tickets can be resold, banning speculative tickets and deceptive websites, and strengthening the BOTS Act”.

Those extra rules, it said, “are all common sense reforms supported by a wide array of artists, managers, venues and countless others involved in live entertainment, and they should be included in whatever reforms Congress considers”.

The other proposal put forward in Congress last week – by Senators Amy Klobuchar and Richard Blumenthal – is more concerned with the market dominance of Live Nation and Ticketmaster.

“Today’s primary ticketing market is dominated by one company that by some estimates has locked up 70 to 80% market share and has used its dominance to pressure venues to agree to ticketing contracts that last up to ten years, insulating it from competition”, a statement from the two senators declared.

Their proposals, called the Unlock Ticketing Markets Act, would – they said – “help restore competition to live event ticketing markets by empowering the Federal Trade Commission to prevent the use of excessively long multi-year exclusive contracts that lock out competitors, decrease incentives to innovate new services and increase costs for fans”.

Klobuchar and Blumenthal have long been critics of the dominance of Live Nation and Ticketmaster, so the fact they’ve chosen to focus on this particular element of the wider ticketing debate in the wake of the Swift ticketing meltdown is no surprise.

Announcing the legislative proposals, Klobuchar said: “Right now, one company is leveraging its power to lock venues into exclusive contracts that last up to ten years, ensuring there is no room for potential competitors to get their foot in the door”.

“Without competition to incentivise better services and fair prices”, she added, “we all suffer the consequences. The Unlock Ticketing Markets Act would help consumers, artists and independent venue operators alike by making sure primary ticketing companies face pressure to innovate and improve”.

“Consumers deserve protection against the clear excesses and abuses of Ticketmaster repeatedly demonstrated in their own lives and documented in Congressional hearings”, Blumenthal chipped in.

“This legislation is a step toward basic fairness that everyone deserves – consumers, artists, venues, and others – against a sad and repugnant history of putting its profits above them”, he went on. “Free and fair markets depend on competition which is the least concertgoers, artists and independent venues deserve”.

Responding to those proposals, Live Nation said in a statement: “The ticketing industry is more competitive than ever. Ticketmaster wins business because it offers the best product available for venues, and the length of contracts is generally decided by venues and the guaranteed payments they want to help support their expenses”.

“We do not expect any of the proposed changes to have a material impact on our business”, it added, “as we historically add clients in competitive marketplaces”.