Washington — There was no shortage of bad blood between senators and ticketing giant Live Nation Entertainment at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday, with lawmakers grilling the top executive from Ticketmaster's parent company over its business practices and last year's debacle involving ticket sales for Taylor Swift's upcoming stadium tour.
The proceedings also allowed some senators to prove they — or maybe their staff — were well-versed in the pop star's discography.
Joe Berchtold, the president and CEO of Live Nation Entertainment, must have known he was in trouble when he walked in, and quickly found himself fielding barbs from senators who questioned whether the 2010 merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster was stifling competition in the live events industry.
"The fact of the matter is Live Nation-Ticketmaster is the 800-pound gorilla here," Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, said. "This whole concert ticket system is a mess, a monopolistic mess."
Describing the effects of Live Nation's power and reach, at least one witness suggested Live Nation and Ticketmaster should be broken up and never, ever get back together (like, ever).
"The only effective remedy now is a structural one: the dissolution of the common ownership of Ticketmaster and Live Nation," said Jack Groetzinger, CEO of Ticketmaster rival SeatGeek. "To improve our industry, we must restore competition."
Amid all the talk about whether Live Nation's merger with Ticketmaster hurt consumers, some fearless senators — and one witness — snuck in some Swift lyrics when they had the chance:
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota
- "Competition policy is very important to me. I believe in capitalism, and to have a strong capitalist system you have to have competition, you can't have too much consolidation, something that unfortunately for this country, as an ode to Taylor Swift, I will say, we know 'All Too Well.'"
Sen. Mike Lee, Republican of Utah
- "I had hoped as of a few months ago to get the gavel back, but once again, she's cheer captain and I'm on the bleachers."
- "A lot of people seem to think that's somehow a solution. I think it's a 'nightmare dressed like a daydream.' I don't think we ought to go there."
- "I have to throw out, in deference to my daughter Eliza, one more Taylor Swift quote: 'Karma's a relaxing thought. Aren't you envious that for you it's not?' That's all I've got to say."
Sal Nuzzo, senior vice president of The James Madison Institute
- "In this area, we would contend that consumer welfare is very clearly defined and reflective of the issues and challenges within this industry. Those representing the dominant player in the market would contend that their growth has allowed them to innovate and make advances that greatly benefit consumers. A few million Taylor Swift fans would respond 'this is why we can't have nice things.'"
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut
In an exchange with reporters outside the proceedings, CBS News congressional correspondent Scott MacFarlane asked Blumenthal whether there was any action the Senate could take beyond hauling the head of Live Nation before Congress. He borrowed a line from Swift's hit "Anti-Hero": "Ticketmaster should look in the mirror and say, 'I'm the problem, it's me.'"
He got the chance to repeat his jab during his round of questioning in the hearing: "Ticketmaster ought to look in the mirror and say, 'I'm the problem. It's me.'"
His comment garnered some light laughter from those in the room.
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