Garth Brooks Calls to Make Scalping Illegal Amid Ticketmaster Investigation
Lawmakers are continuing to hear testimony regarding the Ticketmaster investigation launched late in 2022, after legal authorities in three states took action in response to a botched ticket rollout for Taylor Swift's 2023 Eras Tour — and Garth Brooks is among those weighing in.
The situation exploded in mid-November, when Swift launched a pre-sale for her tour — the singer's first since 2018 — on Ticketmaster. Due to astronomical demand for tickets, many fans experienced long waits as they attempted to secure their seats, and some were even forcibly logged out of Ticketmaster without a ticket to any show. So many fans were left empty-handed — and angry — that it made headlines.
The pre-sale moved to the following day, but the situation turned even worse, and Ticketmaster ultimately canceled the public on-sale date slated for that Friday (Nov. 18). Meanwhile, according to Forbes, tickets to the Eras Tour began to show up on resale sites for as high as $28,000.
State lawmakers and politicians spoke out on the issue: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York, criticized Live Nation, which she described as a "monopoly." Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, voiced antitrust concerns in response to the meltdown.
Now, as hearings proceed, lawmakers are hearing from artists, expert witnesses and the CFO of Live Nation Entertainment. Garth Brooks has written a letter to Congress as part of the proceedings, CBS reports.
In their testimony, Live Nation asserted that scalpers and bots flood pre-sales in an attempt to buy up and resell tickets, and Brooks agreed that those agents were largely to blame for the mess.
"The crush of bots during an on-sale is a huge reason for program failure NO MATTER WHO THE TICKET SELLING COMPANY IS," a portion of the letter reads. "And the one who ALWAYS pays for this atrocity is the customer, the LAST one on whom that burden should fall."
Brooks' letter called for Congress to make scalping illegal and spoke out in support of Live Nation. A letter purporting to be the full document from Brooks was floating around social media on Wednesday (Jan. 25). NBC News reporter Rob Wile was among those who shared the document:
While Brooks threw his support behind Live Nation and Ticketmaster in his letter, other artists who testified felt that the companies wielded too much power, because since their merger, one entity now handles ticketing, promoting and also owns the venues. Before the hearing committee, Jerry Mickelson — head of independent event producer Jam Productions — testified that the live event giant holds exclusive contracts with 87% of NBA and NHL arenas, and 97% of NFL stadiums.
Joe Berchtold, who is Live Nation Entertainment's president and CFO, stated during the hearing that Live Nation owns only about 5% of U.S. event venues. However, critics contended that that 5% includes some of the biggest, highest-profile and most profitable.
Artists, including independent music group Lawrence, were among those to speak out against the ticketing giant, which Live Nation purchased in 2010. According to CBS, Lawrence — who released a song called "False Alarms" in 2021 that includes the lyric, "Live Nation is a monopoly" — attested in court that Live Nation wields their power both to hike up concert ticket prices with fees, and then strip the band's revenue from a $42 ticket to $6, pre-tax.
Swift issued a statement of her own after the initial botched ticket rollout.
"I'm not going to make excuses for anyone because we asked them, multiple times, if they could handle this kind of demand and we were assured they could," she wrote. "It's truly amazing that 2.4 million people got tickets, but it really pisses me off that a lot of them feel like they went through several bear attacks to get them."