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Lawmakers push for DOJ investigation, separation of Ticketmaster and Live Nation

Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal sent the Department of Justice a letter calling for accountability.

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Federal lawmakers are calling for an investigation into Ticketmaster following last week’s presales for the upcoming Taylor Swift Eras Tour ended in chaos.

Monday, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota), and Edward J. Markey (D-Massachusetts) sent a letter to the Department of Justice.

“Recent reports from consumers about skyrocketing fees and poor purchasing experiences on Live Nation’s platforms, the platform’s failure during the ticket presale for Taylor Swift’s tour, and the abrupt cancellation of the public sale of that tour suggest that the Department’s past enforcement efforts have failed to protect competition,” they wrote.

These federal legislators are the latest to join a growing list of those who want Ticketmaster and their parent company Live Nation held accountable.

“It should surprise no one that the Taylor Swift concert presale failed in this way,” Blumenthal said at a press conference Monday outside the U.S. District Court in New Haven.

Bad blood has been boiling between fans and Ticketmaster after last week’s presales devolved into hour-long waits, website crashes, and the eventual cancelation of general ticket sales.

“I was not expecting it to be as crazy as it was at all,” said Margaret Pfohl.

She waited over three hours in an online queue during the verified fan presale last Tuesday and while she did come out the other side with tickets, many weren’t so lucky.

“It was just shocking this time given how much the tickets were. I've never spent that much on concert tickets and then you add all the fees, and it was outrageous,” Pfohl said. “Honestly, I'm happy it's over.”

“I bought six tickets, so I'm going with like five other friends,” she continued. Pfohl’s group agreed on a budget of $250 per ticket, but she said once she got through the queue, the only seats left were more expensive. 

“I'm happy we have tickets, but the whole process was crazy,” Pfohl added. “We would have been around our budget had it not been for all of those fees.”

Ticketmaster released a statement via Twitter Friday, apologizing to fans and attempting to explain why the issues occurred.

“The demand for tickets to Taylor’s tour broke records and parts of our website,” read the company’s website. “Historically, we’ve been able to manage huge volume coming into the site to shop for tickets, so those with Verified Fan codes have a smooth shopping process. However, this time the staggering number of bot attacks, as well as fans who didn’t have codes, drove unprecedented traffic on our site, resulting in 3.5 billion total system requests – 4x our previous peak.”

Blumenthal though called it karma. He blames the Ticketmaster and Live Nation merger of 2011.

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“There must be an investigation, but more than just an inquiry, it has to be followed by real action to protect consumers, artists and venues,” he said Monday.

Blumenthal wants that real action to be a congressional hearing and separation of the two companies. He said this monopoly should never ever, ever get back together.

“It's more than just Taylor Swift,” he continued. “It's everybody who goes to concerts, whether you're aware of it or not, you're paying more than you should for those concert tickets, because of this kind of monopoly.”

There’s already a Justice Department investigation into Live Nation, predating the Taylor Swift Ticketmaster issues last week.

“If the investigation reveals that Live Nation has continued to abuse its dominant market position notwithstanding two prior consent decrees, we urge the Department to consider unwinding the Ticketmaster-Live Nation merger and breaking up the company,” wrote the lawmakers in their Monday letter. “This may be the only way to truly protect consumers, artists, and venue operators and to restore competition in the ticketing market.”

Blumenthal added Monday he’s hopeful there will be a hearing in December, meaning this issue could get squeezed into the agenda before the new Congress takes effect in January.

Emma Wulfhorst is a political reporter for FOX61 News. She can be reached at ewulfhorst@fox61.com. Follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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