Watch CBS News

Keller @ Large: Less to Ticketmaster Senate showdown than meets the eye

Keller @ Large: Less to Ticketmaster Senate showdown than meets the eye
Keller @ Large: Less to Ticketmaster Senate showdown than meets the eye 02:44

BOSTON - If you were a Taylor Swift fan caught up in the disastrous ticket mess for her latest tour, Tuesday was a chance to get some answers, as the president of the company that owns Ticketmaster was called on the carpet at a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing.

But there was less to this showdown than meets the eye.

"Industrial scalpers using bots and cyber-attacks to unfairly gain tickets has contributed to this awful experience," said Live Nation boss Joe Berchtold, explaining why the Taylor Swift fiasco and their overall stranglehold on entertainment ticketing don't mean they're an unfair monopoly the government should break up. But the senators were skeptical.

"Mr. Berchtold, I want to congratulate you on an absolutely stunning achievement," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut). "You have brought together Republicans and Democrats in an absolutely unified cause."

Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee) suggested willful negligence by the ticket seller in the battle against bots: "They have figured out you will not call the FTC [Federal Trade Commission], you will not report them."

Concluded Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota): "We are very interested in actually doing something and not just throwing popcorn."

But is that really true?

BU Law Professor and antitrust expert Keith Hylton says the Swift mess alone isn't enough to blow up the 13-year-old Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger, angry fans notwithstanding. "I paid more for fees than I paid for a single ticket," complained one Swift fan holding a sign outside the hearing. "So, I was like no, something's wrong. Something has to change."

But despite all the political bluster, don't hold your breath. For now, says Prof. Hylton, those sky-high prices look like something the market is willing to bear. "I don't know what the evidence is that consumers are suffering from high prices. And they certainly seem all too happy to pay enormous prices of their own volition to go to these concerts," he says.

Just today there was evidence of the federal government's willingness to go after big corporations as the Justice Department filed an antitrust suit against Google over its online advertising practices. But Hylton says they likely need a lot more evidence before doing the same with Live Nation/Ticketmaster.

So, if you want to see your favorite megastar in concert, better get used to those sky-high fees and online purchasing hassles - for now at least. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.