Live Music

Senators question FTC over bot tactics

US Senators have turned to the country’s Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to discuss the agency’s plans to fight the use of bots in ticketing, following the issues which plagued the recent Taylor Swift pre-sale. 

Senators Amy Klobuchar and Mike Lee announced recently they would be holding a hearing to examine the ticketing industry, while Senators Richard Blumenthal and Marsha Blackburn have written to the chair of the FTC.

In the letter, the Senators asked about the steps taken by the FTC to enforce the 2016 law, called the Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act. This was designed to crack down on the use of illegal bots, which can purchase hundreds or thousands of tickets before fans can get their hands on them.

Bots still remain an issue despite efforts including Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan programme. The law means that the FTC has the authority to enforce violations, but the Senators say the agency has only taken action once.

In the letter, the Senators discuss bot-related problems surrounding ticket sales for tours or residencies from artists such as Adele, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Blake Shelton.

The Senators wrote: “While some consumers opt to purchase tickets on the secondary market, most fans cannot afford to pay thousands of dollars for a single concert ticket. Some reports have found secondary ticket sales ranging from $1,000 (£816/€953) (Bruce Springsteen) to $40,000 (Adele). Preventing this type of consumer harm is exactly why Congress chose to enact the BOTS Act six years ago and why we both chose to sponsor that bill.”

Research from investment management company Morgan Stanley has predicted healthy, but more normalised growth, for Live Nation and Ticketmaster following on from the issues.

While shares in Live Nation have taken a hit due to the noise surrounding the Taylor Swift ticketing debacle, the research says that sell-offs due to the headlines have likely been overdone.

In Morgan Stanley’s published research, the company said: “Recent weakness from negative headlines is likely overdone in our view. In particular, while frustrating for fans, the Taylor Swift situation is also a reminder of how much the top artists can drive powerful supply/demand dynamics for Live Nation and the industry.

“The Eras Tour is not a Live Nation promotion, but rather an AEG Live promotion. Its decision to use Ticketmaster for ticketing services may have created negative headlines but is a recognition of the platform’s technology and feature set. The DOJ (Department of Justice) investigation, unfortunately, is harder to risk-assess given the lack of information on scope and timing of resolution. An overhang on shares from the DOJ may persist.”

The research also believed that there would be a return to normal growth in 2023, as it believes the live event business is one of the last to see the benefits of post-pandemic recovery.

“Looking ahead, we see a return to normalised growth for the company with 2023 likely more muted on a reported basis given the benefit of roughly 10 million fans at tours delayed from 2021 into 2022,” the report said.