Press Conference with Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ)

Date: Feb. 11, 2009
Location: Washington, DC



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SEN. SCHUMER: Okay. I want to thank everybody for coming this afternoon, and I'm very pleased to be joined by my friend and colleague Bill Pascrell, who represents Passaic and Essex counties very well, and who was the first to blow the whistle on this issue.

Now we're here today to announce that we vehemently oppose the proposed Ticketmaster merger with Live Nation that was announced yesterday. Yesterday wasn't quite "the day the music died," but it was the day the music became a lot more expensive to hear live.

Many have argued that Ticketmaster, the most used website in the music ticketing world, already has too much influence over the industry, as evidenced by the fact that last Monday they were seemingly able to pull off a huge bait-and-switch on Bruce Springsteen ticket buyers.

Allowing Ticketmaster Entertainment to merge with Live Nation Worldwide, a major concert promotion company and ticket distributor, would make consumers more vulnerable to scams and to higher ticket fees and prices.

Ticketmaster controls around 65 percent of the concert ticket market. Live Nation controls about 15 percent. So the combined entity would control up to 80 percent of the concert ticket market. This level of consolidation could very well mean higher prices and higher fees for concertgoers, and they're already high enough.

Further compounding the problem, if these two entities were to merge, control of concert venues and the representation of artists in those venues would be controlled by one organization, having profound and far-reaching implications for consumers, promoters and artists alike. The merged company would have control over every step of the process between fans and artists.

So if we look at this either through vertical integration or horizontal integration, either way, this would have a tremendous down side for consumers.

There's a great potential for abuse when two companies of this size and scope join forces. We must protect consumers against these practices, and make sure that Ticketmaster and Live Nation both continue to provide tickets to buyers safely and fairly.

What's the best antidote to high prices, high fees and scams? It's good, old-fashioned American competition. And this merger would snuff out the strongest competitor that Ticketmaster has. With Live Nation we finally had a company with the clout and market share to challenge Ticketmaster. And what does Ticketmaster do? They don't try to give the consumer a better deal. They propose a merger, to snuff out their strongest competitor.

So today we announce that we oppose this merger. Everyone -- consumers, venues, artists -- will be better off, much better off, if the merger doesn't go through.

And we got all the evidence we needed to oppose this merger last Monday. As many of you know, last Monday at 10:00 a.m., tickets for "The Boss's" Working on a Dream tour went on sale on, and were sold out within minutes. Well, that's not uncommon for Springsteen concerts; he is "The Boss," after all.

But by 10:02, ticket buyers were told that tickets were unavailable, and prompted to go to the TicketsNow website, a ticket resale site where fans can buy tickets, but at higher than face value prices -- usually, much higher.

Reselling tickets on the Internet is a perfectly legal activity. But in this case, there's one problem. Ticketmaster also owns the resale site. It appears that thousands of Bruce fans never had the opportunity to buy the tickets at face value. Their only option, instead, was to buy tickets for twice and even three times face value on TicketsNow, Ticketmaster's resale website.

Well, there's something rotten in the state of Denmark. This seeming bait-and-switch costs Bruce fans across the country hundreds of dollars more per ticket and almost certainly left countless fans shut out of the concert completely.

In our capacity as senator and congressman, Congressman Pascrell and I have called for an FTC investigation into what happened here. We need to take a very close look at this system and find a way to prevent this type of problem in the future.

And, adding insult to injury, the last thing we should do is give Ticketmaster more influence. We oppose this merger and hope that Ticketmaster and Live Nation will continue to compete and sell tickets to fans fairly and at a fair price.

And before I call on Congressman Pascrell, we have this letter, which we are sending to Eric Holder, the attorney general. I am a member of the Judiciary Committee and a member of the Antitrust Subcommittee. And we're asking everything we said in the letter. So I'm going to sign it. I'm going to give the pen for -- to Bill to sign. And then he will speak.

(Sound of signing.)

Great. Thanks, Bill.

REP. PASCRELL: Thank you, Senator.

Now, we're talking about a $21 billion industry. This is not small potatoes, in a week where we are certainly not dealing with small potatoes. We're dealing with people's lives. And the song that Bruce presented to us back in 1979, "The Promised Land," is, I think, a playout of what we're doing here. You know, folks want a little bit of entertainment in their lives, and they don't want to be ripped off. I think that's pretty clear. I think it's pretty simple. And it's pretty basic to the American dream.

Thousands of Bruce Springsteen fans trying to buy tickets to his latest tour on were shut out or accidentally paid highly marked-up prices on a ticket resale website it owns, TicketsNow.

So last week -- last Tuesday I called for a federal investigation into this relationship. To me, the idea of one company controlling and profiting off both the primary and the secondary market for tickets is deeply trouble (sic). And I don't care whether we're talking about concerns; I don't think -- care we're talking about NBA games, baseball games, whatever. We need to take a real look at how people are being shut out and their families are being shut out of the entertainment area.

So more than -- I've gotten -- received 1,200 calls in my office in Paterson, New Jersey. Drove me -- this drove me to speak up on the issue. The average person is just trying to buy a ticket. It is because we spoke up, both fans and public officials alike, that we're able to win key concession from Ticketmaster to remedy the debacle that occurred last week.

Now, Chuck, they're providing some payback to some of these customers and now complaining that other people are trying to take advantage of them. Well, we certainly don't want anyone to take the advantage of Ticketmaster. However, this recent flap led me to the conclusion that this corporation, beholden to its shareholders above all, cannot be trusted to deliver in the best interest of the fans. That is what makes yesterday's news, that Ticketmaster and Live Nation plan to merge, that makes it troubling to me and Chuck and to millions of music fans across this country.

By merging, Live Nation and Ticketmaster -- remember, Live Nation has the exclusive rights to certain entertainers -- and Ticketmaster -- they want to eat the primary competition. This is what this is all about. They want to have control over the artist management. They want to have control over the promotion. They want to have control over the venue control -- controls, licensing and ticket sales. How do you like that? That's better than any holding company, a hundred years ago, 80 years ago that got us to the point we are today.

According to preliminary news reports, this deal would allow this new $2.5 billion corporate conglomerate to control, as the senator said, 80 percent of the concert market in this country. This new business would also have under its umbrella the world's largest music producer and control the management of 200 of the world's top acts.

It is simply unthinkable that a company that controls nearly every aspect of the live music industry could possibly in the best interests of the consumer.

I'm especially worried that this new company would be able to manipulate ticket prices in a way that could completely price the average fan out of the market, if they're not already priced out of the market.

Service fees, in particular, which are already arbitrary and expensive, could rise significantly without competition in the market. I believe that this merger is in clear violation of this country's antitrust laws. And I know what the record is of folks going after Ticketmaster on antitrust violations. I know what the record is, but I'm hopeful about this. And that is why the senator and I are in the middle, and will stay in the middle.

Ticketmaster will both be absorbing its only major competitor in the preliminary online market, ticket marketing -- but as I said, this is a $21 billion industry -- at the same time again, monopoly control over every aspect of the live music industry, top to bottom. Fans, promoters, artists will have no choice but to do business with this company. And it will surely crowd out all other competition in the industry.

This deal is bad for the fans. This deal is bad for the artists. This deal is bad for promoters, and bad for music lovers everywhere. And I am proud to stand here with the senator.

And I'll be just brief -- brief, for a few moments. Together with Senator Schumer, who is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee -- and I hope your committee is going to be looking into this, as well -- we'll be conducting aggressive congressional oversight of this deal, and will be pushing the appropriate federal regulators to conduct comprehensive and robust review of any merger between these two companies.

What is clear above all else is that the current structure of the private concert industry must do a better job of ensuring that the fans are the ones that come first. We've seen fans go through extreme measures to get tickets to see their favorite bands and their favorite sport teams. They will wait in line out in the snow all night, or camp out for days on end, to make sure they get the seats -- any seats. We can't allow corporate needs and corporate greed to price these passionate fans out of the market. And I will continue fighting to ensure the true fans will always be first in line.

And with that, let's open it up to questions, Senator.

SEN. SCHUMER: Great. We're ready. Yes, ma'am?

Q (Off mike) -- apologize for what happened Monday, and I'm wondering if you find that apology to be --

SEN. SCHUMER: Well, this merger would be wrong even if the events that happened last Monday didn't happen. But certainly, the events that happened last Monday call into question even further the merger.

Apologizing -- very nice. We'll see how they can make up for it to the many, many fans who were injured. But what about all the previous instances where there are allegations?

And no one company should have 80 percent of the market. And when you have 65 and you're ready to pluck out the strongest competitor, what does that say? Does that say you want to lower prices or you want to control competition?

REP. PASCRELL: I think the apology was great. I think returning some of the folks' money was great. I think we're beyond that. This is bigger than Ticketmaster and TicketsNow. This is bigger than any other companies that are going -- trying to merge. This is an issue which has been growing for a long time. This thing just happened last week. This is not the start of it.


REP. PASCRELL: But we're going to do something about it.

Q (Off mike) -- TicketsNow? Because I know you (off mike) --

REP. PASCRELL: Well, TicketsNow is owned by --

SEN. SCHUMER: Tickets owned -- is owned by Ticketmaster.

REP. PASCRELL: -- Ticketmaster.

Q And so do you think it -- was it Ticketmaster's --

SEN. SCHUMER: Well, that's -- we've asked for the --

Q -- (off mike) -- TicketsNow? I mean, is that --

SEN. SCHUMER: We've asked for an FTC investigation.

It sounds awfully strange when you call up Ticketmaster at 10:02 and you're told, "All the tickets are sold out, but TicketsNow has tickets." And TicketsNow, of course, sells them at a much higher price, and is owned by Ticketmaster. Any -- you know, you don't have to be more than in the sixth grade to hear those facts and say, "Ooh, I'll bet something was wrong."

REP. PASCRELL: I think what we want to know is how many tickets Ticketmaster gave to TicketsNow, before --

SEN. SCHUMER: And when.

REP. PASCRELL: -- and when they did that. And that's why we've asked for a review and an investigation.

SEN. SCHUMER: Right. It'd be how -- how could they transfer all these tickets and know to refer people to TicketsNow within two minutes of the tickets being put on sale?

REP. PASCRELL: And why would you do that?


Other questions?

REP. PASCRELL: Any other questions? Yeah.

Q Have you gotten any response from the FTC on this?

SEN. SCHUMER: Not yet.

REP. PASCRELL: We'll be meeting with them in private next week.

Q How close are you on the -- on the --

SEN. SCHUMER: Okay, let's take subjects. Just this subject. If we're finished, we'll take others.

Q I have a question on this subject. You're on the Antitrust Subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee.


Q Is -- the congressman has called for an -- hearings by --

SEN. SCHUMER: I'm going to be talking -- I'm going to be -- I have not yet had a chance to talk to the subcommittee chairman, Chairman Kohl. When I do, I'll let you know.

REP. PASCRELL: Anyone else?

SEN. SCHUMER: Okay. Other subjects. Yes, sir?

Q I was wondering how close you are right now on the stimulus package. I heard that you're very close to a deal.

Are there any particular sticking points left on this?

SEN. SCHUMER: Okay, well, I'm not going to get into the details. I mean, I know the details. All I can say is I think all the parties -- which involve the president, the House Democrats, the Senate Democrats, and the three Republican senators who voted with us -- are working very, very hard to get a deal as soon as we can; hopefully, even by the end of today. And there has to be give on all sides, and there has been.

Q Did the White House mismanage this business?

SEN. SCHUMER: I don't believe so, no.

REP. PASCRELL: I don't think so.

SEN. SCHUMER: Okay. Thanks.

REP. PASCRELL: Thanks, everybody.