US politicians have announced they will look into Ticketmaster’s dominance after the company endured the wrath of Taylor Swift over its handling of sales for her highly-anticipated tour.
Senators Amy Klobuchar and Mike Lee said a competition subcommittee would examine “lack of competition in the ticketing industry”.
High fees, problems with Ticketmaster’s website and cancellations show it “does not face any pressure to continually innovate and improve”, said Ms Klobuchar.
Swift said last week that it was “excruciating” to see what people endured as they tried to get tickets for her upcoming US shows – her first tour since 2018.
Fans said they waited hours and were repeatedly kicked off the website on Thursday, with Ticketmaster cancelling Friday’s sale due to “extraordinarily high demands” and “insufficient” tickets.
Those issues came a few days after the site had again crashed under heavy demand during a pre-sale.
Ticketmaster said more than 3.5 million people had registered for the general sale and that it had planned to allow 1.5 million to participate, with the rest going on a waiting list.
However, it said “bots” – automated requests – and demand from those who hadn’t previously registered had swamped its website with 3.5 billion system requests – four times its previous peak.
“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,” Swift said on Instagram.
She said she was “p***** off” and was looking at how things could be improved.
Ticketmaster, which dominates the US ticketing industry, has for years left fans and artists frustrated by hidden fees, soaring costs, and limited ticket availability due to pre-sales.
Ms Klobuchar wrote to the firm’s boss last week and suggested Ticketmaster and sister company LiveNation – which promotes events and runs venues – were abusing their position and were insulated from the competition typical in other sectors.
She and Utah senator Mike Lee upped the ante on Tuesday by announcing plans for a special hearing.
“When there is no competition to incentivise better services and fair prices, we all suffer the consequences,” said Ms Klobuchar, who leads the Senate subcommittee on competition and consumer rights.
“American consumers deserve the benefit of competition in every market, from grocery chains to concert venues,” added Mr Lee.
The hearing date and witnesses are still to be confirmed.
Backstage with… Damian Lewis and the cast of new ITVX thriller A Spy Among Friends
Which giant of British film and television do you call when you want to launch a brand-new streaming service in the UK?
Why Emmy and Golden Globe winner Damian Lewis, of course, who leads the cast of the new thriller A Spy Among Friends, which has debuted on ITVX this week.
The show, written by former Scots Guard Alex Cary, is based on the book of the same name, and sees Lewis play Nicholas Elliot, an MI5 agent in the 1960s, who learns his friend and colleague Kim Philby (played by Guy Pearce) has defected to the KGB.
It’s a show full of clandestine meetings, deceptions, and actors speaking in received pronunciation.
Telling Backstage, the TV and film podcast from Sky News, about just why he took the role on, he said it all stemmed from the book.
“I loved it,” he said.
“Kim Philby is very well known in this country, a well-known traitor, part of that famous Cambridge spy group of KGB operatives – and Nicholas Elliott was unknown, but his best friend.
“We wanted to sort of get… behind the facade of a very well-known character, Kim Philby, and really examine his friendships and more intimate moments with his great friend Nicholas Elliott and how Elliott facilitated his successful spying for 30 years.
“So it’s really the finer nuances of friendship and betrayal that I was interested in exploring.”
Lewis added that the real life characters are “revered”, telling Backstage: “Here’s a man who just got away with it for so long. So how did he do it? How did they miss it for 30 years?
“Well, that’s the prism through which we’ve tried to tell this story. How did Nicholas Elliott miss it? His best friend and everyone else.
“By the end of the six hours we see a man is drowning in vodka and unhappy with being in Russia, being in Moscow. He never wanted to go and live there… he enjoyed the secrecy, enjoyed the elitism of his job.
“And in the end he was a mass murderer, simply through his treachery.”
Anna Maxwell Martin also stars in the show, as Lily Thomas, another MI5 spy, whose northern accent sets her apart from her colleagues.
“Was that Welsh?” director Nick Murphy teased Maxwell Martin, to which she replied: “I don’t know, it veered all around the country.”
Maxwell Martin, who is best known for her roles in Line Of Duty and Motherland, added: “I just want to do things that are different all the time and not feel I’m doing the same thing. And it really was a complete departure from everything else.”
Do the stars and creatives reckon they could be spies after their stint on the show?
“Oh, I’d love it… I’d love the sense of superiority,” Murphy said.
Maxwell Martin’s response, however, was “not for me”.
Writer Cary adds: “As a writer, I suppose that I’m a fantasist of some description, so, yeah, certainly.
“I mean, listen, the cool thing about being a spy is, you know s*** that nobody else knows, and you feel better than them.”
However, it was Lewis who perhaps summed it up best: “Fun – it seems sort of thrilling.”
A Spy Among Friends is now streaming on ITVX – hear our review in this week’s Backstage podcast.
Prince Harry and Meghan’s Netflix series: Key revelations from first episodes
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s Netflix docuseries, titled Harry and Meghan, has dropped in part today – unveiling dramatic revelations about their time in the UK.
Harry and Meghan both appear candid from the off and ready to tell their version of events following their 2016 whirlwind romance.
After completing their final stint of royal engagements in March 2020, the 38-year-old prince says it is “really hard to look back on it now and go ‘what on earth happened’? Like, how did we end up here?'”
Women in the Royal Family
Prince Harry spoke about women in the Royal Family and said he had learnt “the pain and suffering of women marrying into this institution”.
He said: “I remember thinking how can I ever find someone who is willing and capable to be able to withstand all the baggage that comes with being with me.”
Harassment of Princess Diana
Prince Harry says his mother, Princess Diana, was “harassed throughout her life”.
He says: “My mum was harassed throughout her life with my dad, but after they separated, the harassment went to new levels.”
Harry goes on to say that the moment his mother divorced, she was “by herself”.
Meeting on Instagram
Meghan reveals she wasn’t looking for a relationship the summer they met.
“I was really intent on being single, and just having fun all the time,” she says. “I had my career, I had my life, I had my path, uh, and then came H – I mean talk about plot twist.”
Then Harry reveals how they actually met…
“Meghan and I met over Instagram,” he says.
“I was just scrolling through my feed and someone who was a friend had this video of the two of them, like a Snapchat, with dog ears. That was the first thing – I was like ‘who is THAT?'”.
Archie heard speaking on TV for first time
The couple’s son, Archie, is heard speaking on TV for the first time six minutes into the episode.
As Meghan looks at the sunset, she asks Archie how he would describe it.
“It’s beautiful,” he says.
Fitting the mould
Harry reveals there was an urge for members of the Royal Family to marry someone who “fit the mould”.
He says: “I think for so many people in the family, especially the men, there could be a temptation or an urge to marry someone who would fit the mould as opposed to someone you are destined to be with.
“The difference between making a decision with your head or your heart.
“And my mum certainly made most of her decisions, if not all of them, from her heart. And I am my mother’s son.”
How different Prince William and Harry were as children is explored in the first episode, and how the Royal Family reacted to the paparazzi.
Harry describes his childhood as “filled with happiness and laughter”, but added that “the majority of my memories are of being swarmed by paparazzi”.
He also describes how the Royal Family reacted to paparazzi: “Rarely did we have a holiday without someone with a camera jumping out of a bush or something. Within the family, within the system, the advice that’s always given is don’t react.
“Don’t feed into it. There was always public pressure, with its fair share of drama, stress and tears. And witnessing those tears. I could always see it on my mum’s face. And that was when I thought hang on what am I, who am I, what am I part of?”
Meghan ‘similar’ to Princess Diana
Speaking about Meghan, Harry says: “So much of how Meghan is, and how she is, is so similar to my mum.
“She has the same compassion, she has the same empathy, she has the same confidence – she has this warmth about her.”
He adds that he accepts “there will be people around the world who fundamentally disagree with what I’ve done and how I’ve done it, but I knew that I had to do everything I could to protect my family”.
“Especially after what happened to my mum. You know I didn’t want history to repeat itself,” he says.
Falling in love
Meghan reveals in episode 2 that the beginning of her relationship with Harry was “long distance” and “guarded”.
She says: “Everything was just texts and FaceTimes and we’d just talk for hours and it just felt exciting which is so weird because it wasn’t exciting in the way that people would assume that it would be.”
The former Suits actress describes the start of their romance as “relaxed and easy”.
She says: “We just got to know each other. Truly, like any other couple when you’re figuring out… What do you like to eat, what do you like to cook? What kind of movies do you like?”
Speaking about the relationship, Harry says: “I got to know her more and more, I was like, ‘I’m really falling in love with this girl’. So in spite of my fear, I just opened my heart to see what’s going to happen.”
Meghan meets William and Kate in ripped jeans
Meghan said she found the Royal Family quite formal upon first meeting them, and revealed she first met Prince William and Kate while wearing a ripped pair of jeans.
She says she has always been a hugger and didn’t realise that was jarring for a lot of British people.
“I guess I started to understand very quickly that the formality on the outside carried through on the inside,” Meghan says.
“That there is a forward-facing way of being and then you close the door and ‘phew I can relax now’ but that formality carries over on both sides. And that was surprising to me.”
Prince Harry says the Queen was the first senior member of the Royal Family who Meghan met.
First death threat
Prince Harry describes the early stages of his relationship as a “combination of car chases, anti-surveillance driving and disguises”.
Meghan describes how she received a death threat while she was in Toronto after the huge surge of media attention she experienced.
She said when she got her first death threat “things changed because I needed to have security”.
Harry revealed that members of the Royal Family questioned why the Duchess of Sussex should be “protected” when the couple raised newspaper headlines about her.
“The direction from the Palace was don’t say anything,” he says, adding that his family would ask why Meghan should receive “special treatment”.
“I said: ‘The difference here is the race element’.”
Meeting the Queen
In episode two, Meghan says she did not know what meeting the Queen would consist of and describes it as “all a bit of a shock”.
The Duchess of Sussex says: “I didn’t realise I was about to meet Queen, on way to a lunch and Harry asked, ‘You know how to curtsey right?'”
She goes on to say: “Now I’m realising this is a big deal, talks about curtseying and meeting the Queen, it was so intense.”
Speaking about introducing Meghan to his family, Harry says: “I remember my family first meeting her and being incredibly impressed, some of them didn’t know quite what to do with themselves.
“I think they were surprised. They were surprised a ginger could land such a beautiful woman, and such an intelligent woman.”
But he says his family’s judgement may have been clouded by the fact Meghan was an American actress, and thought, “this won’t last”.
In the third episode, Meghan describes her engagement interview as “an orchestrated reality show”.
She said: “It was, you know, rehearsed, so we did the thing out with the press and then we went right inside, took the coat off, sat down and did the interview. So it was all in that same moment.”
The couple announced their engagement in 2017.
Meghan explains in episode three that she “rarely wore colour” during her time in the UK as she understood you could not wear the same colour as the Queen in a group event.
“But then you also should never be wearing the same colour as one of the other more senior members of the family. So I was like ‘well, what’s a colour that they’ll probably never wear?'”, she says.
“Camel, beige, white. So I wore a lot of muted tones, but it also was so I could just blend in.
“Like, I’m not trying to stand out here. So there’s no version of me joining this family and trying to not do everything I could to fit in. I don’t want to embarrass the family.”
Unconscious bias in Royal Family
The Duke of Sussex reveals in episode three there is a “huge level of unconscious bias” in the Royal Family, before the documentary refers to when Princess Michael of Kent wore a Blackamoor-style brooch to an event the Duchess of Sussex attended in 2017.
He says: “In this family, sometimes you are part of the problem rather than part of the solution. There is a huge level of unconscious bias.
“The thing with unconscious bias, it is actually no one’s fault. But once it has been pointed out, or identified within yourself you then need to make it right.
“It is education. It is awareness. It is a constant work in progress for everybody, including me.”
Nazi uniform ‘biggest mistake of my life’
Harry says wearing a Nazi uniform to a private party was “one of the biggest mistakes of my life” and that he felt “so ashamed afterwards”.
In 2005, Harry made headlines when he was pictured wearing a Nazi uniform with a swastika armband to a fancy dress party.
The pictures was published on the front page of The Sun newspaper under the headline: “Harry the Nazi”.
Clarence House later issued a statement which read: “Prince Harry has apologised for any offence or embarrassment he has caused. He realises it was a poor choice of costume.”
Googling the national anthem
Meghan opens up about her experience joining the Royal Family, the protocols and how she came to learn the British national anthem.
She says: “Joining this family, I knew that there was a protocol for how things were done. And do you remember that old movie The Princess Diaries, with Anne Hathaway?
“There’s no class, and some person who goes ‘sit like this, cross your legs like this, use your fork, don’t do this, curtsey then, wear this kind of hat’. It doesn’t happen”.
When asked how she learned the national anthem she says: “I googled it, and I’d sit, there, and I’d practice and I’d practice”.
Record-breaking comedian Peter Kay announces extra dates to already huge tour
Comedian Peter Kay has announced extra dates for his already huge live tour.
Kay was brought to tears on the opening night of his first live comedy tour in 12 years last Friday – the first in a lengthy arena tour spanning from December to late 2023.
For the last four years before the shows had kicked off, the 49-year-old had been largely absent from the public eye.
In 2017, he sparked headlines when he cancelled his last 14-month tour at short notice due to “unforeseen family circumstances”.
He announced the extra shows on BBC Radio on Thursday.
He said: “First of all, I want to say thanks to everyone who’s bought tickets to my tour, and I really do appreciate it.
“We’ve finally managed to book some more extra dates.”
Tickets will go on sale this Sunday from 10am for shows in cities including Newcastle, Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield, Birmingham, Glasgow and a 28th night at London’s O2 Arena.
O2 was forced to apologise after its priority ticket website offering customers early access to the first tranche of the Phenix Nights star’s tour tickets crashed due to “extraordinary demand”.
As part of the gig series, Kay will be performing a monthly residency at London’s O2 Arena, the first artist in the world to do so.
In 2010, Kay gained the Guinness World Record for the biggest-selling run of all time – playing to a total of 1.2 million people.
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