Helena Lyng Blak
2 weeks ago

The DOJ Sues Ticketmaster Parent Live Nation in Antitrust Case

The US Department of Justice takes legal action against Live Nation.

On Thursday, May 23, 2024, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) announced it was suing Ticketmaster’s parent company, Live Nation for violating antitrust laws. 

The DOJ claims that Live Nation is a gatekeeper of live music that it and its subsidiary, Ticketmaster have participated in anticompetitive conduct.

According to the suit, this anticompetitive conduct allegedly includes exploiting relationships with industry partners, threatening financial retaliation against possible competitors, and acquiring small or regional promoters to quell competition. 

It further claims that Live Nation and Ticketmaster have been threatening retaliation against venues if they worked with rivals, as well as forcefully blocking venues from using multiple ticketers and locking out competitors by making venues go into long-term exclusionary contracts.

Lastly, the suit alleges that Live Nation and Ticketmaster have also forced the hand of artists, restricting use of venues unless the artists agreed to use their promotion services. 

The suit also hones in on the fact that the US sees exorbitant fees associated with ticket pricing, compared to similar countries. It claims that Live Nation and Ticketmaster are a major reason why, saying, 

“Any fan who has logged onto Ticketmaster’s website to buy a concert ticket knows the feeling of shock and frustration as the base cost of the ticket increases dramatically.”

Live Nation and Ticketmaster originally merged in 2010 following a year-long investigation by the DOJ. 

At the time, the New York Times called the move a “litmus test for the Obama administration’s attitude toward antitrust regulation.” Even then, some consumer groups feared that the merger might lead to anticompetitive conduct and a monopoly on live music. 

And since, Ticketmaster and Live Nation have had to face their share of criticisms, including data breaches, allegations of being in cahoots with scalpers, and controversy surrounding the aforementioned fees.

But Live Nation and Ticketmaster’s legal troubles did not escalate until 2022, when the latter’s official website crashed during the pre-sales of tickets to Taylor Swift’s ‘Eras Tour’, interrupting the pre-sales and leading to a rescheduling of the general sale. 

The chaos sparked widespread criticism of Ticketmaster’s high prices and poor service, with many attributing it to a lack of competition. 

Swift’s tour promoter, AEG Presents, further claimed that they were forced to work with Ticketmaster, saying in a statement to CNBC, that they “didn’t have a choice.”

In early 2023, the fiasco ultimately led to a Senate Judiciary hearing during which Live Nation received an overwhelmingly bipartisan criticism over the course of nearly three hours. 

Republican Senators Marsha Blackburn and John Kennedy called the whole situation “unbelievable” and “a debacle,” while Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, according to the New York Times, mockingly told Live Nation president and CFO Joe Berchtold, 

“I want to congratulate and thank you for an absolutely stunning achievement. You have brought together Republicans and Democrats in an absolutely unified cause.”

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