Justice Department sues to split Ticketmaster and Live Nation, alleges ‘monopoly control’

Washington (AFP) – Ministry of Justice Ticketmaster and its parent company were sued on Thursday, accusing them of running an illegal monopoly on live events in America and asking the court to dismantle the system that crushes competition and raises prices for fans.

It was arraigned in federal court in Manhattan Comprehensive antitrust lawsuit He was brought in with 30 state and district attorneys general and seeks to break up a monopoly that they say squeezes small promoters, hurts artists and drowns ticket buyers in fees. Ticketmaster and its owner, Live Nation Entertainment, have a long history of clashes with major artists and their fans, including Taylor Swift And Bruce Springsteen.

“It’s time for fans and artists to stop paying the price for Live Nation’s monopoly.” Attorney General Merrick Garland He said. “It’s time to restore competition and innovation to the entertainment industry. It’s time to break up Live Nation-Ticketmaster.”

The government accused Live Nation of tactics — including threats and retaliation — that Garland said allowed the entertainment giant to “stifle competition” by controlling nearly every aspect of the industry, from concert promotion to ticketing. The prosecutor said the impact appears in “an endless list of fees charged to fans.”

“Live music should not only be available to those who can pay the Ticketmaster tax,” said Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division.

Ricky Paletti and Jacob DeLong of Detroit said they recently spent about $1,200 to buy three tickets to a Shania Twain concert using Ticketmaster and about $370 to watch RuPaul’s Drag Race Live.

“I think ticket prices have definitely gone up, but I also think all the different fees that Ticketmaster puts on an order will definitely drive up the price,” Balletti said.

DeLong said that while he respects the artist’s work, the additional fees make the costs of seeing the show “ridiculous.”

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“Where can we get a break?” He said.

Live Nation, which has denied for years that it violated antitrust laws, said the lawsuit “will not resolve the issues fans care about regarding ticket prices, service fees, and access to on-demand shows.”

“Calling Ticketmaster a monopoly may be a PR win for the DOJ in the short term, but it will lose in court because it ignores the basic economics of live entertainment,” Live Nation added. It said most of the service fees go to venues and that outside competition is “steadily eroding” Ticketmaster’s market share. The company said it would defend itself against the “baseless allegations.”

The Justice Department said Live Nation’s anti-competitive practices include using long-term contracts to prevent venues from choosing competitors, preventing venues from using multiple ticket sellers and threatening venues that they could lose money if they do not choose Ticketmaster.

And in 2021, the concert giant threatened financial retaliation against a company if one of its portfolio companies did not stop competing with Live Nation for artist promotion contracts, the Justice Department alleged. Live Nation has also courted smaller promoters it sees as a threat, officials said.

The Justice Department has a strong case, said Michael Carrier, a professor at Rutgers University Law School who specializes in antitrust litigation. He expects Live Nation to try to “shift the blame elsewhere,” such as saying prices are set by artists or venues, but he said those explanations are weak.

“The Department of Justice has shown how Live Nation already has its tentacles into every element of the supply chain, meaning it has far more control than it lets on,” he said. “In terms of justification, there is very little that (Live Nation) can offer in terms of how to help the consumer.”

A separation between Live Nation and Ticketmaster is on the table, the complaint says. That, along with other remedies such as blocking some exclusive deals that restrict competition, could help fans see lower ticket prices, give artists more agency in choosing venues and boost the success of smaller promoters in the long term, Carrier said.

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Ticketmaster, which merged with Live Nation in 2010, is the world’s largest ticket seller across live music, sports, theater and more. The company said during its annual report last month that Ticketmaster distributed more than 620 million tickets through its systems in 2023.

About 70% of tickets for major concert venues in the United States are sold through Ticketmaster, according to data contained in a federal lawsuit filed by consumers in 2022. The company owns or controls more than 265 concert venues in North America and dozens of major amphitheaters, According to the Ministry of Justice.

Live Nation’s footprint has grown significantly over the past 10 years, according to the company’s annual financial reports. Between the end of 2014 and the end of 2023, Live Nation recorded a global increase of more than 136% in terms of venues in which the company owned, leased, managed, had exclusive booking rights or in which we had an equity stake. Significant impact.”

The ticket seller sparked outrage in November 2022 when His site crashed during a pre-sale event for Taylor Swift’s stadium tour. The company said the site was flooded by both fans and bot attacks, which were posing as consumers to obtain tickets and sell them on secondary sites. The disaster led to congressional hearings and bills in state legislatures aimed at better protecting consumers.

The Justice Department allowed Live Nation and Ticketmaster to merge as long as Live Nation agreed not to retaliate against concert venues for using other ticket companies for 10 years. In 2019, the Department investigated and found that Live Nation had repeatedly violated this agreement. The government then extended the ban on retaliation against concert venues until 2025.

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“It’s a failure of past antitrust. It’s something that steals customers every day,” said John Coke, an economics professor at Northeastern University who was also counsel for the states that conducted a 2009 investigation in parallel with the Justice Department into the original merger between Live Nation and Ticketmaster. “It’s something that steals customers every day.”

Kwoka, who has long been among those who have advocated a breakup, notes that Live Nation and Ticketmaster have remained “largely undeterred” over the past 15 years.

Ticketmaster’s clashes with artists and fans date back three decades. Pearl Jam targeted the company in 1994, years before the Live Nation merger, although the Justice Department ultimately declined to file a lawsuit. Recently, Bruce Springsteen fans were angered by rising ticket costs due to the platform’s dynamic pricing system.

Live Nation confirmed that artists and bands set prices and decide how to sell tickets. The company’s Executive Vice President of Corporate and Regulatory Affairs, Dan Wall, He said in a statement Thursday, that factors such as increased production costs, artist popularity and online ticket trading “are actually responsible for the rise in ticket prices.”

The Justice Department’s lawsuit filed Thursday is the latest example of the Biden administration’s aggressive antitrust enforcement. These efforts have targeted companies accused of engaging in illegal monopolies that exclude competitors and raise prices. In March, the Ministry of Justice File a lawsuit against Apple Claiming that the tech giant has monopoly power Smartphone market. The Democratic administration also attacked Google, Amazon and other tech giants.

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Grantham Phillips reported from New York. Associated Press reporters Michelle Chapman and Maria Sherman in New York, Christopher L. Keller in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and video journalist Ty O’Neill in Las Vegas contributed.

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