Live Nation and Ticketmaster sued by Department of Justice: NPR

Penny Harrison and her son Parker Harrison rallied against the live entertainment ticket industry outside the U.S. Capitol last year.

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Drew Angerer/Getty Images/Getty Images North America

The Justice Department and 30 state and district attorneys general across the country filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against Live Nation Entertainment and its wholly-owned subsidiary Ticketmaster. The lawsuit alleges that Live Nation monopolized ticket prices for live events across the United States. The civil antitrust lawsuit was filed in the Southern District of New York.

This fight has been a long time coming: Music fans, other consumers, performers, independent venues and even members of Congress have argued that Ticketmaster, which merged with Live Nation in 2010, has pushed ticket prices to artificially high levels. Live Nation has long been a dominant player in the live events market, owning significant stakes in venues, concert promotions, music festivals, ticketing, sponsorships, advertising and artist management – ​​and with significant power in many aspects of the business, Department of Justice It claims to be able to effectively limit its competition.

If successful, the suit could reshape the live events landscape — and the prices fans pay to see their favorite artists — across the country.

The state and district attorneys general who have joined the lawsuit include several states that are home to major live event venues, including New York, California, Colorado, Florida and Texas.

In a lengthy statement provided to NPR on Thursday, Live Nation wrote in part: “The DOJ’s lawsuit will not solve the issues fans care about regarding ticket prices, service fees, and access to on-demand shows. Calling Ticketmaster a monopoly would be a win.” In the DOJ’s short-term PR, but would lose in court because it ignores the basic economics of live entertainment, such as the fact that the bulk of service fees go to venues, and that competition has steadily eroded Ticketmaster’s market share and profit margin.

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As part of the lawsuit, the Department of Justice and the states allege that Live Nation and Ticketmaster engaged in several forms of anticompetitive conduct, including retaliation against other promotion companies and venues that worked with their competitors; exclude competitors through exclusive long-term ticket contracts; restricting musicians’ access to live event venues; and strategic acquisitions of smaller, independent companies that Live Nation allegedly viewed as a threat to its dominance.

Earlier this month, in an effort to increase transparency for consumers, the House of Representatives passed the Ticketing Act, which would force Live Nation and other ticket sellers to include all costs and fees within the price of a live event ticket. The bill, introduced in the Senate by Ted Cruz of Texas, received support from hundreds of prominent musicians, including Billie Eilish, Dave Matthews and Nile Rodgers, who wrote in a joint statement: “We come together to say the current system is broken: Predatory sellers and secondary platforms engage in deceptive ticketing practices to inflate ticket prices and deprive fans of the opportunity to see their favorite artists at a fair price.

According to Thursday’s filing, Live Nation Entertainment currently owns or controls more than 250 concert venues across North America, controlling about 60 percent of the concert promotions at major concert venues across the United States. The company also directly manages more than 400 musical acts.

“With such a broad reach of power comes influence,” the Justice Department and the states asserted in the lawsuit. Live Nation and its subsidiary, Ticketmaster, have used that power and influence to insert themselves into the center and edges of nearly every aspect of the live music ecosystem.

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“It is time to break up Live Nation-Ticketmaster,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.

In the past, and again in its statement to NPR on Thursday, Live Nation has argued that musicians — not its own company — ultimately set their ticket prices. Dan Wall, Live Nation’s executive vice president of corporate and regulatory affairs, said the lawsuit “ignores everything that’s actually responsible for skyrocketing ticket prices, from increased production costs to artist popularity, to the 24/7 scalping of online tickets.” week, which reveals the public’s willingness to pay. Much more than [what] Cost of basic tickets.

“It is not surprising that Live Nation is pointing the finger at the artists,” a senior Justice Department official said Thursday morning. “In an industry where artists have historically been pressured to receive compensation for their creative work, it is important that artists are compensated appropriately.”

“For us, this is just a red flag,” the official continued, referring to the previous argument made by Live Nation. “How is the system set up? How does Live Nation’s control at all levels of the system allow for an operation that is distorted in part by Live Nation’s power?”

The Justice Department is pushing for “structural relief” — that is, asking a federal court to break up the combined Live Nation-Ticketmaster company, which the Justice Department itself approved of the merger in 2010. Justice Department officials now argue that since the merger, Live Nation has created a Stifling on the live events industry.

Thursday’s case is the latest lawsuit filed by the Biden administration against major companies that it accused of abusing monopoly power. The Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit against Apple, Google, and Amazon. They successfully stopped the merger of publishers Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, and JetBlue Airways with Spirit Airlines. They also revealed the partnership between JetBlue and American Airlines.

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But last year, federal officials lost their bid to block the merger of Microsoft and video game giant Activision Blizzard; toFacebook mother dead With the virtual reality company Unlimited; and insurance company UnitedHealth Group with technology company Change Healthcare.

The announcement of the federal antitrust lawsuit against Live Nation is just the first step in what will almost certainly be a lengthy litigation process, so music fans likely won’t face lower ticket prices anytime soon.

With additional reporting from Alina Selyukh.

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