DOJ sues Ticketmaster owner over claims of monopoly; raising ticket fees, prices

The suit is expected to claim that tours promoted by the company were more likely to play venues where Ticketmaster was the exclusive ticket service, and that Live Nation’s artists played venues that it owns.

The U.S. Justice Department has filed a competition lawsuit against Live Nation — the parent company of Ticketmaster, according to The New York Times, claiming the entertainment company is illegally maintaining a monopoly in the live entertainment industry.

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The DOJ argued in the lawsuit that Live Nation used Ticketmaster’s exclusive ticketing contracts with concert venues to maintain a monopoly in the industry, “raising prices and fees for consumers, limiting innovation in the ticket industry and hurting competition,” according to two people who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the suit has not been made public.

Attorney General Merrick Garland addressed the suit Thursday.

“We allege that Live Nation relies on unlawful, anticompetitive conduct to exercise its monopolistic control over the live events industry in the United States at the cost of fans, artists, smaller promoters, and venue operators,” Garland said in a statement.

“The result is that fans pay more in fees, artists have fewer opportunities to play concerts, smaller promoters get squeezed out, and venues have fewer real choices for ticketing services. It is time to break up Live Nation-Ticketmaster.”

The federal government was joined in its legal challenge by numerous state attorneys general, according to The Washington Post, which first reported the story.

The suit claims that tours promoted by the company were more likely to play venues where Ticketmaster was the exclusive ticket service and that Live Nation’s artists played venues that it owns.

The DOJ filing comes after an investigation by the agency’s anti-trust division that spanned years and was further fueled in November 2022, when singer Taylor Swift’s fans became angry after Ticketmaster’s website crashed during a pre-sale period for the Eras Tour.

Live Nation Entertainment was created in 2010 when U.S.-based events promoter Live Nation and ticket sales and distribution company Ticketmaster merged, a deal that was approved by the DOJ.

The Justice Department approved the merger under the condition that Live Nation not retaliate against venues — such as denying them tours or other shows — if they chose not to use its Ticketmaster platform, the Post reported.

The company repeatedly violated the order, according to CBS News, and federal officials ordered a new, extended agreement to monitor Live Nation in 2019.

In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in January 2023, Clyde Lawrence, of the band Lawrence, testified that Live Nation’s power comes from being not only the ticket company but also from being the promoter and owning the venue.

“Because Live Nation owns the venue, fronts the money for the show and sells the tickets, they have outsized power when negotiating with artists,” Lawrence testified.

He gave the example of a show his band dealt with at a Live Nation venue. For one show, Lawrence set ticket prices at $30. After Ticketmaster added a 40% fee, fans paid $42 per ticket. And after paying for facility costs, the band made $12 per ticket — about half of which went to cover the costs of touring, CBS reported.

“That leaves us with $6 for an eight-piece band — pretax — and we also have to pay our own health insurance,” Lawrence added.

Last year, Live Nation estimated it sold 620 million tickets globally, making it the largest live entertainment company in the world, according to the Post.

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