Ticketmaster and Live Nation Should Be Broken Up, DOJ Will Say in New Lawsuit

Ticketmaster and Live Nation Should Be Broken Up, DOJ Will Say in New Lawsuit

The Department of Justice is set to call for concert and ticketing giant Live Nation to be broken up, a remarkable claim in an antitrust lawsuit the department is expected to file in New York Thursday morning, a source familiar with the matter tells Rolling Stone.

A DOJ suit has been one of the most anticipated potential legal actions in the live music industry since news of the regulators’ investigation first surfaced in 2022. Live Nation and Ticketmaster have faced significant scrutiny from fans, competing concert and ticketing companies, and regulators since the two companies merged in 2010, with critics saying the merger has made it difficult for other companies to compete in the live music space. The news was first reported by Bloomberg.

Frustration toward the company — and toward the ticketing marketplace as a whole — was brought back into the national spotlight following the infamous on-sale for Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour, which left thousands of Swifties irate due to technical difficulties and long lines as they attempted to secure tickets. The DOJ’s investigation into the company began prior to Swift’s on-sale.

Beyond the DOJ, lawmakers including Amy Klobuchar, John Cornyn, Richard Blumenthal and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez have all called for heightened regulation toward Live Nation in recent years. Speaking with Rolling Stone last year, Klobuchar called out the volume of venues Ticketmaster serves, the exclusive deals the company carves out, and growing fees among other issues.

“That makes them a vertically integrated giant,” Klobuchar said. “They book the concert, sell the tickets and own the venue [and] that makes for little competition. And despite the consent decree which they agreed to extend, we don’t see the competition that we should.”

Live Nation and its CFO Joe Berchtold was grilled for several hours during a Senate judiciary hearing early in 2023. “And the fact of the matter is that Live Nation/Ticketmaster is the 800-pound gorilla here,” Blumenthal told Berchtold during the hearing. “You have clear dominance, monopolistic control. This whole concert ticket system is a mess.”

The DOJ allowing Live Nation and Ticketmaster to merge over a decade ago was controversial at the time, putting the world’s largest concert promoter and ticketing company under one roof. Critics worried that such a combo would severely impact independent promoters and give Live Nation too much leverage.

This isn’t the first time the DOJ has had Live Nation in its crosshairs. The Justice Department reached a settlement with Live Nation in 2019 to amend a consent decree the company had been beholden to since the Ticketmaster merger in 2010, extending the consent decree through 2025. As part of the initial merger deal, Live Nation was required to ensure it wouldn’t retaliate against venues that don’t use Ticketmaster, though the DOJ alleged the company had violated the statute, alleging that it pressured venues to use the ticketing service for access to its concerts.

Live Nation has consistently denied the antitrust allegations, countering that the concert and ticketing businesses are more competitive than ever. They point to artists and not Ticketmaster who sets ticket prices and say that venues typically set the widely bemoaned fees typically accompany concert tickets. A rep for Live Nation did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Since the investigation launched, Live Nation put more resources toward focusing on other major issues within the live music industry, namely the predatory resale and scalping businesses that gouge the fans for significant markups. Last year, the company launched the Fair Ticket Act, advocating for state and federal lawmakers to enact legislation to let artists control their tickets, enforce the BOTS Act and end resale strategies such as speculative ticketing.

Earlier this year, Live Nation’s Executive Vice President for Corporate and Regulatory Affairs Dan Wall penned an essay explaining how the company’s business works, explaining some of those same points while also pointing toward the impact scalpers and the resale industry have on ticket prices.

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“Statements to the effect that Live Nation and Ticketmaster ‘keep ticket prices high’ are just flat wrong,” Wall wrote. “Anyone with a basic understanding of the industry knows this. Those who perpetuate this falsehood are cynical at best.  They do a disservice to consumers and to rational political discourse.”

This story is developing

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