DOJ Launches Antitrust Lawsuit Against Live Nation

On May 22, the Department of Justice sued Live Nation alleging it has a monopoly over concert ticketing and promotion.

The lawsuit states that Live Nation used practices such as exclusive contracts, buyouts of independent promoters, and restriction of venues to crush its market competition. The DOJ filed the lawsuit in New York’s Southern District Court, with 30 states joining the suit. States involved include Florida, Texas, and Colorado, among others.

Exterior of US Department of Justice

This lawsuit comes after a 2019 DOJ investigation, which found Live Nation violated the terms set by the federal government after its merger with Ticketmaster. Among these violations, was the pulling of concerts from venues that refused to exclusively use Ticketmaster. The lawsuit also alleges that Live Nation cooperated with arena operator Oak View Group to eliminate competition.

This lawsuit came after a period of increasing backlash to Live Nation’s practices. Following its 2010 buyout of Ticketmaster, Live Nation controlled up to 80% of major concert tickets. Additionally, the company directly controls 250 venues, 60% of venue promotion, and directly manages 400 artists nationwide. This control has led to issues such as increasing ticketing fees, poor customer service, and restrictions on resale. As a result of monopolization, the DOJ says American concert-goers are “deprived of ticketing innovation and forced to use outdated technology while paying more for tickets than fans in other countries.”

These issues came to the forefront of public attention during Taylor Swift’s 2023 Eras Tour. During the presale period, glitches in the Ticketmaster website left millions unable to purchase tickets. 

Following this debacle, there was increasing bipartisan action against Live Nation. In January 2023, senators from both parties grilled Live Nation CFO Joe Berchtold in a three hour hearing. This hearing brought to light Ticketmaster’s failings, but also the immense sway Live Nation had over the market.

“For too long, Live Nation and Ticketmaster have unfairly and illegally run the world of live events, abusing their dominance to overcharge fans, bully venues, and limit artists”

– Letitia James, New York Attorney General

This lawsuit comes after the House passage of the TICKET Act in early May 2024. The bill, introduced by Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) requires ticket sellers to display the total ticket price-including fees-in all advertisements. This step towards ticketing transparency received support from the Recording Academy, and artists ranging from Billie Eilish to Dave Matthews. Along with this congressional action, comes a Federal Trade Commission proposal to ban hidden fees on concert tickets.

Live Nation has pushed back against these criticisms. In an essay on their website, Head of Corporate Affairs Dan Wall has claimed that Ticketmaster does not set prices, being victim to high demand and low supply. These claims, however, come in tandem with record high lobbying by Live Nation. According to OpenSecrets, the company spent a record $2.4 million, as well as hosting a lavish gala, to influence lawmakers into opposing restrictions on its practices.

This lawsuit would greatly alter the live music industry if successful. Although the DOJ has not said how they want to break up Live Nation, it is expected that they will separate its ticketing and promotional wings. The DOJ hopes that this suit will increase choice for concert-goers, while reducing price. Additionally, this breakup could open venue doors for artists that were restricted before. This lawsuit is just the latest in a string of antitrust suits launched by the Biden administration, which has included Meta, Apple, and Amazon.

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