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Ticketmaster owner Live Nation facing monopoly lawsuit

The US Justice Department (DOJ) is suing Live Nation, arguing the big concert promoter and its subsidiary, Ticketmaster, have been “monopolising” the live events industry.

The antitrust lawsuit was launched on Thursday by the DOJ, 30 US states, and the District of Columbia, with US Attorney General Merrick Garland saying: “It is time to break up Live Nation.”

The entertainment company merged with Ticketmaster back in 2010. Through Ticketmaster, Live Nation now controls roughly 80% or more of big venues’ primary ticketing for concerts, the suit says.

A Live Nation spokesperson said the company would defend itself “against these baseless allegations” and said the DOJ would lose in court because the case “ignores the basic economics of live entertainment”.

Ticketmaster, which overwhelmingly dominates the ticketing industry, has for years left fans and artists frustrated by hidden fees, rising costs, and limited ticket availability due to presales.

Its dominance in the industry came under scrutiny by US politicians in 2022, when Ticketmaster was forced to cancel its general sale of tickets to Taylor Swift’s much-anticipated Eras tour due to “extraordinarily high demands”.

At the time, the superstar criticised Ticketmaster on social media, saying it was “excruciating for me to just watch mistakes happen with no recourse” after Swift’s fans reported long wait times and site outages during the presales.

The star said 2.4 million fans had been able to purchase tickets, which was “truly amazing… but it really p* me off that a lot of them feel like they went through several bear attacks to get them”.

Thursday’s legal action underscores the aggressive approach President Joe Biden’s antitrust enforcers have adopted as they seek to create more competition in a wide range of industries, from “big tech”, to healthcare, and groceries.

In March, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Apple alleging that the tech giant has monopoly power in the smartphone market.

“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,” Mr Garland said.

He added that, as a result, fans pay more in fees, artists have fewer opportunities to perform, and smaller promoters get squeezed out.

The lawsuit says Live Nation directly manages more than 400 musical artists and controls around 60% of concert promotions at major venues.

It also owns or controls more than 265 concert venues in North America.

In 2010, the Justice Department approved Ticketmaster’s controversial merger with Live Nation, with conditions intended
to stop the combined company from harming competition.

In 2020, a court extended most of the DOJ’s oversight of the merger to 2025 because, the department said, Ticketmaster
retaliated against stadiums and arenas that opted to use other ticketing companies.

Live Nation has said in the past that it was confident its business practices were legal, and that the probe had been prompted by complaints from rivals, including re-sellers.

A spokesperson for the company said on Thursday that the lawsuit “won’t solve the issues fans care about relating to ticket prices, service fees, and access to in-demand shows”.

Live Nation added that “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” – stating that most service fees go to venues.

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