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Justice Department seeks to break up concert giant Live Nation

DC and 29 states also join antitrust lawsuit that aims for company to divest Ticketmaster

Attorney General Merrick B Garland takes questions from reporters during a news conference at Justice Department headquarters Thursday about an antitrust lawsuit that seeks to break up Live Nation.
Attorney General Merrick B Garland takes questions from reporters during a news conference at Justice Department headquarters Thursday about an antitrust lawsuit that seeks to break up Live Nation. (Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)

The Justice Department, 29 states and the District of Columbia filed an antitrust lawsuit Thursday alleging Live Nation and Ticketmaster acted as a monopoly in the concert business and seeking to break up the company.

The complaint, filed in New York federal court, alleges that Live Nation and its subsidiary Ticketmaster have sought to push competitors out of every aspect of the concert industry, including promotion, venues and ticketing.

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, speaking to reporters at an announcement Thursday, said the company has reduced competition, reduced the revenue for artists, other promoters and increased prices for consumers.

“We allege that Live Nation has illegally monopolized markets in the live event industry in the United States,” Garland said. “It is time to break it up.”

Live Nation and Ticketmaster “insert themselves at the center and edges of virtually every aspect of the live music ecosystem,” the lawsuit said.

The company owns or controls more than 60 percent of the country’s large venues, more than 60 percent of concert promotions and 80 percent of ticketing for live music venues, the complaint said.

The company has more than $22 billion in revenue annually, according to the suit, and is about eight times the size of its nearest competitor in the U.S.

The DOJ and states seek to force the sale of Ticketmaster and the end of agreements with would-be competitors like Oak View Group that kept them from competing against one another.

During the announcement, Garland said the company has taken a broad range of actions to shore up those monopolies, including buying up competitors, berating those it did not purchase and leaving venues empty rather than open them up to artists who did not use its promotion services.

That’s allowed the company to force artists to use their services and charge exorbitant fees to consumers, Garland said.

At the same time, that has meant worse services for consumers, such as technological failures, the complaint said.

Ticketmaster and Live Nation merged in 2010 and own a majority of the large live concert venues in the country. At the time, the Justice Department approved the merger.

Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter told reporters Thursday that approval only covered the specific merger, and not the company’s broader “systemic and systematic pattern” of monopolistic conduct.

A company spokesperson in a statement Thursday criticized the lawsuit for overstating Live Nation’s power in the industry. Dan Wall, a vice president at Live Nation, said DOJ’s complaint scapegoated the company for broader consumer frustration with the concert experience.

“It ignores everything that is actually responsible for higher ticket prices, from increasing production costs to artist popularity, to 24/7 online ticket scalping that reveals the public’s willingness to pay far more than primary tickets cost,” Wall said.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., chair of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights, praised the DOJ’s suit in a statement Thursday.

“The hidden fees, the messed up processes, and the stranglehold on competition has long hurt fans. As a result, the live event entertainment experience has become increasingly out of reach for many Americans,” Klobuchar said.

The ranking member on the panel, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., called the DOJ’s enforcement of antitrust law a “bright spot” for the administration.

Ticketmaster’s practices have drawn congressional scrutiny for years as members on both sides of the aisle raised concerns about the company’s practices.

In 2019, Klobuchar and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., sent a letter to the Trump administration asking for an investigation into whether the company violated the terms of the agreement approving the 2010 merger.

In 2020, the House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee held a hearing on pricing transparency in the ticketing industry. There, members expressed concerns about the company’s pricing and data collection practices.

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing last year after the company’s handling of Taylor Swift’s record-breaking “Eras” tour, which saw fans paying thousands of dollars for tickets.

In 2023, Klobuchar and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Tex., introduced a bill that would require greater disclosures of ticket pricing and marketing practices, as well as require increased protection against bot mass-purchasing of tickets.

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