US Department of Justice to sue Ticketmaster owner Live Nation

The Justice Department has sued entertainment company Live Nation, the the parent company of Ticketmaster, after a two-year investigation into its domination of the ticketing industry.

The case against the entertainment giant was filed on Thursday in the Southern District of New York, following allegations it has an “unlawful” monopoly over live events in the US that has vastly driven up ticket prices.

Justice Department officials and 30 state and district attorneys general are seeking a jury trial and a breakup of Live Nation.

“The Justice Department filed this lawsuit on behalf of fans who should be able to go to concerts without a monopoly standing in their way. We have filed this lawsuit on behalf of artists who should be able to plan their tours around their fans, and not be dictated by an unlawful monopolists,” US Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a live press briefing on Thursday.

“Live Nation has not only deployed anti-competitive tactics to coerce artists and venues into using its services and to charge fans excessive fees it has also worked strategically and illegally to eliminate the threat of potential rivals from emerging across any of its businesses,” he added.

“As detailed in our complaint, Live Nation suffocates its competition using a variety of tactics from acquisitions of smaller regional promoters and venues to threats and retaliation to agreements with rivals designed to neutralise them,” he continued.

Mr Garland concluded: “It is time to break up. Live Nation, and Ticketmaster. The American people are ready for it.”

Ticketmaster controls more than 80 per cent of the market for primary ticket sales in the United States. It maintains that control by striking deals with the nation’s largest venues, ensuring that any events held are ticketed through its company.

The DoJ has sued Live Nation over their business practices, reportedly to allege that the business has not allowed the space for competitors and weakened customer choice, which has allowed the increase in pricing.

This will potentially include how Ticketmaster has exclusive ticketing contracts with concert venues, the parent company’s dominance over liver performance tours and other businesses’ live venue management, sources told The New York Times.

The outlet’s sources added that Live Nation’s position in the industry has meant that prices have been able to rise, including customer fees, as well as hindering competition or growth of other businesses in the ticketing industry.

The entertainment company has previously denied it sets high fees and ticket prices, saying those decisions are down to the artists and other parties, such as the venues.

In the ongoing antitrust attacks on Live Nation and Ticketmaster, a constant theme is that their alleged “monopolies” are responsible for high ticket prices,” Dan Wall, executive vice president of corporate and regulatory affairs at LiveNation, wrote in March. “Tickets are actually priced by artists and teams.  It’s their show, they get to decide what it costs to get in.”

When the DoJ has sued over competition issues in the past, it has sought to form a firm to spit off areas of its business or change how it operates its practices.

The government department will be joined in the legal challenge by various state attorney generals, according to theWashington Post.

The action comes after a years-long investigation led by the DoJ’s anti-trust division on their domination of concert ticket sales.

Live Nation and ticket sales and distribution company Ticketmaster were merged together in 2010 to create Live Nation Entertainment.

As a result of the merger, Live Nation entered into a 10-year agreement with the DoJ that was supposed to keep the company from becoming a monopoly. It required Live Nation to provide its ticketing software to AEG Live, it’s closest competition in the market, and prohibited the company from retaliating against venues who sold tickets through other vendors.

In 2019 the deal was only extended to 2025 after an investigation by antitrust enforcers found that Live Nation violated the agreement by reportedly bullying vendors into solely using Ticketmaster.

However, concert fans and politicians alike have called for a reexamination of the merger, especially after outrage when Ticketmaster’s platform faced issues during the presale of tickets for Taylor Swift’s groundbreaking ‘Eras Tour.’

The parent company came under fire in 2022 as initial tickets went on sale for Swift’s Eras Tour after Ticketmaster became too overwhelmed with the demand to see the pop star on stage, causing the site to garner very long wait times and the cancellation of some planned sales.

The lawsuit will be the latest move by the Biden administration, which has made similar cases against big businesses such as Google and Apple regarding monopolisation and antitrust.

The Independent has contacted the Department of Justice and LiveNation for comment.

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