DOJ Sues Live Nation, Ticketmaster to Break up ‘Monopolistic Control’ of Ticket Prices

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The U.S. Department of Justice sued Live Nation on Thursday over alleged antitrust violations, arguing the Ticketmaster parent company has become a monopoly at the expense of everyday consumers.

The federal lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York, doesn’t mince words, starting off by saying, “One monopolist serves as the gatekeeper for the delivery of nearly all live music in America today.”

The government’s move to sue Live Nation is a long time coming for entertainment lovers frustrated with the system. Criticism intensified in 2022 after a botched rollout of tickets for Taylor Swift’s Eras tour, which is now the highest-grossing concert tour ever.

Fans waited hours in online queues for the chance to get Eras tickets, many of which reportedly went to scalpers who sold them on secondary websites for thousands of dollars. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle threw support behind the fan push for the government to act, stating that the entertainment conglomerate is too big and too powerful.

After investigating the company for more than two years, the Department of Justice is asking the court to force the sale of Ticketmaster and require additional relief to address the alleged harm.

“It is time to break up Live Nation-Ticketmaster,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement Thursday.

Who’s to blame for expensive concert tickets?

The DOJ’s lawsuit, which 29 states joined, alleges that Live Nation’s exclusive contracts with venues for ticketing lead to higher prices for consumers. The complaint also mentions other alleged anti-competitive practices, like restricting musicians’ access to venues unless they use Live Nation’s promotion services.

“We allege that Live Nation relies on unlawful, anti-competitive 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,” Garland said in the statement.

For its part, Live Nation is pushing back against the allegation that it has violated antitrust laws. Responding to the lawsuit Thursday, the company said it’s not at fault for expensive tickets.

The DOJ complaint “blames concert promoters and ticketing companies — neither of which control ticket prices — for high ticket prices,” Dan Wall, Live Nation’s executive vice president for corporate and regulatory affairs, said in a statement. “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.”

Live Nation and Ticketmaster used to be competing companies in the entertainment space until they merged in 2010. Live Nation had been primarily a concert promotion company, but the Ticketmaster acquisition gave it more power in ticketing: According to the Justice Department’s complaint, “through Ticketmaster, Live Nation controls roughly 80% or more of major concert venues’ primary ticketing for concerts and a growing share of ticket resales in the secondary market.”

Live Nation manages over 400 artists and owns about 265 U.S. venues, according to the complaint. In many cases, the company owns the venue where a concert is held, it books the artist, and it sells all the tickets.

The Department of Justice says this needs to change so other companies can compete. With more competition, the theory goes, comes lower prices.

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