DOJ sues Live Nation over alleged monopoly, seeks to break up Ticketmaster merger

The Justice Department sued Live Nation on Thursday, accusing Ticketmaster’s owner of maintaining an illegal monopoly over live entertainment and demanding that the company be broken up.

The lawsuit, joined by 29 states and the District of Columbia, accuses the company of squelching competition by locking venues into exclusive contracts, pressuring acts to use its services and retaliating against rivals that have challenged its dominance.

The landmark suit filed in federal court in New York follows a DOJ probe into Live Nation that reportedly gained momentum in late 2022 following a botched rollout for tickets to Taylor Swift’s Eras tour that subjected fans to hours-long online queues and drew complaints over exorbitant fees. 

“It is time to break up Live Nation,” said US Attorney General Merrick Garland, who said the company has a stranglehold over the live events industry – with consumers and musicians alike paying the price.

“The result is that fans pay more in fees, artists have fewer opportunities to play concerts, smaller promoters get squeezed out, and venues have fewer real choices for ticketing services,” he added.

“Swifties,” the moniker for Taylor Swift fans, and other concert-goers rejoiced on social media over the DOJ’s action.

“The US government is suing Ticketmaster for driving up ticket prices. About time someone did something about it!,” one fan wrote on X.

Another user posted a screenshot of two Justin Timberlake concert tickets that went from $175 a piece to costing her $462.59 after fees, taxes and facility charges.

  • Face Value One Ticket: $1,396.50
  • Service Fee: $251.35
  • Order Processing Fee: $5.00
  • Total: $1,652.85

In response, Live Nation called the suit a possible “PR win for the DOJ in the short term,” but said it expects to prevail in court, claiming that acts set ticket prices and that most of its service fees go to venues.

The lawsuit “won’t solve the issues fans care about relating to ticket prices, service fees, and access to in-demand shows,” the company claimed. “There is more competition than ever in the live events market.”

With the blessing of the Obama administration, Live Nation and Ticketmaster merged in 2010, creating a conglomerate that directly manages more than 400 artists and controls around 60% of concert promotions at major concert venues.

The company also owns and operates more than 265 entertainment venues in North America, including more than 60 of the top 100 amphitheaters, according to the DOJ lawsuit.

Through Ticketmaster, Live Nation controls roughly 80% or more of major concert venues’ primary ticketing for concerts, the lawsuit added.

“Taken individually and considered together, Live Nation’s and Ticketmaster’s conduct allows them to exploit their conflicts of interest — as a promoter, ticketer, venue owner and artist manager — across the live music industry and further entrench their dominant position,” the suit read.

Filed in the US Southern District of New York, lawsuit argued the “vast scope” of Live Nation and Ticketmaster allowed them to “insert themselves at the center and the edges of virtually every aspect of the live music ecosystem.

“The Justice Department is doing the right thing,” Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar posted on X. ” It is way past time to break up Live Nation/Ticketmaster. Hidden fees, poor service, a stranglehold on competition are all bad for fans. Our Senate judiciary hearing set the stage. Now we need to get this done.”

Following the news, Sen. Klobachar said in an interview on MSNBC on Thursday that Congress still needs to take additional action “to put the fans first” by increasing ticketing sales and blocking bots from buying blocs of tickets. “There’s just no rules for the road here.”

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.

One fan posted a screenshot of how two tickets to musician Noah Kahan’s concert on May 31 at the Ruoff Music Center in Noblesville, Ind., ballooned to $894.20 after $153.20 in fees were added.

“I just paid $20 fees on a $60 ticket so I would be glad to testify against Ticketmaster,” another customer wrote.

“Greed got them here Ticketmaster & Live Nation monopoly & 30%-50% service fees per ticket pissed off enough people,” added another user.

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