DOJ Sues Ticketmaster’s Owner, Alleging Monopoly Over Live Events Industry

DOJ Sues Ticketmaster’s Owner, Alleging Monopoly Over Live Events Industry

People demonstrate against the live entertainment ticket industry outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 24, 2023. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Alice Giordano

Alice Giordano

5/23/2024

Updated: 5/23/2024

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U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced at a press conference on May 23 that the federal government has filed a federal anti-trust lawsuit against Ticketmaster’s parent company to break up its monopoly on U.S. concert ticket sales.
Mr. Garland said the government is joined by 29 states in its lawsuit against Live Nation Entertainment.
“In recent years, Live Nation-Ticketmaster’s exorbitant fees and technological failures have been criticized by fans and artists alike,” Mr. Garland said. “But we are not here today because Live Nation-Ticketmaster’s conduct is inconvenient or frustrating. We are here because as we allege that conduct is anti-competitive and illegal.”
Mr. Garland said during the press conference that Live Nation “suffocates its competition.”
“Our complaint makes clear what happens when a monopolist dedicates its resources to entrenching its monopoly power and insulating itself from competition,” he said, adding that Ticketmaster controls more than 70 percent of concert ticket sales and that it locks out competition by using long-term contracts, some lasting more than a decade, and then adds on what he called a “seemingly endless list of fees.”
“Those include ticketing fees, service fees, convenience fees, platinum fees, price master fees per order fees, handling fees, and payment processing fees, among others.”
The lawsuit follows a Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation into the practices of the ticket-seller after a class action lawsuit was filed last year by fans of Taylor Swift against Ticketmaster and Live Nation after they were unable to obtain tickets to the pop star’s “The Eras Tour.”
In the lawsuit, they alleged that Ticketmaster had such a giant monopoly over ticket sales that when its website crashed because of high demand, they were unable to obtain tickets to the concert.
Ms. Swift responded by calling the situation “excruciating.” Ticketmaster issued an apology over the debacle, and the lawsuit was dropped in August 2023.
Mr. Garland and other DOJ officials also accused Live Nation and Ticketmaster of monopolizing the ticket sales industry by buying up venues and small ticket sellers and threatening venues that use ticket sale options other than Ticketmaster.
“Today’s lawsuit by the Justice Department’s antitrust division is an enormous step forward in preventing one company from dictating the ebbs and flows of an entire industry,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said at the press conference.
She said the lawsuit was a step forward for fans and all artists and that it might give budding musicians a chance to “compete for the biggest shows.”

Live Nation Responds

Live Nation called the federal government’s claims “absurd” in a lengthy statement it posted on its website in response to the anti-trust lawsuit.
“The defining feature of a monopolist is monopoly profits derived from monopoly pricing,” the company said. “Live Nation in no way fits the profile.”
In its statement, multinational agency Live Nation said that Ticketmaster services charges are no higher than what other sellers charge and that Ticketmaster’s fees are “frequently lower.”
The company also said in its statement that the lawsuit mislays blame on Live Nation and Ticketmaster as the cause of “fan frustration” over rising ticket prices when the actual source is increasing production costs and artist popularity. It also blamed ticket scalping, which it said “reveals the public’s willingness to pay far more than primary tickets cost.”
In suggesting there was a political stake in the anti-trust lawsuit, Live Nation also said that the Obama administration “saw it differently” by approving the 2010 merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster and acknowledging there was no legal basis to challenge the merger.
“The world is a better place because of that merger, not a worse one,” Live Nation said.
During the press conference, in emphasizing a need to make the live entertainment industry more accessible to both artists and fans, Mr. Garland talked about a Bonnie Raitt concert he attended when he was a college senior.
He said he had the opportunity to witness “the future of rock and roll” when Bruce Springsteen opened the concert as the warm-up band.
“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,” he said.
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Alice Giordano

Alice Giordano

Author

Alice Giordano is a freelance reporter for The Epoch Times. She is a former news correspondent for The Boston Globe, Associated Press, and the New England bureau of The New York Times.

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