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Illegal live event ‘monopoly’ being run by Ticketmaster, US government claims

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Ticketmaster is being sued by the US government over a live event “monopoly” which is allegedly squelching competition and driving up prices for fans.

The Justice Department claims Ticketmaster and its parent company Live Nation Entertainment are squeezing out smaller promoters by using tactics such as threats and retaliation.

Filed on Thursday in federal court in Manhattan, the sweeping antitrust lawsuit was brought with 30 state and district attorneys-general.

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“It’s time for fans and artists to stop paying the price for Live Nation’s monopoly,” US Attorney-General Merrick Garland said.

“It is time to restore competition and innovation in the entertainment industry. It is time to break up Live Nation-Ticketmaster. The American people are ready for it.”

Merrick Garland accused Live Nation of “suffocating” competition.(AP: Jose Luis Magana)

Ticketmaster and Live Nation have a long history of clashes with major artists, including Taylor Swift and Bruce Springsteen, and their fans.

The ticket seller sparked outrage in November 2022 when its site crashed during a pre-sale event for a Taylor Swift stadium tour.

The company said the site was overwhelmed by both fans and attacks from bots, which were posing as consumers to scoop up tickets and sell them on secondary sites. The debacle prompted congressional hearings and bills in state legislatures aimed at better protecting consumers.

Mr Garland accused the entertainment giant of using shady tactics to “suffocate the competition” and said it was controlling concert promotion to ticketing.

The impact is seen in an “endless list of fees on fans,” Mr Garland added.

“Live music should not be available only to those who can afford to pay the Ticketmaster tax,” added the Justice Department’s Jonathan Kanter.

The government’s complaint said a break-up between Live Nation and Ticketmaster was on the table.

Ticketmaster, which merged with Live Nation in 2010, is the world’s largest ticket seller across live music, sports, theatre and more.

The company said it distributed more than 620 million tickets in 2023.

Live Nation, which has for years denied that it is violating antitrust laws, said the lawsuit “won’t solve the issues fans care about relating to ticket prices, service fees and access to in-demand shows”.

“Calling Ticketmaster a monopoly may be a PR win for the [Department of Justice] in the short term, but it will lose in court because it ignores the basic economics of live entertainment,” Live Nation added.

It said most service fees went to venues and that outside competition had “steadily eroded” Ticketmaster’s market share.

The company said it would defend itself against the “baseless allegations”.

Michael Carrier, a professor at Rutgers Law School who specialises in antitrust litigation, said the Justice Department had a strong case.

He said a break-up combined with other solutions, such as preventing some exclusive deals, could potentially lower ticket prices and give artists more venue choice, as well as helping smaller promoters.

ABC/AP

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