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Live Nation and Ticketmaster Sued by DOJ and 30 States for Allegedly Monopolizing the Live Entertainment Industry – The Maine Wire

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The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed a lawsuit against Ticketmaster and its parent company Live Nation for allegedly monopolizing the live entertainment industry in an unlawful manner.

Although Massachusetts and New Hampshire were among the thirty states to join the DOJ in this lawsuit, Maine was not.

Filed Thursday, the complain alleges that Ticketmaster and Live Nation have established themselves as “the gatekeeper for the delivery of nearly all live music in America today.”

Live Nation pushed back against these allegations, referring to the DOJ’s lawsuit as “anti-business” and the result of “intense political pressure.”

The DOJ is asking the courts to, among other things, declare that Live Nation has illicitly maintained its monopoly over the industry through a variety of means, require the divestiture of Ticketmaster, and enjoin Live Nation from continuing to engage in the practices outlined in the complaint.

The DOJ’s Lawsuit

“Today, musical artists must rely on promoters, venues, and ticketers to organize the business of playing live music,” the complaint states. “These service providers should work to serve the interests of artists and fans.”

“Genuine competition for and among these service providers would generate the best, most cost-effective, and fan-friendly experience,” the DOJ wrote. “But the world live music fans live in today is far from that.”

The DOJ goes on to argue that because Live Nation directly manages such a large number of artists and venues, they are able to engage in business practices that work against the interests of fans and those working in the industry.

“Live Nation directly manages more than 400 musical artists and, in total, controls around 60% of concert promotions at major concert venues across the country,” the DOJ said. “Live Nation also owns or controls more than 265 concert venues in North America, including more than 60 of the top 100 amphitheaters in the United States.”

“The live music industry, like other heavily concentrated industries, is largely controlled by a well-known group of insiders who lead multiple interconnected companies with numerous conflicts of interest,” the complaint said. “These insiders have spent decades amassing, fortifying, and exercising power, particularly against anyone who seeks to disrupt the now-standard industry business practices and conduct.”

“These business practices can, and often do, work against the interests of those with relatively little power and influence, especially working musicians and fans,” the DOJ argued. “These insiders often speak to each other, and work together, as allies and partners rather than as vigorous competitors.”

“Today Live Nation possesses and routinely exercises control over which artists perform on what dates at which venues,” the complaint said. “Through Ticketmaster, Live Nation also possesses and exercises control over how fans are able to purchase tickets to see their favorite artists in concert and what fees those fans will pay to do so.”

“Artists and fans as well as the countless people and other services that support them suffer from the loss of dynamism and growth that competition would inevitably usher in,” the DOJ suggested.

Throughout the hundred-plus pages of this lawsuit, the DOJ outlined numerous ways in which Ticketmaster and Live Nation have allegedly maintained their monopoly over the industry in an unlawful manner, including by retaliating against potential entrants, acquiring competitors, threatening retaliation against venues working with rival companies, using exclusionary contracts to lock out competition, preventing venues from using multiple ticketers, and restricting venue access.

The complaint also details Live Nation’s relationship with Oak View Group, an alleged “potential competitor-turned-partner” that has described itself as a “hammer” and “protect[or]” for Live Nation, avoiding bidding against Live Nation for talent and encouraging venues to sign exclusive agreements with Ticketmaster.

The DOJ also hopes that, as a result of this legal action, the courts will require Live Nation and Ticketmaster to terminate its ticketing agreement with Oak View Group going forward.

“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 positions,” the complaint stated.

“Because Live Nation and Ticketmaster control so much of the concert-going experience,” the DOJ concluded, “would-be rivals must compete at scale across different levels of the concert ecosystem, raising barriers to competition even further and requiring multi-level entry by existing and would-be competitors.”

Click Here to Read the Full Complaint

“We allege that Live Nation relies on unlawful, anticompetitive 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,” said United States Attorney General Merrick B. Garland in a press release. “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. It is time to break up Live Nation-Ticketmaster.”

“Today’s announcement reflects the latest efforts by the Justice Department to combat corporate misconduct,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco. “Our fight against corporate wrongdoing includes an intense focus on anticompetitive conduct — which disadvantages consumers, workers, and businesses of all kinds.”

“Today’s action is a step forward in making this era of live music more accessible for the fans, the artists, and the industry that supports them,” Deputy Attorney General Monaco concluded.

“The Department is committed to competition throughout the economy, including in live music,” said Acting Associate Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer. “The Department is proud to bring this case to restore competition to this industry.”

“The live music industry in America is broken because Live Nation-Ticketmaster has an illegal monopoly,” Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division said. “Our antitrust lawsuit seeks to break up Live Nation-Ticketmaster’s monopoly and restore competition for the benefit of fans and artists.”

Click Here to Read the Full Press Release from the DOJ

Live Nation’s Response

In response to this lawsuit, Live Nation issued a lengthy press release detailing their side of the story.

“At bottom, we are another casualty of this Administration’s decision to turn over antitrust enforcement to a populist urge that simply rejects how antitrust law works,” Live Nation wrote. “Some call this ‘Anti-Monopoly,’ but in reality it is just anti-business.”

Live Nation suggests that its “absurd” to claim that they are wielding monopoly power because “the defining feature of a monopolist is monopoly profits derived from monopoly pricing,” and “Live Nation in no way fits the profile.”

“Service charges on Ticketmaster are no higher than on SeatGeek, AXS, or other primary ticketing sites, and are frequently lower,” the company wrote. “In fact, when Ticketmaster loses a venue to SeatGeek, service charges usually go up substantially. And even accounting for sponsorship, an advertising business that helps keep ticket prices down, Live Nation’s overall net profit margin is at the low end of profitable S&P 500 companies.”

Live Nation also addressed the concerns raised by the DOJ with respect to their relationship with Oak View Group, explaining that the government’s claims are two-pronged.

“The first qualifies as disingenuous, in that it is premised on the idea that [Oak View Group] was a serious potential rival to Live Nation in concert promotion,” Live Nation wrote. “[Oak View Group] owns and manages venues. It has never been a concert promoter, nor aspired to be one.”

“DOJ also claims it was anticompetitive for Ticketmaster to compete for and win a ticketing contract [Oak View Group] offered,” the company said. “The theory is that the contract gave Ticketmaster an unfair advantage in securing the business of independent venues that were managed by [Oak View Group] because it creates financial incentives for [Oak View Group] to ‘advocate for’ Ticketmaster. But there is nothing remotely anticompetitive about that.”

Live Nation also spoke to the complaint’s allegations regarding their exclusive ticketing agreements, arguing that the practice has been “prevalent in the primary ticketing business for decades” and “very few concert venues want to have more than one because they see it as not worth the added costs and complexity.”

“Competitive bidding for exclusive rights is the proven way for venues to create bidding pressure and maximize the value of their ticketing rights,” Live Nation said. “In other words, exclusivity is a product of competition for venues, not an anticompetitive practice.”

In addressing the accusations that they have “serially” acquired its competitors, Live Nation suggests that they have “never acquired any U.S. promoter that could plausibly be viewed as a meaningful potential competitor in the alleged national touring market.”

“Live Nation is in the business of bringing the joy of live entertainment to people and to that end connecting artists to fans and supporting a productive live entertainment ecosystem,” the company wrote. “We have been very clear in the halls of Congress and at the DOJ that we favor genuine reforms that would actually help fans get tickets at the price the artist has set for them to pay.”

“Fans want to see the bands and sports teams they love, and it infuriates them that tickets sell out on Ticketmaster and are then available by the hundreds on secondary online sites at double and triple the cost. But the Government has chosen to do nothing about this,” Live Nation wrote. “Instead, it has filed a case which misleads the public into thinking that ticket prices will be lower if something is done about Live Nation and Ticketmaster.”

Click Here to Read Live Nation’s Response to the Lawsuit

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