US DOJ Sues to Break Up Live Nation & Ticketmaster

Posted on: May 23, 2024, 10:28h. 

Last updated on: May 23, 2024, 10:28h.

The US Justice Department on Thursday filed an antitrust lawsuit in federal court against Live Nation Entertainment, the parent company of music promoter Live Nation and ticket sales giant Ticketmaster. The lawsuit, joined by 30 states, seeks to break up the company.

Taylor Swift was furious at Ticketmaster in 2022 for bungling the sale of her tickets to her fans. (Image: Newsweek)

At issue is Live Nation’s alleged monopoly over live entertainment in the US and the exorbitant fees Ticketmaster is able to charge as a result.

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 Attorney General Merrick Garland in a statement.

“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.”

Live Nation and Ticketmaster merged in 2010, despite concerns about a potential monopoly. The companies now control an estimated 70% of the ticketing and live event venues market — possibly even more in Las Vegas, though a city-by-city breakdown couldn’t be found.

Response Not So Swift

The precipitating incident for the lawsuit was pop superstar Taylor Swift’s “The Eras” tour, for which Ticketmaster canceled a public on-sale date in November 2022 because it screwed up and sold all 2.4 million tickets during its presale.

It was the first time in the California-based ticket distributor’s 47-year history that it has canceled a previously announced on-sale because of a lack of inventory.

It’s really difficult for me to trust an outside entity with these relationships and loyalties, and excruciating for me to just watch mistakes happen with no recourse,” Swift wrote in an Instagram post at the time. “There are a multitude of reasons why people had such a hard time trying to get tickets, and I’m trying to figure out how this situation can be improved moving forward.”

The DOJ opened its probe of Live Nation shortly following the fiasco. And, at a US Senate hearing in January 2023, several senators slammed Live Nation’s lack of transparency and inability to block bot purchases of tickets.

A Taylor Swift fan filed a class action suit against Live Nation in December 2022 over the debacle, alleging fraud, price-fixing, and antitrust violations. The lawsuit, joined by thousands of fans, claimed that Ticketmaster was “a monopoly” that “knowingly misled millions of fans.”

A year later, the fan, Michelle Sterloff, dropped her case. Although she never stated why, it was reported shortly beforehand that both sides were engaged in “ongoing settlement discussions.”

Ticketmaster’s Defense

Earlier this year, Live Nation’s head of Corporate Affairs, Dan Wall, defended his company’s policies, claiming in a blog post that ticket prices are determined by artists and their teams, while additional service charges are determined by the venues themselves.

“Fans are also told that service charges are Ticketmaster’s way of raising ticket prices,” he wrote. “In fact, Ticketmaster does not set service charges, venues do, and most of the money goes to the venues.”