Home Entertainment Justice Dpt. to hit concert promoter Live Nation with antitrust lawsuit

Justice Dpt. to hit concert promoter Live Nation with antitrust lawsuit

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Justice Dpt. to hit concert promoter Live Nation with antitrust lawsuit

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The Justice Department plans to file an antitrust lawsuit against concert promoter Live Nation, people familiar with the investigation confirmed Tuesday.

The specific allegations remain unclear, and the timing of a lawsuit is uncertain. The Justice Department declined to comment.

But performers, politicians, scholars, rival promoters and other ticket sellers have argued that Live Nation wields far too much power in the live entertainment industry, with the ability to withhold the best shows from venues that do not use the company’s Ticketmaster service.

Public criticism peaked in November 2022 after Ticketmaster’s website crashed under extraordinary demand for tickets to pop star Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour. At that time, the Justice Department was investigating the company.

In the view of critics, Live Nation and its ticketing platform have achieved outsize market dominance that harms consumers through exorbitant fees, dynamic pricing and a poor customer experience. A Live Nation official rejected those criticisms during a January 2023 hearing in the Senate, as lawmakers from both sides of the aisle accused the company of wielding “monopolistic control.”

The company has denied that it is a monopoly and pushed back against allegations that it punishes non-Ticketmaster venues.

“Ticketmaster has more competition today than it has ever had, and the deal terms with venues show it has nothing close to monopoly power,” Live Nation said in a statement Tuesday.

In June, Live Nation agreed to list its ticketing fees upfront at its venues amid President Biden’s broad push to end excessive fees across an array of industries. In 2019, Live Nation agreed to extend court oversight of its 2010 merger with Ticketmaster after an investigation that found the company “repeatedly” violated the terms of its merger. The company also agreed to several clarifications to the court-monitored agreement, including that Live Nation could not threaten to withhold concerts from a venue if organizers used a ticket vendor other than Ticketmaster.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the Justice Department’s intention to file an antitrust lawsuit.

The federal government could file charges narrowly related to the Ticketmaster merger agreement or bring a bigger case related to Live Nation’s perceived market dominance, said Daniel McCuaig, a partner at Cohen Milstein’s antitrust practice and a former trial lawyer with the Justice Department’s antitrust division.

Depending on what charges are filed, the government could seek to unwind the Ticketmaster merger, McCuaig said. He noted that the Justice Department has sought such a remedy in its case against Google and digital ad business.

“This DOJ has been more aggressive than previous administration DOJs about looking at old mergers and deciding that they may have made a mistake in letting something through previously that could now be unwound with a successful antitrust suit,” McCuaig said.

It looks like big-game hunting on a monopolization theory,” he added. “And monopolization cases are cases that this administration has not shied away from bringing.”

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