Updated May 23, 2024 - Business

Live Nation hit with antitrust suit from Justice Department, states

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Photo Illustration: Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Department of Justice and a group of 30 state and district attorneys general on Thursday announced a lawsuit against ticketing giant Live Nation on antitrust grounds.

Why it matters: The outcome of the legal battle could upend the ticketing and live events industry for years to come.

  • The Biden administration has aggressively gone after big businesses, particularly in tech, for antitrust-related violations over the past three years, suing Apple in March and suing Google multiple times since 2020.

Driving the news: Live Nation illegally abused its monopoly power in live ticketing following its 2010 acquisition of Ticketmaster, the attorneys general and Justice Department said in a lawsuit filed in the Southern District of New York on Thursday morning.

  • They argue Live Nation leveraged Ticketmaster's exclusive contracts with concert venues to maintain a monopoly in the live entertainment industry, allowing them to "freeze innovation and bend the industry to their own benefit."
  • "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 plaintiffs wrote.
  • They argue a breakup of the company is necessary to protect consumers and competitors. They are seeking a jury trial to litigate their case.

By the numbers: "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 lawsuit says.

  • It added that the company "also owns or controls more than 265 concert venues in North America" and that through Ticketmaster, "Live Nation controls roughly 80% or more of major concert venues' primary ticketing for concerts and a growing share of ticket resales in the secondary market."

What they're saying: "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 B. Garland.

  • "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," he said.

The other side: "We will defend against these baseless allegations, use this opportunity to shed light on the industry, and continue to push for reforms that truly protect consumers and artists," Live Nation said in a statement.

  • "The DOJ's 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 DOJ in the short term, but it will lose in court because it ignores the basic economics of live entertainment, such as the fact that the bulk of service fees go to venues, and that competition has steadily eroded Ticketmaster's market share and profit margin," the company added.

Between the lines: The DOJ was joined by the attorneys general from Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

  • Those states argue their local live entertainment venues are critical to their state economies.
  • "Almost every sizable concert venue in the District is locked into a Ticketmaster deal, resulting in District concertgoers paying Ticketmaster's exorbitant fees to enjoy shows," D.C. Attorney General Brian Schwalb said.

Catch up quick: The DOJ declined to block Live Nation's acquisition of Ticketmaster in 2010, but said an existing consent decree prevents the company from pressuring concert venues to use its ticketing software.

  • The 10-year consent decree, Axios reported, was extended for more than five years in 2020, giving the DOJ more power to go after the company for abusing its market dominance.
  • Live Nation faced intense scrutiny from lawmakers and consumer advocacy groups over botched ticket sales for Taylor Swift's Eras Tour in late 2022.
  • That fiasco highlighted the firm's dominance, although the DOJ was reportedly already investigating the company.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with comment from Attorney General Merrick Garland.

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