May 28, 2024 - News

Live Nation starved a Utah competitor, DOJ lawsuit alleges

A photo illustration of two hands holding up a phone that says Live Nation Entertainment.

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

The Department of Justice's recent antitrust lawsuit against Live Nation illustrates how the ticketing giant allegedly drove a Utah competitor out of business.

Why it matters: The outcome of the legal battle could upend the ticketing and live events industry for years to come, Axios' Sara Fischer writes.

Zoom in: Live Nation acquired United Concerts, a prominent Utah promoter and venue owner, in 2017, according to the complaint filed recently.

  • Before the purchase, United Concerts used Smith'sTix, a regional ticket distributor formerly owned by Smith's supermarket chain.
  • Smith'sTix's dominance in Utah's ticketing market at the time left a "barren landscape" for Ticketmaster, acquired by Live Nation in 2010.

United Concerts did not acquire Smith'sTix to avoid informing the DOJ of the purchase as required under a 2010 consent decree, the lawsuit alleges.

  • "Sidestepping notification requirements," Live Nation alternatively purchased United Concerts and its venues and changed their ticket distributor to Ticketmaster.
  • "Left 'with only a few small clients,' SmithsTix ultimately went out of business," per the complaint.

What they're saying: "Live Nation acquired United Concerts in part to eliminate a potential competitive promotions threat and to starve a competing primary ticketer of customers," per the suit.

Context: An outdated LinkedIn description of United Concerts says it owned The Depot and USANA Amphitheatre (now named Utah First Credit Union) and booked events for Utah's largest venues, including the Rice-Eccles Stadium and the former Energy Solutions Arena, now called the Delta Center.

Driving the news: The Justice Department and a group of 30 state and district attorneys general announced a lawsuit last week against Live Nation.

  • 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."
  • They argue a company breakup is necessary to protect consumers and competitors. They are seeking a jury trial to litigate their case.

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."

Between the lines: Utah is not a plaintiff in the suit, despite being mentioned in the complaint.

  • A wide range of both red and blue states, including California, Colorado, Florida and Texas, are plaintiffs.
  • A spokesperson for Attorney General Sean Reyes did not respond to our request for comment.
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