(Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Nov 18, 2022
A coalition of anti-monopoly advocates cheered Friday after reporting confirmed that the U.S. Department of Justice has launched an antitrust investigation into Live Nation, the owner of Ticketmaster.
"We are thrilled to see the Department of Justice Antitrust Division investigate Live Nation-Ticketmaster's ongoing monopoly abuse of fans, artists, venues, and live events professionals," the Break Up Ticketmaster Coalition said in a statement.
The probe predates the debacle that began this week when Ticketmaster's website malfunctioned as millions of people attempted to purchase tickets for pop star Taylor Swift's upcoming concert tour, according toThe New York Times, which reported:
Members of the Antitrust Division's staff at the Justice Department have in recent months contacted music venues and players in the ticket market, asking about Live Nation's practices and the wider dynamics of the industry, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is sensitive. The inquiry appears to be broad, looking at whether the company maintains a monopoly over the industry, one of the people said.
Nevertheless, the bungled presale of Swift tickets drew fresh attention to the negative consequences of Live Nation's 2010 acquisition of Ticketmaster, a merger greenlighted by the Obama administration.
Prior to the intervention of progressive members of Congress, the Break Up Ticketmaster Coalition launched a campaign last month to urge President Joe Biden's Justice Department to dismantle Live Nation's monopoly power. The effort quickly attracted tens of thousands of artists, fans, and policymakers.
"This is a day of optimism and hope for over 40,000 people who have called on the DOJ to break up Live Nation-Ticketmaster, a corporation that has bent and broken the industry to its will since its entities merged in 2010," the coalition said Friday.
As the Times reported:
When the Justice Department approved the merger--over significant opposition from the music industry--it required the company to sell some parts of its business. It also reached a legal settlement with the company that forbade Live Nation to threaten concert venues with losing access to its tours if those venues decided to use ticketing providers other than Ticketmaster. Those terms were set to last for 10 years, until 2020.
In late 2019, after an investigation, the Justice Department found that Live Nation had repeatedly violated this provision of its decree. It extended the terms of the settlement by five years, to 2025, and adjusted some of the agreement's language to clarify what the company was allowed to do when negotiating ticketing deals with venues
Members of the Justice Department staff have asked whether Live Nation is complying with the agreement as part of their new inquiry, said one of the people with knowledge of the matter. Officials at the agency have grown increasingly wary of such settlements, believing the best way to settle antitrust concerns is through changes to a company's structure.
The Break Up Ticketmaster Coalition is made up of a wide range of groups, including the American Economic Liberties Project, Artist Rights Alliance, Demand Progress, Fight Corporate Monopolies, More Perfect Union, Music Workers Alliance, Sports Fans Coalition, and the Union of Musicians and Allied Workers.
The campaign "is bringing together a diverse array of sports and music fans, artists, unions, and independent venue owners for one common goal: restore competition to the live events marketplace," said the coalition. "This is an amazing moment and a crucial first step to achieving that goal."
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