a Live Nation sign

Live Nation corporate offices in Hollywood, California. The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit that accuses Ticketmaster and its parent company, Live Nation, of illegally monopolizing the live entertainment industry on May 23, 2024.

(Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

'Historic' DOJ Antitrust Suit Could Topple Live Nation-Ticketmaster Monopoly

"For far too long, Live Nation-Ticketmaster has acted as the mafia boss of the live events industry—using its power to rip off fans with sky-high prices and junk fees, exploit musicians and artists, and bully workers," an expert said.

The U.S. Department of Justice and 30 state attorneys general filed an antitrust lawsuit on Thursday against entertainment company Live Nation—and its subsidiary Ticketmaster—calling it an "illegal monopoly," in a move celebrated by public interest groups.

The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleges that Live Nation engages in exclusionary conduct, barring competitors from entering the industry or expanding their businesses, which leads to higher ticket prices for concertgoers and a smaller take for performers and small-business owners.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, who leads the DOJ, said in a statement that the company "relies on unlawful, anti-competitive conduct to exercise its monopolistic control over the live events industry." He said the monopoly is bad for fans, artists, promoters, and venues. "It is time to break up Live Nation-Ticketmaster," he said.

The DOJ's statement cited seven specific tactics that the company has used to eliminate competition:

  • Turning Oak View Group, a potential competitor, into a partner;
  • Retaliating against potential entrants;
  • Threatening and retaliating against venues that work with rivals;
  • Locking out competition with exclusionary contracts;
  • Blocking venues from using multiple ticketers;
  • Restricting artists' access to venues;
  • Acquiring competitors and competitive threats.

The 2010 merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster allowed the merged firm to gain dominance over the industry by combining venue-operating and ticketing, and it used its dominance to wield power by, for example, threatening to boycott bands unless they used Ticketmaster, according to a Thursday statement from the American Economic Liberties Project (AELP).

"Today is a historic, long-awaited day for fans, artists, and independent businesses in the live events industry—the Department of Justice is officially seeking to break up one of America's most infamous monopolies," said Morgan Harper, AELP's director of policy and advocacy. "For far too long, Live Nation-Ticketmaster has acted as the mafia boss of the live events industry—using its power to rip off fans with sky-high prices and junk fees, exploit musicians and artists, and bully workers and small-business owners in the industry."

The lawsuit comes amid a wave of antitrust action by the Biden administration, led by the DOJ and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), whose chairperson, Lina Khan, has been a prominent critic of Big Tech and monopolistic practices. The DOJ has investigated UnitedHealth Group, the world's largest health insurance company, and filed suits against Apple and Google, while the FTC has taken on Amazon, among others.

While the antitrust actions have faced pushback, public interest groups have applauded them—and pushed for similar action to be taken in the entertainment industry, as the DOJ did on Thursday. Sandeep Vaheesan, legal director of Open Markets Institute, said in a statement that the new suit could be a "critical blow" for Live Nation, to the benefit of the American public.

"Through a series of acquisitions and coercive tactics, Live Nation has unfairly dominated the promotion, hosting, and ticketing of concerts for years to the great detriment of artists, fans, and independent businesses," Vaheesan said. "Critically, rather than attempt to remedy this monopoly through surgical fixes, the government wisely seeks to terminate Live Nation's control of the industry through a breakup of this behemoth."

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