US antitrust lawsuit says it is time to break up Ticketmaster

24 May 2024

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The company based in California came under fire in 2022 after its poor handling of US pre-sale tickets to Taylor Swift’s massively popular Eras Tour concerts.

Ticketmaster and its parent company Live Nation Entertainment have been slammed with a civil antitrust lawsuit by the US Department of Justice for having a monopoly over and thwarting competition in the live entertainment industry.

In a statement published yesterday (23 May), the department’s Office of Public Affairs said that the aim of the lawsuit is to “restore competition in the live concert industry, provide better choices at lower prices for fans and open venue doors for working musicians and other performance artists”.

Based in Beverly Hills, California, Ticketmaster is a global ticket sales and distribution company well-known for selling tickets to concerts and tours planned by some of the world’s leading artists and entertainers. It merged with Live Nation in 2010 and today calls itself the largest live entertainment company in the world.

The company attracting widespread criticism of its handling of pre-sale tickets for the US leg of Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour in 2022.

Soon after sales for the high-demand concert went live, the Ticketmaster website crashed leaving millions of people unable to get tickets and without customer support. There were also reports that third-party buyers had purchased a large number of tickets and sold them separately for exorbitant prices.

This led many to believe that Ticketmaster had been incompetent in its handling of the unprecedented sale and attracted regulatory eyes over the need for competition in the live concert industry. Last year, a US senate judiciary committee stepped in. Live Nation president and CFO Joe Berchtold was among the witnesses at a senate hearing to explain the Taylor Swift debacle. The American Antitrust Institute’s VP of legal advocacy Kathleen Bradish was among those calling for enforcement action against the company.

Now, the complaint filed in a US district court in New York alleges that Ticketmaster together with its parent Live Nation “unlawfully” exercises monopoly power in violation of US antitrust laws.

The department believes that music fans in the US are “deprived” of ticketing innovation and “forced” to use outdated technology while paying more for tickets than fans in other countries.

It also alleges that Ticketmaster exercises its position of power over performers, venues and promoters in a way that harms competition and limits the entry and expansion of its rivals.

“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. It is time to break up Live Nation-Ticketmaster.”

According to the department, Live Nation owns or controls more than 265 concert venues in North America, including more than 60 of the top 100 amphitheatres in the US. The company generates more than $22bn in annual revenue globally.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic