Live Nation, Ticketmaster Lawsuit: What You Need to Know

The Biden administration, 29 states and the District of Columbia are taking on the powerful company responsible for booking and selling tickets for major concerts.

In a sweeping lawsuit filed Wednesday, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and 30 attorneys general accused Live Nation and its subsidiary Ticketmaster of monopolizing the live entertainment industry while harming artists and their fans.

Here's what you need to know about the lawsuit and what got Live Nation in trouble.

What is Live Nation accused of? 

The lawsuit alleges that Live Nation “engages in numerous forms of anticompetitive conduct,” including acquiring competitors, retaliating against venues that partner with competitors, blocking venues from using multiple ticket sellers and limiting the access to locations for artists.

According to the complaint, Ticketmaster's long-term, exclusive agreements with venues have been critical to Live Nation's “stranglehold on the live concert industry,” making the company the sole provider of primary ticketing services at venues for years.

Live Nation has also repeatedly acquired amphitheaters, festivals, other venues, fellow promoters and small ticket sellers to neutralize its rivals, the lawsuit alleges.

The company's increasing control over venues also gives it leverage over artists, forcing them to use it as the tour's concert promoter if they want access to the venues, the lawsuit said.

As of 2023, Live Nation controlled more than 60 of the 100 largest amphitheaters in the US and approximately 80 percent of primary ticket sales at major concert venues through Ticketmaster.

Live Nation's closest competitor in concert promotion, AEG, is less than half as large, DOJ said in the lawsuit, noting that “this overstates its competitive importance.”

In a statement, Live Nation said the “lawsuit will not resolve the issues fans care about regarding ticket prices, service fees and access to high-demand shows” and vowed to “defend themselves against these baseless allegations, use this opportunity to shine a light on the industry and continue to push for reforms that truly protect consumers and artists.”

The added costs are 'Ticketmaster Tax''

According to the lawsuit, fans in the U.S. pay more for live music tickets than anywhere else in the world.

DOJ described the “constant drumbeat” of “public frustration” with additional fees including service, facility and payment processing fees driving up ticket prices, which it called the “Ticketmaster Tax.”

While Ticketmaster had all-in pricing last year, showing the full price of the ticket plus fees in advance, those additional costs can ultimately increase the base price of a ticket.

“Live music should not only be available to those who can afford to pay the Ticketmaster Tax,” Jonathan Kanter, assistant attorney general for the antitrust division, said at a news conference Thursday.

“We are here today to fight for competition so we can reopen the doors to the live music industry for everyone,” he added.

Live Nation said the DOJ lawsuit “ignores the fundamental economics of live entertainment, such as the fact that the majority of service fees go to venues, and that competition has steadily eroded Ticketmaster's market share and profit margin.”

Options for artists are limited unless they use Live Nation 

When artists plan a tour, Live Nation's dominance in the live entertainment and ticketing industries makes it difficult to do so without tapping into the entertainment giant's network, DOJ said. This gives artists fewer options and means Live Nation can lock out artists who would rather do that. working with other suppliers.

Live Nation has been around for more than a decade and has prevented artists who choose third-party promoters from using its venues, DOJ found.

“In other words, if an artist wishes to use a Live Nation venue as part of a tour, he or she must always contract with Live Nation as a concert promotion for the tour,” the lawsuit states.

Because Live Nation controls 40 of the nation's 50 largest amphitheaters and controls more than 70 percent of major amphitheater concert promotion, DOJ says, “It is nearly impossible for an artist… to complete a tour with stops at amphitheaters without LiveNation.”

Live Nation's control over music venues means they not only work with the world's biggest artists, but also with emerging talent.

That makes it easier to direct them to Live Nation's network of locations as their fan base grows, but could also reduce artists' negotiating power, according to the lawsuit.

Part of Biden's broader crackdown on corporate power, junk fees 

The antitrust case against the industry giant comes amid a larger effort by the Biden administration to crack down on corporate power and so-called junk fees.

“Today's announcement reflects the Department of Justice's latest efforts to combat corporate misconduct,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco.

“Since day one of this administration, we have prioritized holding the most serious corporate criminals accountable, from bribe payers to money launderers to price fixers,” she continued. “Our fight against corporate misconduct includes an intense focus on anti-competitive behavior that harms consumers, employees and businesses of all kinds.

Earlier this year, the Justice Department and 16 states sued Apple, accusing the tech giant of maintaining a monopoly on smartphones. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and 17 states also sued Amazon last fall for anticompetitive conduct in its treatment of shoppers and third-party sellers.

The Biden administration has also sought to tackle “junk costs” in many sectors, including by capping late fees on credit cards and requiring broadband providers to clearly display their “all-in” prices and by requiring airlines to provide baggage and change fees in advance.

Live Nation's lobbying blitz 

Before the lawsuit, Live Nation tried to dampen DC's backlash with an expensive lobbying campaign.

Live Nation more than doubled its federal lobbying spending from $1.1 million in 2022 to $2.4 million in 2023, The Hill's analysis of federal disclosures showed, and the entertainment giant spent another 520,000 in the first quarter of 2024 dollars out.

Live Nation and its hired guns reported that they had lobbied Congress on several bills introduced after the Eras Tour debacle. These bills include the Transparency in Charges for Key Events Ticketing Act, also known as the TICKET Act. The House passed the TICKET Act last week in an effort to promote price transparency.

Live Nation's lobbyists have argued that there is stiff competition in the concert promotion industry and the ticket resale market, while pointing to a “major gap” in quality between Ticketmaster's ticketing services and its closest competitors. Anti-monopoly advocates have argued that Live Nation's grip on the industry has helped create that divide.

“The Department of Justice is doing the right thing. It's way past time to split up Live Nation/Ticketmaster. Hidden fees, poor service and a stranglehold on the competition are all bad for fans. Our Senate Judiciary hearing set the stage. Now we have to get this done.” said Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust and Consumer Rights, which held a hearing in January 2023 on competition in the live entertainment and ticketing industries.

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