The US plans to accuse Live Nation of protecting a monopoly

The Justice Department and a group of states plan to sue Live Nation Entertainment, which is owned by Ticketmaster, on Thursday, alleging it holds an illegal monopoly in the live entertainment industry, three people familiar with the matter said.

The government plans to argue in a lawsuit that Live Nation leveraged its power through Ticketmaster’s exclusive ticketing deals with concert venues and the company’s dominance in other businesses such as concert tours and venue management. The case is named because it is still private. That helped the company maintain a monopoly, raised prices and charges for consumers, stifled innovation in the ticketing industry and hurt competition, the people said.

The government will argue that tours promoted by the company are more likely to play at venues where Ticketmaster is the exclusive ticketing service, one of the people said, and that Live Nation artists have played venues it owns.

Live Nation is a behemoth of the concert world and a force in the lives of musicians and fans alike. Its scale and reach exceeds that of any competitor, encompassing concert promotion, ticketing, artist management and operation of hundreds of venues and festivals worldwide.

The Ticketmaster division alone sells over 600 million tickets per year for events worldwide. By some estimates, it handles 70 percent to 80 percent of ticketing at major concert halls in the United States.

Lawmakers, fans and competitors have accused the company of engaging in practices that harm competitors and inflate ticket prices and fares. At a congressional hearing early last year, prompted by Taylor Swift’s presale of a tour on Ticketmaster that left millions unable to buy tickets, senators from both parties called Live Nation a monopoly.

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The company has refused Claims that other parties, such as artists and venues, are responsible, sets higher prices and fees.

A spokeswoman for the Justice Department and a spokeswoman for Live Nation declined to comment. Bloomberg News previously reported that the lawsuit was imminent. The suit is expected to be filed in the Southern District of New York, two people familiar with the matter said.

In recent years, U.S. regulators have sued other big companies, testing century-old antitrust laws against the newfound power big companies wield over consumers. The Justice Department sued Apple in March, arguing that the company made it difficult for customers to push its devices away, and Google has already brought two lawsuits arguing that it violated antitrust laws. The Federal Trade Commission last year filed an antitrust lawsuit against Amazon for harming sellers on its site and another against Meta for its acquisitions of Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp.

In 2010, the Justice Department allowed Live Nation, the world’s largest concert promoter, to buy Ticketmaster under certain conditions set out in a legal settlement. If venues don’t use Ticketmaster, for example, Live Nation can’t threaten to pull concert tours.

However, in 2019, the Justice Department found that Live Nation violated those terms and modified and extended the contract.

The Justice Department’s latest investigation into Live Nation began in 2022. Live Nation simultaneously ramped up its lobbying efforts, spending $2.4 million on federal lobbying in 2023, up from $1.1 million in 2022, according to filings available through the nonpartisan website OpenSecrets.

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In April, ahead of the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, the company hosted a lavish party in Washington that featured a performance by country singer Jelly Roll and cocktail napkins. Revealed positive truths The economic impact of Live Nation is the billions it claims to pay artists.

Under pressure from the White House, Live Nation said in June it would begin showing prices for shows at its owned venues that include all fees, including surcharges. The Federal Trade Commission has proposed a rule banning indirect payments.

Bill Kovacic, the commission’s former chairman, said Wednesday that a lawsuit against the company would rebuke previous antitrust officials who allowed the company to grow to its current size.

“It’s another way of saying that the previous policy failed and failed badly,” he said.

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