US attempts to dismantle Ticketmaster ‘monopoloy’

Antitrust lawsuit brought by US Department of Justice seeks break-up of Live Nation Entertainment

The US Department of Justice has accused Ticketmaster parent Live Nation Entertainment of operating a monopoly that “suffocates its competition” in the live entertainment industry, in a landmark antitrust lawsuit that seeks the company’s break-up.

The civil complaint was filed on Thursday by the DoJ, which was joined by a bipartisan group of state and district attorneys-general. The suit alleges that Live Nation Entertainment illegally dominates the market for ticketing and concert promotion, using “exclusionary conduct” to wield an outsized influence over the majority of live concert venues across the US.

The DoJ described how the company allegedly gained a chokehold on the live entertainment ecosystem, from how artists are paid to which performances are staged across the US.

As a result, “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”, said Merrick Garland, US attorney-general, on Thursday. “It is time to break up Live Nation-Ticketmaster.”


The company was created in 2010 by the merger of Live Nation, a concert promoter, and Ticketmaster, a platform to sell tickets to live events. Since then, discontent has grown among fans, rivals, artists and US lawmakers, who have accused it of abusing its dominant market power by charging exorbitant fees and retaliating against venues that choose to work with rivals.

That frustration was exacerbated after a fiasco during the ticket sale of Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour in 2022, when Ticketmaster’s website was overwhelmed by massive demand.

In a press conference sprinkled with musical references, Garland said the lawsuit had been filed on behalf of fans, artists, independent promoters, venues and the public. “The American people are ready for it,” he said, in a nod to a lyric from Swift’s Reputation album.

The complaint outlines what the company describes as its “flywheel” business model, where revenues from sponsorships and fans’ concert fees are used to “lock up” artists in exclusive promotion deals. The DoJ added that the group also acquired rivals in an attempt to quash competition.

Jonathan Kanter, head of the DoJ’s antitrust unit, on Thursday described what he called the “dreaded Ticketmaster tax: the seemingly endless set of fees ironically named ‘service fee’ or ‘convenience fee’, when they are anything but”. As a result of the company’s “illegal monopoly”, he said, “the live music industry in America is broken”.

Dan Wall, executive vice-president for corporate and regulatory affairs at Live Nation Entertainment, hit back at the DoJ’s allegations, saying it was “absurd to claim that Live Nation and Ticketmaster are wielding monopoly power”.

He said the lawsuit “ignores everything that is actually responsible for higher ticket prices, from increasing production costs to artist popularity, to 24/7 online ticket scalping that reveals the public’s willingness to pay far more than primary tickets cost”. Wall added that “every year, competition in the industry drives Live Nation to earn lower take rates from both concert promotion and ticketing”.

According to the DoJ, Live Nation directly manages more than 400 musical artists, and owns or controls more than 60 of the top 100 amphitheatres in the US. Through Ticketmaster, the group controls about 80 per cent of top concert venues’ primary ticketing, prosecutors said.

The DoJ had given a green light to the merger of Ticketmaster and Live Nation subject to a 10-year settlement agreement with provisions including barring retaliation against venues that choose alternative ticketing or promotional services. That agreement was modified and extended in 2019, as the DoJ accused it of “repeatedly” violating the initial deal.

Wall said the group was “another casualty of this administration’s decision to turn over antitrust enforcement to a populist urge that simply rejects how antitrust law works”.

It is the latest high-profile monopoly case filed by the DoJ’s antitrust unit, which under Kanter has adopted a tougher enforcement stance. He is among a new generation of progressive officials appointed by President Joe Biden, who argue that anticompetitive conduct has snowballed across the US economy due to decades of lax enforcement. His department has brought cases against US corporate titans including Google and Apple.

Fred Rosen, a former chief executive of Ticketmaster prior to its sale to Live Nation, said that he believed the fight against the company does little to address the problem it is trying to fight: expensive tickets.

“Even if they break up Live Nation, nothing’s going to change in Ticketmaster’s policies. The company would sustain itself on every level,” he said. – Copyright The Financial Times