The US Justice Department has reportedly opened an antitrust investigation into Live Nation.
According to the New York Times, the Justice Department’s antitrust division has “contacted music venues and players in the ticket market, asking about Live Nation’s practices and the wider dynamics of the industry.” Specific questions have centered around whether Live Nation has honored a consent decree the company made with the Justice Department upon its merger with Ticketmaster in 2010, in which Live Nation promised not to punish concert venues who used competing ticket platforms by withholding access to Live Nation-promoted tours.
The Justice Department previously found evidence of Live Nation engaging in such behavior after launching an investigation in 2018. Under terms of the ensuing settlement, Live Nation agreed to extend the consent decree to 2025 and reimbursed the Justice Department for the costs of its investigation.
On Thursday, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar called for a federal investigation into Live Nation / Ticketmaster following its handling of Taylor Swift’s “Eras Tour.” During the pre-sale more than 14 million people attempted to access Ticketmaster at once, causing the website to crash and preventing many fans of the opportunity to purchase tickets. Ticketmaster later canceled the general on-sale for Swift’s tour, citing “extraordinarily high demands on ticketing systems and insufficient remaining ticket inventory to meet that demand.”
According to the New York Times, the Justice Department’s investigation actually pre-dates Swift’s ticket sale. (Maybe AG Merrick Garland is a Springsteen fan?) The Biden Administration has made antitrust enforcement a priority, having already gone after Penguin Random House for its purchase of Simon & Schuster, and blocking Meta’s purchase of a VR company.
Update – November 19th: Live Nation has released a new statement addressing the Department of Justice’s latest antitrust investigation. “As we have stated many times in the past, Live Nation takes its responsibilities under the antitrust laws seriously and does not engage in behaviors that could justify antitrust litigation, let alone orders that would require it to alter fundamental business practices,” the company said.
“There never has been and is not now any evidence of systemic violations of the Consent Decree. It remains against Live Nation policy to threaten venues that they won’t get Live Nation shows if they do not use Ticketmaster, and Live Nation does not re-route content as retaliation for a lost ticketing deal,” the company added. Read the full statement below.
Beyond a federal investigation, Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti has said he is looking into whether antitrust violations “could be an issue” with Ticketmaster’s handling of Swift’s tour. “As an industry player, you would think Ticketmaster would be prepared,” Skrmetti said during a press conference earlier this week. “Because they have a dominant position, they may have thought they didn’t need to worry about that. This could be an indicator that there’s not enough competition in the market.”
Read Live Nation’s full statement:
“As we have stated many times in the past, Live Nation takes its responsibilities under the antitrust laws seriously and does not engage in behaviors that could justify antitrust litigation, let alone orders that would require it to alter fundamental business practices.
The concert promotion business is highly competitive, with artist management in control of selecting their promoting team. The demand for live entertainment continues to grow, and there are more promoters than ever working with artists to help them connect with fans through live shows. The Department of Justice itself recognized the competitive nature of the concert promotion business at the time of the Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger. That dynamic has not changed.
Ticketmaster has a significant share of the primary ticketing services market because of the large gap that exists between the quality of the Ticketmaster system and the next best primary ticketing system. The market is increasingly competitive nonetheless, with rivals making aggressive offers to venues. That Ticketmaster continues to be the leader in such an environment is a testament to the platform and those who operate it, not to any anticompetitive business practices. 5 years ago tickets were paper, now you scan in with your phone, and can transfer tickets to your friend with one tap. We innovate and invest in our technology more than any other ticketing company, and we will continue to do so.
Secondary ticketing is extremely competitive, with Ticketmaster competing with StubHub, SeatGeek, Vivid and many others. No serious argument can be made that Ticketmaster has the kind of market position in secondary ticketing that supports antitrust claims.
For the past 12 years Live Nation has operated under a Consent Decree that among other things seeks to prevent anticompetitive leveraging of Live Nation promoted content to advantage Ticketmaster. Pursuant to the Amended Decree voluntarily entered in 2020, Live Nation’s compliance is monitored by a former federal judge. There never has been and is not now any evidence of systemic violations of the Consent Decree. It remains against Live Nation policy to threaten venues that they won’t get Live Nation shows if they do not use Ticketmaster, and Live Nation does not re-route content as retaliation for a lost ticketing deal.
Ticketmaster is also the most transparent and fan-friendly ticketing system in the United States. Ticketmaster does not set or control ticket prices, strongly advocates for all-in pricing so that fans are not surprised by what tickets really cost, and is the undisputed market leader in ticket security and fighting bots. Ticketmaster also does not embrace deceptive and questionable secondary ticketing practices prevalent on rival sites such as speculative ticketing.
We are proud of the work we do across both concerts and ticketing, and will continue working to improve and support the live events industry.”