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Live Nation, Ticketmaster face antitrust lawsuit for monopolistic practices

Live Nation, Ticketmaster face antitrust lawsuit for monopolistic practices

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The US Department of Justice, joined by 29 states and the District of Columbia, has sued concert promoter Live Nation Entertainment and its wholly-owned subsidiary Ticketmaster for allegedly engaging in anticompetitive practices.

They allege that Live Nation locks out competition in ticketing through the use of long-term, exclusive ticketing contracts with venues that can last over a decade while also acquiring venues themselves.

Don't miss: Live Nation acquires majority interest in HK's Clockenflap

Live Nation-Ticketmaster currently controls at least 80% of primary ticketing at major concert venues, directly manages more than 400 artists and controls more than 60% of concert promotions across the country. It also owns or controls more than 60% of large amphitheatres in the United States, according to a statement by the US Department of Justice.

As a result of Live Nation’s exercise of monopolistic control, 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 attorney general Merrick B. Garland.

“With exclusive agreements that cover more than 70% of concert ticket sales at major concert venues across the country, Ticketmaster can impose a seemingly endless list of fees on fans,” he said.

The fees include ticketing fees, service fees, convenience fees, platinum fees, pricemaster fees, per order fees, handling fees and payment processing fees to name a few.

“We also allege that Live Nation-Ticketmaster uses these long-term ticketing agreements with venues, and its control over those venues, to unlawfully pressure artists into agreeing to use its promotion services,” explained Garland.

“In fact, Live Nation often sacrifices profits it could earn as a venue owner by letting its venues sit empty, rather than opening them to artists who do not use Live Nation promotion services – even during peak concert season,” he said.

Garland went on to say that while Live Nation has deployed anticompetitive tactics to coerce artists and venues into using its services and to charge fans excessive fees, it has also engaged in threats, retaliation and agreements with rivals to neutralise competition.

For example, Live Nation executives repeatedly told off venue operator Oak View for trying to compete in 2016 and 2022, leading the two to become partners rather than competitors.

In 2021, Live Nation threatened to retaliate against private equity firm Silver Lake, unless one of the latter’s portfolio companies, Teg, stopped competing with Live Nation for artist promotion contracts in the United States. Silver Lake has tried to sell Teg altogether.

“It is time for fans and artists to stop paying the price for Live Nation’s monopoly. It is time to restore competition and innovation in the entertainment industry. It is time to break up Live Nation-Ticketmaster,” added Garland.

While Garland said that venues in other countries are not bound by Ticketmaster’s exclusive ticketing contracts, Live Nation acquired a majority interest in Clockenflap, a Hong Kong-based event organiser last year. 

This comes as events across Asia, particularly in Hong Kong, are seeing “a bloom in activity”, according to the release at the time. 

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