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DOJ files suit to break up Ticketmaster

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The U.S. Department of Justice and a collection of states has filed an antitrust suit against Live Nation and is seeking to break up the company behind Ticketmaster.

The suit seeks to effectively undo the merger, with Attorney General Merrick Garland saying “It is time to break up Live Nation-Ticketmaster.”

Ticketmaster, the suit claims, uses unlawful, anticompetitive conduct to exercise a monopolistic control over the live events industry. The suit accuses the company of retaliating against firms that try to compete with it and has threatened and retaliated against venues that work with other ticket companies.

Additionally, it said, concert venues are locked into long-term contracts that do not allow them to work with other ticket companies and artists are restricted to performing at Live Nation-owned venues.

“The result is that 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,”  Garland said.

The lawsuit also accused Live Nation of using Oak View Group, which operates stadiums, arenas and convention centers, as a “hammer” and “protect[or]”, with Oak View Group allegedly not bidding against Live Nation for artist tours, which pushed venues to sign exclusive agreements with Ticketmaster.

Live Nation, in a statement, said the DOJ’s 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. It blames Live Nation and Ticketmaster for high service charges, but ignores that Ticketmaster retains only a modest portion of those fees. In fact, primary ticketing is one of the least expensive digital distributions in the economy.”

The company, wrote Dan Wall, head of corporate affairs, does not set prices and those are subject to the rules of supply and demand. Fees, he said, largely go to the venues.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Manhattan, was filed in conjunction with 30 state and district attorneys general.

The suit did not go into details about how the Justice Department would like to see Live Nation broken up. The investigation into the company reportedly dates back to 2022, however—and it became a priority after so many fans were left out of ticket sales during a presale event for Taylor Swift’s Eras tout. The Senate Judiciary Committee quickly convened for a hearing devoted to the live entertainment ticketing industry, which lawmakers on both sides of the aisle then said was a monopoly that has failed consumers.

Shares of Live Nation were down 5% on the news Thursday morning.

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