The Department of Justice has reportedly opened an antitrust investigation into Live Nation, the parent of Ticketmaster, to determine if the company has abused its power in the live music industry. The investigation is said to have been ongoing over the last several months. The New York Times reported on the investigation after Taylor Swift and Bruce Springsteen fans had an excessively difficult time trying to buy tickets for those artists' tours.
The DOJ's antitrust division has been asking music venues and stakeholders in the ticketing market about the industry and Live Nation’s practices, according to the report. The agency is said to be looking into whether Live Nation holds a monopoly in the live music space.
The company owns and/or operates many venues, including the House of Blues, and it runs festivals like Lollapalooza and Download. It sells tickets to those places and events through Ticketmaster. Live Nation also manages dozens of notable artists.
Live Nation and Ticketmaster merged in 2010 after gaining approval from the DOJ. The agency imposed some conditions on the deal, such as Live Nation having to sell some parts of its business. For a 10-year period, Live Nation was prohibited from threatening to keep tours away from venues that don't use Ticketmaster. In 2019, the DOJ determined that Live Nation broke that condition, and it extended the merger agreement provision period to 2025.
Bringing things up to date, Swifties (and bots) crashed Ticketmaster on Tuesday as they attempted to snag tickets for the megastar's first tour in five years during a pre-sale. Ticketmaster said a load of more than 3.5 billion system requests caused havoc.
"The site was supposed to open up for 1.5 million verified Taylor Swift fans," Greg Maffei, the CEO of Live Nation's biggest shareholder Liberty Media, told CNBC. "We had 14 million people hit the site, including bots, which are not supposed to be there.”
Fans waited in queues for hours and when they were finally able to select a seat, many were still unable to grab tickets. In many cases, tickets were essentially snatched out of customers' hands as they tried to put them in their cart. A general sale for the remaining tickets was supposed to take place on Friday, but Ticketmaster canceled it "due to extraordinarily high demands on ticketing systems and insufficient remaining ticket inventory to meet that demand."
The chaos led to calls to break up Live Nation, including from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Amy Klobuchar expressed concern over "the state of competition in the ticketing industry," as Reuters notes.
Daily reminder that Ticketmaster is a monopoly, it’s merger with LiveNation should never have been approved, and they need to be reigned in.
Break them up.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) November 15, 2022
"I’m not going to make excuses for anyone because we asked them, multiple times, if they could handle this kind of demand and we were assured they could," Swift wrote in an Instagram Story on Friday. "It’s truly amazing that 2.4 million people got tickets, but it really pisses me off that a lot of them feel like they went through several bear attacks to get them."
This is far from the first time people had a chaotic experience while trying to get tickets to see a major artist. Blink-182 and Paramore tours sold out almost instantly. Ticketmaster's controversial dynamic pricing system led to some fans paying thousands of dollars for Bruce Springsteen tickets — even before those sought-after tickets hit secondary markets.
Engadget has contacted Live Nation for comment. The Department of Justice doesn't comment on ongoing investigations.