Justice Department Opens Investigation Into Live Nation Over Monopoly Concerns

NSAI 2022 Nashville Songwriter Awards - Credit: Terry Wyatt/Getty Images
NSAI 2022 Nashville Songwriter Awards - Credit: Terry Wyatt/Getty Images

The Justice Department is investigating whether Ticketmaster’s parent company Live Nation has abused its power as the dominant force in the live music industry, The New York Times reports.

News of the investigation broke at the end of a chaotic week for Ticketmaster, which was unable to handle the massive demand for tickets for Taylor Swift’s “Eras Tour.” The Swift debacle, however, is just the latest instance where Ticketmaster/Live Nation has garnered scrutiny, with similar chaos and frustrations over wait times and price mark-ups surrounding ticket sales for artists like Harry Styles and Bruce Springsteen.

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Live Nation issued a statement following news of the investigation, stating that the “demand for live entertainment continues to grow” and that 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.” The company also insisted that they are “the most transparent and fan-friendly ticketing system in the United States.”

Despite the timing of the news, the DOJ’s antitrust division had already spent several months digging into Live Nation and Ticketmaster. Though specifics are scarce, the investigation appears to be looking at whether Live Nation does have a monopoly over the industry.

While it isn’t clear who’s been in contact, one source confirms to Rolling Stone that federal investigators had been in touch with them, asking general inquiries regarding antitrust concerns with Live Nation

The Department of Justice declined to comment further. Reps for Live Nation were not immediately available to return Rolling Stone‘s request for comment.

Along with the reported investigation, this week saw calls from congress to look into Live Nation. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar — who chairs the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights — sent a letter to Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino expressing concern over what she called a lack of competition in the live music industry. New York representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also criticized the Live Nation/Ticketmaster “monopoly” and called to “break them up.” (After news of the DOJ investigation broke, AOC tweeted, “That was fast.”)

Ticketmaster, of course, has faced plenty of criticism over the decades — Pearl Jam famously tried to take on the company in the Nineties — and its merger with Live Nation in 2010 was approved despite some fierce opposition in the industry. The last time Live Nation faced such federal scrutiny was in 2019, when it was reported that the DOJ was preparing a lawsuit alleging that Live Nation was pressuring convert venues into using Ticketmaster over other ticketing systems. Such competition-stifling actions were prohibited under the consent decree of the Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger.

Ultimately, Live Nation settled with the government, extending the expiration of the consent decree to December 2025 and agreeing to new language about what the company could and couldn’t do when negotiating deals with venues.

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