Legal Beat: Justice Department Sues Live Nation for Illegal Monopoly

On May 23, 2024, the U.S. Justice Department sued Live Nation Entertainment for maintaining an illegal monopoly in the live entertainment business. By way of background, Ticketmaster merged with concert promoter Live Nation in 2010. The lawsuit seeks to break up Live Nation.

The Justice Department asserts that Live Nation committed several illegal practices that have allowed it to maintain its grip on the live music industry. For instance, the Justice department alleges that:

1. Live Nation utilizes long-term agreements to prevent venues from using rival ticketing companies.

2. It prevents venues from using multiple ticket sellers; and

3.  It threatens venues that they may lose money and fans if they don’t use Ticketmaster.

The Justice Department asserts the above conduct has caused ticket prices to increase and has suppressed innovation and competition in the live entertainment business. Fans, Congress and competitors have claimed that Ticketmaster has engaged in conduct that hurts its rivals and increases ticket prices and fees. In the complaint the Justice department states that many fees are “essentially a ‘Ticketmaster Tax.’"

The U.S. attorney General, Merrick B. Garland, stated: It is time to break up Live Nation-Ticketmaster. The American people are ready for it.”

Obviously, the government hopes that more competition will result in lower ticket prices.  Ticketmaster and Live Nation have always asserted that they do not act like a monopoly. They say high ticket prices are not their fault. Live Nation responds that this lawsuit ‘won’t solve the issues fans care about relating to ticket prices, service fees, and access to in-demand shows.”  Ticketmaster states that service fees are paid to the concert venues and that Ticketmaster’s market share has “steadily eroded” its share of the market.

According to Dan Wall, the Executive Vice President of corporate and regulatory affairs for Live Nation, the government’s lawsuit is a result of “intense political pressure.”

Wall also stated that the government’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.”

The Justice Department states that Live Nation commands approximately 60 percent of concert promotion at major venues in the U.S.A. and about 80 percent of ticketing.  In its 120-page complaint the government states that “Live Nation has its tentacles in virtually every aspect of the live entertainment industry.”

Eleanor Fox, a professor emeritus at New York University School of Law, stated that unless the case is dismissed, it is likely to be a long trial that might take a year to start “and especially if the judge orders a breakup, there’s going to be an appeal. So, you are looking at years.”