June 14, 2024

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If Live Nation gets arrested by the feds, we’ll thank Taylor Swift

If Live Nation gets arrested by the feds, we’ll thank Taylor Swift

Kevin Mazur/TAS24/Getty Images

Taylor Swift performs on stage during the third night of “Taylor Swift | The Eras Tour” at La Defense on May 11, 2024 in Paris, France.

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In our divided nation, it is comforting to know that there are still more issues that unite than divide. Like ice cream, or Caitlin Clark, or the desire to shame the person who wasn’t ready to take off their shoes in the airport security line.

Thursday, Government complaint against Live Nation It reminded us of one of those things that every warm-blooded American knows in their bones: that buying tickets to a major concert or sporting event is a bad thing. Like, a lot of it might actually be illegal.

The blame, according to the Justice Department, lies squarely with the giant corporation that dominates the live entertainment industry — Live Nation, along with its wholly-owned subsidiary, Ticketmaster, which prosecutors say abused its power to stifle competition, force fans to pay more, and bully… on artists and venues to use its services.

“Instead of investing in better products and services, we allege that Live Nation illegally monopolized markets across the U.S. live concert industry for too long,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said at a news conference Thursday. “It’s time to break it up.”

It’s hard to overstate how much control Live Nation, which acquired Ticketmaster more than a decade ago, has over live entertainment in America.

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According to the DOJ complaint:

  • Live Nation manages more than 400 musicians and generates $22 billion in revenue annually.
  • It handles 60% of promotions in major venues.
  • It also directly owns 265 venues in North America, including more than 60 of the top 100 venues.
  • Through Ticketmaster, Live Nation controls 80% of base tickets to concerts.

No competitor even comes close.

There’s a fine line between vertical integration and outright monopoly, and Live Nation, at least, is very clearly adhering to that.

To be sure, none of this is new. Artists, fans and venues have been complaining about Live Nation and Ticketmaster largely since they agreed to merge in 2009.

But it was the massive rage of Swifties That finally shook the halls of Congress and got some bipartisan momentum for federal intervention.

ICYMI: Two years ago, Ticketmaster did an absolute split on ticket sales for Taylor Swift’s Tour of the Ages. The Senate has taken on Live Nation’s president and chief financial officer In interrogation and reprimand. At one point, Senator Richard Blumenthal congratulated the executive branch on the “incredible achievement” of bringing Republicans and Democrats together in “completely unified cause.”

The Eras Tour, the highest-grossing tour of all time, was cut back to 2024, and a federal antitrust case against Live Nation was initiated. garland, Swifty is famous himself“We are not here today because Live Nation-Ticketmaster’s conduct is uncomfortable or frustrating. We are here because this conduct is anticompetitive and illegal,” the complaint announced Thursday.

In the Justice Department’s lawsuit, it takes issue with a range of Live Nation’s tactics, but the two most important ones to be aware of are 1) the company’s exclusive contracts with venues and 2) its strong-arming of potential competitors.

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Essentially, if you own a venue and choose to work with another promoter or ticketing service besides Live Nation-Ticketmaster, the DOJ claims, you risk serious financial retaliation.

“Live Nation does not have to explicitly threaten individual venues (although it does) to dissuade them from signing ticket contracts with competitors,” the Justice Department complaint said. “The risks are well known in the industry.”

In a statement, Live Nation called the Justice Department’s allegations “baseless,” adding that the lawsuit “will not resolve the issues fans care about regarding ticket prices, service fees, and access to on-demand shows.”

Adam Wolfson, an antitrust lawyer with Quinn Emanuel, said the Justice Department’s requests for relief get to the heart of Live Nation’s dominance in ticketing and promotions — specifically, long-term exclusive deals with venues. If the government can snag those deals, it could be the crowbar that lets much smaller competitors like SeatGeek and Eventbrite through the door.

But don’t expect the ticket-buying process to improve anytime soon.

Live Nation will likely come out swinging, Wolfson said.

“I would expect to see a motion to dismiss is the next stage, which then leads to briefing back and forth over months… We’re easily talking a year, two years, maybe three years” before a ruling.