A broad coalition of consumer, artist and lobbying groups have joined forces to demand that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) investigate and unwind the 2010 merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster.

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Live Nation is dominant player in tour promotion and venue management, and Ticketmaster is the dominant ticketing platform.  Their 2010 merger was widely criticized as anti-competitive, but was ultimately approved by the DOJ’s antitrust divisions, subject to a consent decree controlling how the two companies would interact as part of a single business.

In particular, the consent decree prohibits the merged company from retaliating against venues for working with other ticketing services.  The coalition claims that the merged companies have continued to violate the terms of the consent decree, price-gouged customers and strong-armed artists and venues into accepting their unfair conditions.  


The coalition claims that Live Nation uses its concert promotion services to force venue into using Ticketmaster instead of its few remaining competitors.   If a venue decides not to use Ticketmaster, Live Nation will effectively boycott that venue.  Venues are eventually forced to acquiesce to Live Nation’s demands because it is so difficult to book artists who are not booked through Live Nation. 

In fact, in 2019, a DOJ investigation found that Live Nation had been doing this very thing.  The DOJ installed a monitor to investigate further violations of the consent decree, although it was extended to 2025.

The coalition claims further that because Ticketmaster is forced on nearly every venue that books a Live Nation show, it can charge excessive fees because there is effectively no other alternative.  This leads to a familiar situation for many concertgoers – hidden fees and service charges that may be nearly the price of the original ticket.  

The coalition further points out that Ticketmaster runs its own resale site, where it charges an additional, higher fee in addition to the fee imposed on the original sale.  They claim that by allowing and encouraging scalpers to swoop in and buy all the tickets initially, Ticketmaster can then collect a second fee from concertgoers who were unfortunate to get shut out in the initial ticket sale and are now trying to buy on the secondary market, at a highly inflated price.

This, of course, only works when demand for tickets exceeds the supply.  As ticket prices climb ever higher and it becomes increasingly difficult for concertgoers to purchase them directly, it may be that supply will start to exceed demand.

The consent decree remains in place until 2025.  While it seems unlikely that DOJ will take any action until it time to consider whether to renew, this has not prevented a wide variety of organizations from lobbying in favor of breaking up the companies.

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