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DOJ preparing antitrust lawsuit against Live Nation, report says

Fourteen years after the government opted not to block Ticketmaster's merger with Live Nation, the DOJ appears ready to sue the mega company.
DOJ preparing antitrust lawsuit against Live Nation, report says
Posted at 9:35 AM, Apr 16, 2024

The Department of Justice is about to file an antitrust lawsuit against Live Nation, parent company of Ticketmaster, the Wall Street Journal reported. 

The WSJ said DOJ's lawsuit will allege that Ticketmaster "has leveraged its dominance in a way that undermined competition for ticketing live events, according to people familiar with the matter."

Live Nation has drawn scrutiny for charging exorbitant fees and surcharges for ticket sales, with ticket prices often far exceeding face value. Live Nation has faced congressional scrutiny for its practices. 

The two companies merged in 2010 after the DOJ decided to not to block the merger as long as Ticketmaster would license its ticket software and divest ticketing assets to two different companies — Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) and either Comcast-Spectacor or another suitable buyer. The DOJ said that these measures would create some competition in the ticketing market and help keep prices reasonable for consumers. 

But in the years since, there has been growing frustration over Ticketmaster's ticket-selling policies by both fans and promoters. Those frustrations exploded in late 2022 when thousands of Taylor Swift fans struggled to buy tickets for her 2023 The Eras Tour concerts. 

SEE MORE: 'Taylor Swift Act' would target ticket scalpers

Live Nation Executive Vice President Dan Wall recently authored a blog defending Live Nation's ticket pricing policies. His post came as federal officials have discussed implementing new rules eliminating so-called "junk fees," making companies post their "all-in" price. 

"The argument that Ticketmaster is responsible for high prices is really about service charges. The practice in the U.S. for decades has been to break down the cost of admission into a 'face value' sum and one or more fees added to face value. There is a common perception that service charges are 'junk fees' and that Ticketmaster sets the fees and pockets the money," he wrote. "Again, that’s not true.

"Service charges are added to the face value of concert tickets because two important players in the concert ecosystem — venues and primary ticketing companies — get little or nothing out of the revenues derived from the ticket’s face value. That money goes mostly to the performers, secondarily to cover certain show costs, and if anything is left over to the promoters. So, the practice developed to add a percentage service charge to a ticket’s face value to pay the venue for hosting the event and the primary ticketing company for servicing venues and distributing tickets."

Wall said that supply and demand largely dictates ticket prices, and that the demand for tickets to see an artist like Swift far exceeds the supply, which drives up ticket prices. 

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