Apr 16, 2024 2 min read

Live Nation could be facing antitrust lawsuit from US government as soon as next month

The market dominance of Live Nation and Ticketmaster - already in the spotlight in American political circles - could also be scrutinised in court with the news that the US Department Of Justice is planning on filing an antitrust lawsuit against the live giant, maybe as soon as next month

Live Nation could be facing antitrust lawsuit from US government as soon as next month

The US Department Of Justice could file an antitrust lawsuit against Live Nation as soon as next month, according to sources who have spoken to the Wall Street Journal

That lawsuit will accuse Live Nation of exploiting its dominance in live events and ticketing in the US in an anticompetitive way, meaning it is in breach of competition law, or antitrust law to use the American term. According to Bloomberg's sources, the aim of that lawsuit - which might also involve several state-level attorneys general - could be to force Live Nation to entirely spin off its Ticketmaster ticketing business. 

The dominance of Live Nation in live entertainment - as a concert promoter, artist manager, venue operator and ticket agent - has been very much in the political spotlight in the US over the last eighteen months. This new round of political scrutiny was prompted by the Ticketmaster-managed pre-sale for Taylor Swift's US tour which went specularly wrong in November 2022. Multiple politicians responded to the public outrage that followed the Swift ticketing meltdown by proposing new regulations of the ticketing sector. 

It then emerged that the DoJ was already investigating Live Nation even before the Swift ticketing debacle. The live giant has a consent decree agreement with the government department that stems from the 2010 merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster. 

It regulates to an extent how the different divisions of Live Nation interact. That agreement was originally meant to expire after ten years, but following another DoJ investigation, which came amid allegations Live Nation had breached its consent decree, the whole thing was revised and then extended to the end of 2025.  

The outcome of any new legal action from the DoJ could be another settlement that extends and possibly further expands the reach of the consent decree. Although the government department could seek tougher sanctions, including fines, or even push for the most dramatic conclusion, that being Live Nation and Ticketmaster being split up. 

In October 2022 - a month before the Swift ticketing issues - the American Economic Liberties Project launched a new campaign specifically calling on the DoJ to reverse the 2010 Live Nation / Ticketmaster merger. Among those backing that campaign were music industry groups the Artist Rights Alliance and the Future Of Music Coalition.

Live Nation continues to deny any wrongdoing and insists it has always complied with the terms of its consent decree. In response to the recent political scrutiny, it has supported some of the proposals for further regulation of ticketing, mainly in relation to secondary ticketing and how ticket prices are displayed across the board. But some see that as part of a plan to distract the politicians from any proposals more directly related to Live Nation’s market dominance. 

Meanwhile, last month the company's EVP Corporate And Regulatory Affairs Dan Wall wrote a blog post explaining why high ticket prices for the most in demand shows were not really the fault of ticketing companies like Ticketmaster. 

The live giant is yet to respond to the news of the impending DoJ action, although its share price dropped about 6% following the Wall Street Journal's report.

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