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Would breaking up Live Nation and Ticketmaster actually lower concert ticket prices?

Wendy Lee, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

The U.S. Department of Justice's effort to break up Live Nation and Ticketmaster has been a long time coming, following years of complaints from concertgoers who say they've been squeezed by exorbitant prices and hidden fees when trying to buy passes to see Taylor Swift, Beyoncé and other music megastars.

Ever since the government cleared the merger of concert promoter Live Nation and ticketseller Ticketmaster in 2010, there have been demands from consumer advocates to cleave them. The Justice Department argues that the combination is a monopoly that has resulted in harm for music fans and has clamped down competition in the multibillion-dollar live music market.

Live Nation says the arguments are off-base and will probably fail in court. Either way, it will take a long time for the case to wind through the legal system.

Why is the government suing Live Nation?

The Justice Department has raised concerns that Live Nation and Ticketmaster have retaliated against competitors and new entrants and locked out competition with exclusionary contracts.

"The result is that fans pay more in fees, artists have fewer opportunities to play concerts, smaller promoters get squeezed out, and venues have fewer real choices for ticketing services," said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. "It is time to break up Live Nation-Ticketmaster."

 

Beverly Hills-based Live Nation, the world's largest concert company, has long been a target for government scrutiny.

When the U.S. approved the 2010 merger, it did so after the companies agreed to a settlement meant to ensure fair competition in the ticketing marketplace and prohibit Live Nation from retaliating against venue owners that decided to defect to competitors. The consent decree was extended and amended in 2019.

But this time, the government is going hard at the company. In its Thursday lawsuit, the U.S. accused Live Nation of various anticompetitive practices and said the company uses its market dominance to impose fees on consumers and pressure artists to use its services.

The suit comes amid a wave of antitrust action from the Biden administration, which has sought to curb the power of conglomerates and Big Tech. The U.S. government has filed other cases against tech giants including Apple, Amazon and Google, taking them to task for their alleged impact on competition.

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