Congress members call for new investigation into Live Nation’s dominance in US ticketing market


April 20, 2021

Five Congress members in the US have urged the country’s recently refreshed Department Of Justice to again review the operations of Live Nation and Ticketmaster, and the allegations that the live giant and its ticketing division unfairly exploit their market dominance in the American live entertainment sector.

In 2019 it emerged that the DoJ was investigating whether Live Nation had violated the agreement that had been reached between the government department and the live music company all the way back in 2010, when the Live Nation and Tickemaster businesses first merged.

That agreement, aka a consent decree, put certain limitations on the combined Live Nation/Ticketmaster company to overcome competition law concerns that were raised by the merger of America’s biggest promoter and its biggest ticket agent.

That consent decree was actually meant to expire last year, but a deal was done between the DoJ and Live Nation that extended it for another five and a half years, and also clarified some of its terms. The DoJ subsequently revealed that its investigation had identified six alleged breaches of the consent decree prior to its new agreement with Live Nation.

With President Joe Biden’s team now in charge at the DoJ, Congress members Bill Pascrell, Frank Pallone, Jerrold Nadler, Jan Schakowsky and David Cicilline have now called for a new investigation.

In a letter to US Attorney General Merrick Garland and Acting Federal Trade Commission Chair Rebecca Slaughter, the Congress members write: “The evidence is overwhelming that the 2010 merger between the world’s largest concert promoter, Live Nation, and the biggest ticket provider, Ticketmaster, has strangled competition in live entertainment ticketing and harmed consumers and must be revisited”.

“Since the merger, we have witnessed how pitfalls of the Department Of Justice’s consent decree has failed to protect competition and consumers”, they go on. “The DoJ itself has found that [Live Nation] has repeatedly violated the terms of the agreement over the course of the last ten years by threatening venues and forcing the bundling of artists with ticketing services. These practices have enabled Ticketmaster to maintain its control of more than 80% of the primary ticketing sale market and to grow its position in the secondary market”.

“We believe the prior administration’s decision to extend the consent decree in 2019 to 2025 was insufficient to protect consumers”, they then add. “In its decision, DoJ did not demonstrate why extending the consent decree with only minor modifications would prevent [Live Nation] from continuing anti-competitive conduct. Rather than double-down on a failed approach, DoJ must now take steps needed to restore competition to the ticketing marketplace”.

The letter then claims that Live Nation is further “tightened its grasp” on the secondary market in the US, the live giant still being active in the ticket resale business Stateside despite bailing on secondary ticketing in Europe. They also point to a new digital ticketing product called SafeTix which “was purportedly created to fight fraud”, but, they argue, actually allows Ticketmaster to ensure any resale of tickets can only happen within its ecosystem.

Concluding, the letter states: “We strongly urge the DoJ and FTC to protect consumers future access to live events by immediately launching an investigation of [Live Nation’s] potentially unfair, deceptive, and anti-competitive practices”.

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