US calls for breakup of Ticketmaster owner

FILE — Taylor Swift on stage during her performance at Metlife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. on May 26, 2023. The Justice Department said on May 23, 2024 that it was suing Live Nation Entertainment, the concert giant that owns Ticketmaster, asking a court to break up the company over claims it illegally maintained a monopoly in the live entertainment industry. (Jutharat Pinyodoonyachet/The New York Times)

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department on Thursday sued Live Nation Entertainment, the concert giant that owns Ticketmaster, asking a court to break up the company over claims it illegally maintained a monopoly in the live entertainment industry.

In the lawsuit, which is joined by 29 states and the District of Columbia, the government accuses Live Nation of leveraging its empire to dominate the industry by locking venues into exclusive ticketing contracts, pressuring artists to use its services and threatening its rivals with financial retribution.

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Those tactics, the government argues, have resulted in higher ticket prices for consumers and have stifled innovation and competition throughout the industry. The suit asks the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to order “the divestiture of, at minimum, Ticketmaster,” and to prevent Live Nation from engaging in anticompetitive practices.

It is time for fans and artists to stop paying the price for Live Nation’s monopoly,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said Thursday.

The Justice Department’s latest lawsuit is a direct challenge to the business of Live Nation, a colossus of the entertainment industry. The case, filed 14 years after the government approved Live Nation’s merger with Ticketmaster, has the potential to transform the multibillion-dollar concert industry.

Live Nation’s scale and reach far exceed those of any competitor, encompassing concert promotion, ticketing, artist management and the operation of hundreds of venues and festivals around the world. “Live Nation has its tentacles in virtually every aspect of the live entertainment industry,” the government says in its complaint, which runs more than 120 pages.

According to the Justice Department, Live Nation controls around 60% of concert promotions at major venues around the United States and roughly 80% of primary ticketing at major concert venues.

In response to the suit, Live Nation denied that it was a monopoly and said that breaking it up would not result in lower ticket prices or fees. According to the company, artists and sports teams are primarily responsible for setting ticket prices, and other business partners, like venues, take the lion’s share of surcharges.

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