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NY law firm investigates LN over DOJ claims

Live Nation could be subject to a lawsuit from Bragar, Eagel & Squire after Sunday's NYT article, whose allegations TM president Jared Smith has strenuously denied

By Jon Chapple on 05 Apr 2018

Jared Smith speaking at the Ticketmaster Summit 2016

Jared Smith speaking at the Ticketmaster Summit 2016


image © Ticketmaster

New York legal firm Bragar, Eagel & Squire (BES) has announced it is investigating Live Nation’s business practices on behalf of shareholders, amid reports the US Department of Justice (DOJ) is looking into alleged anti-competitive behaviour by the concert giant.

On 1 April, in an article entitled ‘Live Nation rules music ticketing, some say with threats’, the New York Times reported the DOJ is “looking into serious accusations about Live Nation’s behavior [sic] in the marketplace”, including “complaints that Live Nation, which manages 500 artists, including U2 and Miley Cyrus, has used its control over concert tours to pressure venues into contracting with its subsidiary, Ticketmaster.

“The company’s chief competitor, AEG, has told the officials that venues it manages that serve Atlanta, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, Louisville, Kentucky, and Oakland, California, were told they would lose valuable shows if Ticketmaster was not used as a vendor, a possible violation of antitrust law.”

According to BES, its investigation concerns “whether Live Nation has violated the federal securities laws and/or engaged in other unlawful business practices”. Live Nation’s share price dipped following the publication of the article, and BES encourages investors and shareholders who suffered a loss to contact the firm.

“I would much rather talk about the things we are doing … But I guess none of that sells newspapers”

Responding to the claims in the Times, Ticketmaster’s president in North America, Jared Smith, says “it is absolutely against Live Nation and Ticketmaster policy to threaten venues that they won’t get any Live Nation shows if they don’t use Ticketmaster. We also do not re-route content as retaliation for a lost ticketing deal. Live Nation is the most artist-focused company in the world, and misusing our relationship with artists to settle scores with venues would be both bad business and counter to our core beliefs.”

“Unfortunately, that isn’t what some of our competitors, including AEG, want you to believe,” Smith continues. “They have been telling anyone who will listen that the reason they often lose to Ticketmaster is not because we have worked hard to create better products and add new services, but because we threaten venues with a loss of Live Nation content (concerts) if they don’t pick Ticketmaster as their ticketing partner.”

Contrary to the 2010 merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster – which was subject to a ‘consent decree’ which, among other things, required Ticketmaster to license its ticketing software to AEG (an offer the Times says AEG never took up) and offload its then-subsidiary Paciolan– stifling competition, Smith says the ticketing market in the US today is “far more competitive than ever”.

BES’s investigation concerns “whether Live Nation has violated the federal securities laws and/or engaged in other unlawful business practices”

“The proof is in how competitive the ticketing marketplace is today,” he says. “It is very well known that the business is far more competitive than ever. Some of our competitors, including SeatGeek, are companies that didn’t sell primary tickets until very recently. Others, like AXS and Eventbrite, have been around for years but have greatly built up their businesses with acquisitions. And new entrants are on the horizon, including resale ticketing companies and e-commerce giants.”

Smith concludes: “I would much rather talk about the things we are doing to ensure that consumers get fair access to tickets, such as Verified Fan; the lawsuits and public policy efforts we have launched to fight scalpers, bad actors and bots; and our fantastic consumer security initiatives around digital tickets. But I guess none of that sells newspapers.

“So, we will continue to uphold the principles of the consent decree as we always have without shying away from talking about the things that we believe make us the best overall partner in the market. That’s the way competition should work.”

 


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