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Live Nation fires back at DOJ antitrust lawsuit

Live Nation’s Dan Wall has insisted there is no “good faith argument” to break up the company with Ticketmaster amid the fallout from the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) antitrust lawsuit.

Wall, the company’s EVP, regulatory affairs, joined president/CFO Joe Berchtold on a call with investors to discuss the suit, which accuses LN and Ticketmaster, who merged in 2010, of engaging “in a variety of tactics to eliminate competition and monopolise markets”.

The DOJ’s allegations include acquiring competitors and competitive threats, restricting artists’ access to venues, threatening and retaliating against venues that work with rivals, locking out competition with exclusive contracts and blocking venues from using multiple ticketing firms. It also claims the firm “exploits” its relationship with venue giant Oak View Group (OVG).

Live Nation’s share price dropped in the wake of yesterday’s (23 May) announcement but has since stabilised.

Speaking to shareholders on the regulatory update call, Berchtold said he had been optimistic of reaching a resolution with the DOJ prior to the filing in the United States District Court Southern District of New York.

“We didn’t see any of the issues to be structural or fundamental to the nature of the makeup of the company,” he said. “[We] saw them all as discrete business practices and were hopeful that, because of that, we would be able to reach a settlement. Obviously, that wasn’t their agenda, ultimately, and we are where we are today.”

“It is exactly the concerns that were considered by the Obama administration 15 years ago, and that are covered by the consent decree”

Berchtold suggested one area of “disconnect” with the DOJ centred on the definition of competition in the marketplace.

“In our mind, competition is competing in the promotion side with the artist as the consumer, and then that artist very effectively engages multiple bidders to compete for their services,” he said. “The artist takes an increasing portion of the money from the show, and they are the beneficiary of that competition.

“The DOJ has a different view in terms of holding us accountable for the service fees and the ticket prices, even though we’re not the beneficiary to the largest extent of either those numbers. We don’t unilaterally make the decision on what those numbers are going to be; they’re driven primarily by the venues and by the promoter. So we clearly don’t agree with them in terms of the fundamental of the assertions that they’re making.”

Wall, who joined Live Nation last year after more than 12 years as a key advisor to the firm, alluded to US attorney general’s Merrick Garland’s statement that it was “time to break up Live Nation-Ticketmaster”.

“It is exactly the concerns that were considered by the Obama administration 15 years ago, and that are covered by the consent decree,” he argued. “And in those circumstances, we just don’t believe that there’s really any good faith argument to be made here that there could be a breakup. However, we all know that that’s what the most effective way to get the big headlines was and I think that that’s why we’re seeing that. It’s very unfortunate.

“There’s never been a circumstance where the DOJ allowed a merger to happen under a consent decree with behavioural remedies, which it said was an effective remedy, and then came back later and tried to say that that should be broken up.”

“We will make every effort to try to get this case to trial in a year”

Addressing the likely timescale of the case, Wall said: “We will move this along as quickly as we can. We will make every effort to try to get this case to trial in a year, or if not in a year, a year and a half, and certainly not long after that. We’re committed to putting the resources in to get that done and getting this behind us because we feel very confident about about our position on these claims.”

He was also critical of the DOJ’s demand for a jury trial, dismissing the move as a “stunt”.

“This is a stunt, a strategy that the DOJ used in the Google ad-tech case, and it’s highly unusual in that antitrust cases like this, historically, have always been tried to to judges rather than juries – because when the government is the plaintiff, it is seeking injunctive relief and all claims for injunctive relief are tried by judges rather than juries.

“It seems like a pretty transparent effort to try to avoid the scrutiny of a judge. And I don’t think it’s necessarily a smart move, because the very first message that you send to the judge is that you don’t really want him or her to have control over the outcome of this, and that’s not a very smart message to send a judge at the beginning of a case.”

Wall was also asked about the implications for the lawsuit of a potential administration change, should Donald Trump return to the White House following November’s US election.

“That’s a tough one, for sure,” he said. “If we just kind of go back in time and you asked me whether I think that the first Trump administration would have brought this case, I would tell you that I don’t think that any prior administration – Republican or Democrat – would have brought this case. But the circumstances, looking to the future, it would depend a lot on who was appointed to these positions, and that just makes it kind of vulnerable.”

“Live Nation has scolded Oak View Group multiple times for trying to compete”

The 128-page filing makes reference to LN’s relationship with OVG, which it describes as a “potential-competitor-turned-partner that has described itself as a ‘hammer’ and ‘protect[or]’ for Live Nation.

“In recent years, Oak View Group has avoided bidding against Live Nation for artist talent and influenced venues to sign exclusive agreements with Ticketmaster,” it states. “For example, Live Nation has scolded Oak View Group multiple times for trying to compete. In one instance, Live Nation asked, ‘who would be so stupid to… play into [an artist agent’s] arms,’ and on another occasion, Live Nation stated, ‘let’s make sure we don’t let [the artist agency] now start playing us off.’

“Live Nation and Oak View Group have colluded and established a partnership to allocate business lines, avoid competing with each other, and chart a mutually beneficial plan to cement Live Nation’s dominance.”

Wall has contested the claims in a lengthy blog, pointing out that OVG is a venue management company rather than a concert promoter.

“DOJ’s claim is based on two incidents in which Live Nation and OVG were discussing what to do when an OVG venue wanted to book on occasional show itself on a dark night,” he continued. “To portray that as an agreement not to compete in concert promotion is farcical.

“Regardless, OVG’s behaviour as a venue operator is fully consistent with every major arena and stadium in the country – they need to have an in house booker who helps fill otherwise dark nights, but they have no interest in systematically taking on the risk of guarantees that could be in the millions of dollars for a show or tens of millions of dollars for a tour.”

“There is no truth that this brief exchange had anything to do with Silver Lake’s decision to sell its stake in TEG”

In another startling allegation, it says that LN threatened commercial retaliation against private equity firm Silver Lake in 2021, unless the latter’s subsidiary TEG stopped competing with Live Nation for artist promotion contracts in the
US. It claims that the threats “ultimately succeeded, and Silver Lake has tried to sell TEG altogether”.

“This claim reveals not only a disregard for the facts, but also deep hypocrisy,” replied Wall. “The current DOJ and FTC have been vocal critics of private equity companies making multiple investments in the same industry because of competitive ‘entanglements’. So was Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino when, after it had already made an investment in OVG, Silver Lake Partners decided to invest in the Australian live entertainment company, TEG.

“Rapino’s complaint was fundamentally the same as the DOJ/FTC concern with private equity rollups: it created a conflict between OVG, which had become a close partner to Live Nation, and TEG. So, in December 2021 when a TEG employee wrote to say that it did not intend to compete with Live Nation in the US, Rapino replied to Silver Lake’s management that he did not care about TEG, but still had a problem with Silver Lake’s decision to make multiple conflicting investments in the industry.

“There is no truth that this brief exchange had anything to do with Silver Lake’s decision to sell its stake in TEG.”

Elsewhere, Variety has published an article asking whether things would get better for fans in the event of a Live Nation-Ticketmaster breakup.

“In reality, music fans’ concerns boil down to one question: Would breaking up the two companies make the ticket-acquisition process less of a soul-crushing nightmare?” writes Jem Aswad. “In the short term anyway, the answer is pretty much no… In fact, the things that most enrage fans – cryptic ‘service’ fees, long wait times, the predatory secondary market and its bots that buy up blocks of tickets before ordinary humans can get near them – are outside the purview of the lawsuit.

“It also must be noted, as Live Nation often does, that Ticketmaster does not set ticket prices – artists or promoters do – and it does not charge the bulk of the service fees that so enrage fans (venues do).”

 


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DOJ sues Live Nation over alleged ‘monopoly’

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has launched a lawsuit which could seek to break up Live Nation-Ticketmaster after alleging the company has violated antitrust laws.

The 128-page filing accuses LN and Ticketmaster, who merged in 2010, of using their “power and influence” to “insert themselves at the centre and the edges of virtually every aspect of the live music ecosystem”. Live Nation’s EVP, regulatory affairs, Dan Wall has issued a response, contesting the claims.

The suit, which had been expected for several weeks, was filed today (23 May) in the United States District Court Southern District of New York. It states that Live Nation directly manages more than 400 musical artists and controls around 60% of concert promotions at major venues across the country, as well as owning or controlling more than 265 concert venues in North America.

“This has given Live Nation and Ticketmaster the opportunity to freeze innovation and bend the industry to their own benefit,” it claims. “While this may be a boon to Live Nation’s bottom line, there is a real cost to Americans.

“Through a self-reinforcing ‘flywheel’ that Live Nation-Ticketmaster created to connect their multiple interconnected businesses and interests, Live Nation and Ticketmaster have engaged in numerous forms of anticompetitive conduct.”

In adds that LN controls “roughly 80% or more” of primary ticketing for major concert venues via Ticketmaster, plus a “growing share” of the resale market.

“Live Nation’s monopoly, and the anticompetitive conduct that protects and maintains its monopoly, strikes a chord precisely because the industry at stake is one that has for generations inspired, entertained, and challenged Americans,” it continues. “Conduct that subverts competition here not only harms the structure of the live music industry and the countless people that work in that industry, but also damages the foundation of creative expression and art that lies at the heart of our personal, social, and political lives.”

“We allege that Live Nation relies on unlawful, anticompetitive conduct to exercise its monopolistic control over the live events industry in the US”

Allegations include acquiring competitors and competitive threats, restricting artists’ access to venues, locking out competition with exclusive contracts and blocking venues from using multiple ticketing firms.

“We allege that Live Nation relies on unlawful, anticompetitive conduct to exercise its monopolistic control over the live events industry in the United States at the cost of fans, artists, smaller promoters, and venue operators,” says a statement from US attorney general Merrick Garland. “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. It is time to break up Live Nation-Ticketmaster.”

Dan Wall, LN’s EVP, corporate and regulatory affairs, has penned a lengthy response to the lawsuit, which he says comes in the wake of “intense political pressure on DOJ to file a lawsuit, and a long-term lobbying campaign from rivals and ticket brokers seeking government protection for themselves”.

Furthermore, Wall describes the claim that Live Nation and Ticketmaster are wielding monopoly power as “absurd”.

“The defining feature of a monopolist is monopoly profits derived from monopoly pricing,” he says. “Live Nation in no way fits the profile. Service charges on Ticketmaster are no higher than elsewhere, and frequently lower. And even accounting for sponsorship, an advertising business that helps keep ticket prices down, the company’s overall net profit margin is at the low end of profitable S&P 500 companies.

“Every year, competition in the industry drives Live Nation to earn lower take rates from both concert promotion and ticketing. The company is profitable and growing because it helps grow the industry, not because it has market power.”

“The world is a better place because of that merger, not a worse one”

In closing, Wall insists that Ticketmaster is “a far better, more artist and fan-focused business under Live Nation’s ownership than it ever was as a standalone company”.

“But that’s not how this DOJ sees it. They are reflexively antagonistic to vertical integration,” he says. “The Obama Administration saw it differently. It allowed Live Nation and Ticketmaster to merge, and in defending that position acknowledged that there was no legal basis for challenging the vertical aspects of the merger – specifically, allowing a large concert promoter to combine with a large ticketing company.

“In one filing, it said that it had ‘determined that it could not prove that the vertical integration resulting from the merger would significantly harm competition in the concert promotion market.’ There is no factual basis for concluding otherwise today. The world is a better place because of that merger, not a worse one.”

Live Nation president/CFO Joe Berchtold also discussed the then pending lawsuit during the company’s Q1 earnings call earlier this month.

“Based on the issues we know about, we don’t believe a breakup of Live Nation and Ticketmaster would be a legally permissible remedy,” he said. “Live Nation and Ticketmaster came together lawfully through a merger that the DOJ reviewed and approved subject to divestitures and other remedies. The DOJ has repeatedly stated in court filings that the merger and settlement were in the public interest.”

 


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Live Nation talks DoJ, all-in pricing, festivals

Live Nation president and CFO Joe Berchtold has spoken out on a range of issues including the company’s all-in pricing success and the US Department of Justice’s (DoJ) investigation into the firm.

Speaking yesterday (21 May) at JP Morgan’s 52nd annual global technology, media and communications conference, Berchtold responded to LN’s disclosure that its all-in ticket pricing policy, which shows customers the total price and fees associated with their tickets upfront, has resulted in an 8% increase in completed sales in its first six months.

“We were pleasantly surprised,” said Berchtold. “That showed that fans not being surprised by an add-on price down the road meant that they were more likely to buy.

“I think it’s the right first step for us. I think it’s the right step for the industry. If you take a step back in the conversation over the past year and a half about ticketing – particularly on the legislative side – it went from us being the demons, the root of all evils in the industry, to a lot of education. And the conversations today on the legislative side tend to be very different; they tend to be very focused on what are reasonable consumer protections.”

Last week, the US House of Representatives voted to pass the TICKET Act, which aims to ensure transparent pricing for consumers and was the most comprehensive consumer protection ticketing legislation to receive a floor vote in eight years. Live Nation was among a number of companies in the US that pledged to adopt “all-in” ticket pricing last summer.

“I’m hopeful that we’re now on a path, all-in ticketing being the first step, of some pretty common sense reforms in ticketing”

“I’m hopeful that we’re now on a path, all-in ticketing being the first step, of some pretty common sense reforms in ticketing that will be good for the fans and will be good for the artists,” added Berchtold.

Following a Wall Street Journal report that the DoJ is expected to file an antitrust lawsuit against LN in the coming weeks, Berchtold revealed that talks were ongoing with the department at a senior level.

“We’re now in discussions with the senior division leadership, which is generally the last part of the process,” he said. “These are always serious discussions, it wouldn’t get to this point if they didn’t have concerns, but the good news is we’re still talking and they’ve said they have an open mind.

“Without getting into the real details of the conversation… I continue to believe that we fundamentally have business practices that are fully defensible. But we’re also open to figuring out common ground in order to get this settled and moved on. What we don’t know is exactly what they want at this point still. If you look at the Apple case, from my view, you have some similarities that it seems to be some discrete business issues where they ultimately decided they wanted to take action against the broader platform as opposed to sorting the specific issues.

“As I said, we’re continuing the conversations and we’ll keep showing up and continue them as long as they are interested in doing so. But I think we’re getting to the late stages now of it.”

“It’s a very competitive market… It doesn’t get easier, it gets harder”

According to WSJ sources, the lawsuit will claim the Ticketmaster parent has abused its market-leading position in the ticketing business to harm competition. But Berchtold played down suggestions that exclusivity deals would be a particular focus.

“It’s a bit of a red herring,” he said. “If you’re a venue, you’re saying, ‘Wait a minute, why is somebody telling me I need to work with multiple systems?’ We just find that that’s not generally what the venues are asking for… At the highest level, what they care about are two things. One is, is the platform going to sell the most tickets for me? And then secondly is, just what are the financial terms of the deal?

“I think if you stopped a manager on the street and said, ‘What building [do] you want your artists to go into?’ They’ll say, ‘Well, what’s going to sell the most tickets and gross the most money for my artist?’ So if you’re a venue in a competitive world, trying to get those shows, that’s what’s going to ultimately really matter to your decision.

“It’s a very competitive market. Don’t let any of the press reports fool you. Every renewal that we have, it’s what you expect in today’s world. It doesn’t get easier, it gets harder.”

Below, are a few other highlights from the conversation with Berchtold…

“You’ll continue to see us very active, particularly on the venue front in South America, Europe, Asia”

2024 ticket sales…
“It continues to be a very strong year. I think as of now we’d be at about 100 million concert tickets sold, up a couple of percent, so it’s accelerated a little bit. As we’ve long said, stadiums are quieter this year, but arenas, amphitheatres, theatres and clubs, ticket sales are up double digits across all of those different venue types. So continuing, they think this is going to be a very good year in particular for shows at our own venues.

“On the Ticketmaster side, we’ve sold about 140 million tickets, so up around 5%. So [consumer demand] continues to be very strong. We’re feeling very good about where we are as we head into the summer season.”

M&A strategy…
“You’ll continue to see us very active, particularly on the venue front in South America, Europe, Asia, all over as we continue to try to build that. I think you’ll still see some promoter acquisitions, again, with South America, Asia as the primary targets as we further expand our footprint in those markets. So no slowdown in appetite or discussions.”

Festivals…
“We’ve got some creative people that have come up with some great festival ideas… The best example is When We Were Young, which we launched in Vegas a year and a half or so ago. It’s pop-punk. I remember when the lineup came out, if you looked at [social media], it was, ‘This has got to be fake. There’s no way they can have this group of acts in one day. This is a Fyre Festival. It’s not going to happen.’ But so then what happened is it was set up as a one-day festival, but we did it five days. So we repeated it five times because there was so much demand for it.

“I think it’s complementary with the Lollapaloozas of the world, Austin City Limits, BottleRock, See.Hear.Now. You’re still seeing a lot of these do well, but you’ve got this… emergence of these new festival types. It’s taking a minute to figure out how to work with sponsors on something that, rather than being a three-day event, is many one-day events with a new audience generally each day. So I always look at it as glass half full: that means more opportunity as we figure that out. That’s another area of growth that we have.”

 


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DoJ ‘to file antitrust suit against Live Nation’

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) is expected to file an antitrust lawsuit against Live Nation in the coming weeks, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Citing anonymous sources, the WSJ reports that the suit – which could be filed as soon as next month – would claim the Ticketmaster parent has abused its market-leading position in the ticketing business to harm competition, although specific details of the lawsuit have not been confirmed.

In response to the report, a Ticketmaster spokesperson tells the publication: “Ticketmaster has more competition today than it has ever had, and the deal terms with venues show it has nothing close to monopoly power.”

Neither Live Nation or the DoJ have commented. However, LN president/CFO Joe Berchtold addressed the DoJ’s investigation in a recent interview at the Morgan Stanley’s Technology, Media & Telecom Conference in San Francisco.

“We’re fully giving them everything they asked for and they’ll define the timetable,” he said. “Meanwhile, we’ll continue to run a great business. Again, I’ll say it over and over, our strategy, our culture, is to super-serve the artists. I don’t think we have anything to be ashamed of with having that as a strategy.

“I think that our structural behaviour is positive for the industry. Big is bad today, but I feel very good about how we are as a company trying to operate what we’re trying to do and what our opportunities are going forward.”

“The Ticketmaster of 2010 did not face the level of competition that we face today”

Speaking during the promoter’s earnings call in February, CEO Michael Rapino said Live Nation was “100% cooperative” with investigators following reports that the US Justice Department had sent out a new raft of information requests in connection with the probe.

Four years ago, a US district court issued a judgment extending the ‘consent decree’ governing the 2010 merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster to 2025. The DoJ alleged the firm had violated provisions of the decree on multiple occasions – claims that were strenuously denied by Live Nation.

Berchtold also defended Ticketmaster’s practices when appearing before a US Senate antitrust panel in early 2023, spurred by the fallout from the presale for Taylor Swift’s stadium tour.

“We hear people say that ticketing markets are less competitive today than they were at the time of the Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger. That’s simply not true,” he argued. “The Ticketmaster of 2010 did not face the level of competition that we face today… Ticketmaster has lost, not gained, market share since the merger.”

While the company has come under increased scrutiny from lawmakers since the 2022 Eras Tour onsale, it is understood the DoJ inquiry predates the controversy.

 


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Live Nation-Ticketmaster consent decree extended

The US district court for the District of Columbia (Washington DC) has issued a judgment extending the ‘consent decree’ governing the 2010 merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster for a further five and a half years.

Live Nation reached a settlement extending the decree with the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) in December, following a DOJ investigation into alleged anti-competitive business practices.

The DOJ alleges Live Nation has violated provisions of the decree – which, among other things, requires Ticketmaster to license its ticketing software to competitors – on multiple occasions over the past decade. The claims are strenuously denied by Live Nation, which says the North American ticketing market is more competitive now than ever.

As a result of the court judgment, Live Nation will pay the DOJ’s costs, as well as fees for monitoring and enforcement of the decree through 2025.

“We strongly disagree with the DOJ’s allegations in the filing and the conclusions they seek to draw”

Makan Delrahim, assistant attorney-general in the DOJ’s antitrust (competition) division, says: “The amended decree reimburses the American people millions of dollars and makes it easier for the antitrust division and state enforcers to identify and prosecute future transgressions.”

“Live Nation settled this matter to make clear that it has no interest in threatening or retaliating against venues that consider or choose other ticketing companies,” said a Live Nation spokesperson in a statement issued on 9 January.

“We strongly disagree with the DOJ’s allegations in the filing and the conclusions they seek to draw from six isolated episodes among some 5,000 ticketing deals negotiated during the life of the consent decree. [In a court filing earlier this month, DOJ lawyers submitted evidence they allege shows instances in which six venues were told Live Nation would stop booking acts there if they used a ticketing company other than Ticketmaster.]

“Nevertheless, in keeping with our decision to settle, our focus is now on bringing this matter to its conclusion and continuing to deliver the best live event experiences to fans everywhere.”

Photo: Phyzome/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

 


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Live Nation shares up 10% post DOJ settlement

Live Nation’s share price rose by US$6.79 to $70.60 yesterday (Thursday 19 December) following news that it had reached a settlement with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) over antitrust allegations.

The DOJ had opened investigations into Live Nation last Friday over concerns that the company had violated the terms of a decree governing its 2010 merger with Ticketmaster.

Both Live Nation and Ticketmaster refuted all allegations of anti-competitive practice.

As part of the settlement, the DOJ is extending and modifying the decree that permits the merger, and which was set to expire next year, until 2025. The justice department calls the agreement the “most significant enforcement action of an antitrust decree in 20 years”.

Following the news, Live Nation’s stock, which had dropped to around $64 per share following news of the DOJ investigation, rebounded to the levels it had been trading at before, jumping almost 10% to just over $70. Shares remained up at $69.83 at the time of writing.

“We believe this is the best outcome for our business, clients and shareholders as we turn our focus to 2020 initiatives”

“We have reached an agreement in principle with the Department of Justice to extend and clarify the consent decree,” comments a Live Nation spokesperson. “We believe this is the best outcome for our business, clients and shareholders as we turn our focus to 2020 initiatives.”

Under the terms of the modified agreement, Live Nation is prohibited from pressuring venues to use Ticketmaster and from withholding shows from a venue if it chooses to go with another ticketer. An independent party will monitor Live Nation’s compliance with the decree, and a $1 million fine will be levied for any violation of the agreement.

“When Live Nation and Ticketmaster merged in 2010, the Department of Justice and the federal court imposed conditions on the company in order to preserve and promote ticketing competition,” says assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division.

“Today’s enforcement action including the addition of language on retaliation and conditioning will ensure that American consumers get the benefit of the bargain that the United States and Live Nation agreed to in 2010. Merging parties will be held to their promises and the Department will not tolerate transgressions that hurt the American consumer.”

The full DOJ statement can be read here.

 


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Live Nation refutes DOJ antitrust allegations

Live Nation and Ticketmaster have hit back at allegations their business practices are in violation of the ‘consent decree’ that governed the 2010 merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster.

At a Senate antitrust subcommittee hearing yesterday (17 September), Makan Delrahim, assistant attorney-general for the US Department of Justice (DOJ)’s antitrust, or competition, division, said the DOJ is “examining allegations of violations” of the decree – which, among other provisions, required Ticketmaster to license its ticketing software to competitors including AEG (an offer AEG reportedly never took up) and offload its then-subsidiary Paciolan.

The consent decree attracted renewed attention last year when a New York Times article, ‘Live Nation rules music ticketing, some say with threats’, reported that the DOJ was looking into “serious accusations about Live Nation’s behaviour 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.”

Responding to the Times’s article, Ticketmaster’s North American president, Jared Smith, asserted that the ticketing market in the US today is “far more competitive than ever”, and that Ticketmaster remains the market leader “because we have worked hard to create better products and add new services”.

“We do not force anyone into ticketing agreements by leveraging content”

Delrahim (pictured) yesterday declined to elaborate on his findings, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Commenting on the DOJ investigation, Ticketmaster and Live Nation say in a joint statement: “As we have previously stated, Live Nation and Ticketmaster have always complied with their obligations under the consent decree.

“We do not force anyone into ticketing agreements by leveraging content, and we do not retaliate against venues that choose other ticketing providers.”

The antitrust hearing primarily focused on the big tech firms, including Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Alphabet (Google).

 


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NY law firm investigates LN over DOJ claims

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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