US Sues to Break Up Ticketmaster and Live Nation, Alleging Monopoly Abuse

The US Department of Justice has sued Ticketmaster and its parent company, Live Nation Entertainment, for abusing their alleged monopoly in the ticketing market to trample competitors.

Filed on Thursday in the Southern District of New York, the lawsuit focuses on Ticketmaster’s long-term exclusivity contracts with many of the largest music venues, making it the predominant ticketing service available to concertgoers. The firm secures these deals in part by “threatening and retaliating against venues that work with rivals,” the DOJ alleges.

In the complaint, the DOJ accuses Ticketmaster and Live Nation, which acts as a promoter for hundreds of high-profile artists, of exploiting their relationship to establish a “self-reinforcing flywheel” that blocks competitors from gaining a foothold. Live Nation parlays its exclusive promotion deals into exclusive ticketing deals with venues, the DOJ claims, which are left with no practical choice but to go with Ticketmaster, for fear of losing access to sought-after acts represented by its parent company. The DOJ is seeking to break up the joint organization.

“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 attorney general Merrick Garland in a statement. “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.”

Live Nation declined to comment.

The charges brought by the DOJ mirror allegations made previously against Ticketmaster in two ongoing private lawsuits.

In December 2022, Ticketmaster was sued by hundreds of Taylor Swift fans, who brought a case in response to a high-profile ticketing debacle that reportedly left them queuing for hours to pay for tickets that they had been assigned under an early access program, with many ultimately unable to claim their allocations. The incident led to a hearing by the Senate Judiciary Committee on consolidation in the ticketing industry and, reportedly, helped catalyze the investigation into Ticketmaster by the DOJ.

In their lawsuit, the Swift fans accused Ticketmaster of abusing its dominant position to impose “higher prices in the presale, sale, and resale market for concert tickets.” The company has “effectuated this anticompetitive scheme by forcing fans of musicians to use Ticketmaster exclusively to buy concert tickets,” the lawsuit alleged.

In the second case, a class action brought in 2022 on behalf of Ticketmaster customers in the US, Live Nation and Ticketmaster were accused of abusing the complementary relationship between their services to overcharge consumers and sustain their monopoly. “Live Nation controls the vast majority of the big national touring acts and, either explicitly or implicitly, coerces concert venues into selecting Ticketmaster as their ticketing service provider on pain of losing high-value acts,” claims Adam Wolfson, a partner at Quinn Emanuel, the law firm representing the plaintiffs.