Justice Department Sues TicketMaster

Courtesy of Denise Szott

Oregon’s attorney general signs on to lawsuit

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The Justice Department has sued TicketMaster and its parent company, Live Nation Entertainment, alleging the ticketing conglomerate maintains an illegal monopoly on live events.

The antitrust lawsuit, filed May 23 in federal court in Manhattan, is co-signed by 30 state attorneys and attorneys general including Oregon attorney general Ellen Rosenblum.

Live Nation, the world’s largest ticket seller, is accused of suppressing competition and driving up ticket prices.

“We allege that Live Nation has illegally monopolized markets across the live concert industry in the United States for far too long,” U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a press conference announcing the lawsuit. “It is time to break it up.”

Ticketmaster controls over 80% of primary ticketing at major concert venues and 60% of concert promotions, in addition to directly managing more than 400 artists. It owns or controls more than 60% of large amphitheaters in the U.S., produces 44,000 shows annually and sells 550 million tickets.

Critics say TicketMaster’s business practices squeeze out smaller promoters and hurt artists. The Justice Department alleges Live Nation uses long-term contracts to squeeze out rivals, prevents venues from using multiple ticket sellers and threatens venues with financial harm if they do business with Ticketmaster’s competitors. By withholding acts that don’t agree with Ticketmaster’s service rules, Live Nation is said to prevent companies from disrupting the market, according to The Associated Press.

“Live Nation’s anticompetitive conduct harms fans and artists alike,” Rosenblum wrote in a statement. “We’re joining this lawsuit because Live Nation stifles innovation, limits consumer choices, inflates prices, and piles on excessive fees — and we want those practices to end.”

In a defense on its website, Live Nation executive vice president Dan Wall claims the lawsuit was brought through the efforts of competing lobbyists and won’t reduce ticket prices. He denies Live Nation violates antitrust law and claims competitors have eaten into Ticketmaster’s market share since 2010.

“(The lawsuit) ignores everything that is actually responsible for higher ticket prices, from rising production costs to artist popularity to 24/7 online ticket scalping that reveals the public’s willingness to pay far more than primary ticket prices,” he wrote.

The Biden administration has been aggressive in antitrust enforcement. In March, the Justice Department sued Apple alleging a monopoly in the smartphone market. It’s also taken on Amazon, Google and other major tech companies, according to the AP.

In Portland, Live Nation is moving forward with plans to build a 3,500-capacity concert venue on SE Water Ave. The project’s developers told Willamette Week in 2022 the planned theater will fill a niche as a mid-sized venue with less fixed seating than the similarly sized Keller Auditorium and Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.

This week, Portland development blogger Iain MacKenzie posted a new rendering of the as-yet unnamed venue.

The antitrust lawsuit wasn’t the only major hit TicketMaster took this month. A massive data leak said to involve the personal and financial data of more than 560 million customers was reported. Hacking group ShinyHunters has claimed credit for the breach.

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