DOJ and 29 states sue Live Nation, Ticketmaster for alleged monopolistic practices

The actions comes after an outcry from consumers and lawmakers.
Taylor Swift performs at the Paris Le Defense Arena as a part of her Eras Tour concert in Paris, Thursday, May 9, 2024. (AP Photo/Lewis Joly)

The U.S. Department of Justice and attorneys general from 29 states and Washington, D.C., are suing event and concert promoter Live Nation Entertainment Inc. and its subsidiary Ticketmaster, alleging the companies operate a monopolistic enterprise that harms consumers.

The 128-page lawsuit, announced Thursday, comes after a 2022 ticket-buying fiasco surrounding Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour and amid growing fan frustration about Live Nation’s dominance in the live event marketplace.

The issue has led to legislation in both Congress and state legislatures.

“For too long, Live Nation and Ticketmaster have unfairly and illegally run the world of live events, abusing their dominance to overcharge fans, bully venues, and limit artists,” New York Attorney General James (D) said in a statement announcing her participation in the lawsuit.

“When companies like Live Nation control every aspect of an event, it leads to bad blood – concertgoers and sports fans suffer and are forced to pay cruel prices. Everybody agrees, Live Nation and Ticketmaster are the problem, and it’s time for a new era. Today, we are taking this important action to protect consumers and force big companies to stop abusing their influence,” James said.

Live Nation forcefully pushed back on the lawsuit in an emailed statement saying antitrust litigation would not address issues that fans care about, including the price of tickets, the amount of service fees or access to hot-ticket events.

“Calling Ticketmaster a monopoly may be a PR win for the DOJ in the short term, but it will lose in court because it ignores the basic economics of live entertainment,” the statement said. “We will defend against these baseless allegations, use this opportunity to shed light on the industry, and continue to push for reforms that truly protect consumers and artists.”

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in the Southern District of New York, alleges that Live Nation engages in anticompetitive conduct that drives up ticket prices for fans, restricts artists’ freedom to choose where and when they perform, and uses “bullying” tactics to force venues into long-term contracts.

According to the legal complaint, Live Nation earns more than $22 billion a year and owns or controls 60% of the top amphitheaters in the United States. It also states that Ticketmaster has 80% of the primary ticketing marketplace and a significant share of the secondary market.

“Live Nation — through Ticketmaster — has a durable monopoly in primary ticketing services for major concert venues in the United States,” the lawsuit states. “For example, in 2022, Ticketmaster accounted for at least 70% of the total face value associated with all tickets sold at large arenas and amphitheaters. No other rival ticketed more than 14%.”

The lawsuit alleges that Live Nation and Ticketmaster have gobbled up would-be competitors and threatened retaliation against venues that work with other companies. It also alleges that Live Nation and Ticketmaster engage in “exclusionary contracts” and prevent venues from working with multiple ticket sellers while tacking on multiple fees to the price of tickets in what the lawsuit describes as a “Ticketmaster Tax.”

Live Nation countered in its statement and in a lengthy blog post that competition has increased in the live events market and that its annual net profits were only 1.4% last fiscal year. The company also said the lawsuit is misplaced because artists set ticket prices and that venues determine most of the ticket fee.

“This lawsuit distracts from real solutions that would decrease prices and protect fans – like letting artists cap resale prices,” the company said.

The lawsuit seeks to force Live Nation to divest itself of Ticketmaster, cease anticompetitive practices and pay civil penalties.

Along with New York and D.C., the states participating in the litigation are: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

“This is a big deal for Oregonians,” Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum (D) said 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.”

State lawmakers have stepped up their scrutiny of Live Nation and Ticketmaster after a stampede to buy tickets for Swift’s tour overwhelmed the system and left fans frustrated and ticketless. The company said at the time that part of the issue was “bots” that buy seats for the resale market.

Lawmakers in numerous states have considered bills to regulate the ticket market. Most of those bills focused on ticket pricing and fees, including a bill Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) signed this month.

California Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D), chair of the Appropriations Committee, proposed a different approach in April. She authored legislation that seeks to prohibit exclusive deals between a ticketing company and an entertainment venue.

“[This bill is] designed to truly transform live event ticketing by increasing competition when tickets go on sale for the first time,” Wicks said in a news conference announcing the legislation.

Wicks’s bill was passed out of committee last month but she subsequently put it on hold “to make sure the policy advances thoughtfully and with consumer interests at the forefront.”