Live Nation and its subsidiary Ticketmaster may face an antitrust lawsuit from the Department of Justice as early as this fall, Politico reports.
According to three people familiar with the matter, the lawsuit would claim that Ticketmaster is abusing its power in the entertainment industry by squashing other ticketing competition. Based on past comments from antitrust head Jonathan Kanter, if the lawsuit is successful, Live Nation and Ticketmaster may be forced to separate lines of business.
Kanter has made clear his preference to litigate antitrust violators rather than settle, and would also rather impart structural remedies — like breaking up the entertainment giants — rather than behavioral fixes, like asking the companies to promise not to engage in certain behaviors.
In a statement to Politico, Live Nation executive VP for corporate and regulatory affairs Dan Wall said, “We’re in regular contact with the DOJ and they haven’t told us they think we’re doing anything illegal or asked us to address any concerns. It would be highly irregular for the DOJ to file without that notice and a lot of dialogue afterwards. However, if they do file we are prepared to defend ourselves.”
The possible antitrust suit would follow years of federal oversight on Live Nation and Ticketmaster, which began when the companies merged in 2010. In the past, both businesses agreed to sell off some ticketing assets, license their ticketing software, and not force venues to use Ticketmaster — though Live Nation has been accused of violating the latter clause. In a 2019 settlement, the company agreed to extend court oversight via an independent compliance monitor through 2025.
According to Politco’s sources, the lawsuit would be more focused on Ticketmaster’s actions than Live Nation’s. The Justice Department has reportedly asked the company about its resale policies, its deals with venues to only use Ticketmaster, and its contracts with artists.
Whether or not the DOJ actually hits Ticketmaster with a lawsuit this fall may come down to resources, the report says. Antitrust trials against Google and JetBlue/Spirit Airlines are already slated for September and October, while investigations into the conduct of Apple and Visa, as well as an Adobe/Figma merger, are ongoing.
This increased government pressure follows a long line of increasing frustration at Ticketmaster. Last year, the company botched its ticket sale to Taylor Swift’s “The Eras Tour” so badly that several fans initiated lawsuit, while Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Mike Lee (R-UT) announced a congressional antitrust hearing. Another class-action case focused on inflated prices to Drake’s current tour with 21 Savage.