“The status quo has resulted in ever-growing fees for consumers and poor consumer experiences when purchasing tickets for live events.”
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Today, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) called on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate the state of competition in the market for live entertainment, including potential violations of Ticketmaster-Live Nation’s updated consent decree. As live events continue to open up, American consumers are confronting skyrocketing ticket prices, opaque terms, and exorbitant fees. Yet live entertainment markets, especially ticket markets, are dominated by one corporation, Live Nation, which cemented its dominance through its 2010 merger with Ticketmaster. DOJ is responsible for enforcing the consent decree that cleared the way for the merger of the companies. After reports of Live Nation’s repeat violations of the original consent decree and following Blumenthal and Klobuchar’s inquiry into the manner in 2019, DOJ obtained an updated consent decree in 2020. Recent reports indicate that Ticketmaster-Live Nation has continued charging consumers exorbitant fees, and the company’s ongoing aggressive buy-outs of potential competitors to even further dominate the market are renewing concerns about the state of the industry.
“We write to urge the Department to investigate the state of competition in the live entertainment and ticketing industry, including any potential anticompetitive and anti-consumer actions by Live Nation, and to take action, as appropriate, to enforce the antitrust laws and restore competition to these important markets,” wrote Blumenthal and Klobuchar to DOJ Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division Jonathan Kanter. “We are deeply concerned that the Department’s past enforcement and negotiated remedies in this industry have failed to adequately foster and protect competition in live entertainment and ticketing markets.”
Live Nation, which owns Ticketmaster, has a near-monopoly on the live event ticketing market. The companies also control a significant share of venues and artist management services. Live Nation frequently charges exorbitant processing fees that can raise the total cost of tickets for consumers—adding as much as 75 percent of the face value of a concert ticket in processing fees.
Blumenthal and Klobuchar stressed the aggressive practices used by Live Nation in restricting competition, writing: “industry participants have long complained about Live Nation leveraging its powerful market positions in ticketing, event promotion, sponsorship and advertising, artist management, and performance venue bookings to advantage its affiliate businesses up and down the entertainment value chain. To bolster its market power, Live Nation has engaged in an aggressive acquisition strategy to buy vertical competitors, including companies in the music festival and concert promoter markets.”
Live Nation acquired 58 companies between 2006 and 2021, acquired the organizers of four of America’s biggest festivals between 2013 and 2015, and reduced competitors in the entertainment venue industry by buying House of Blues Entertainment Inc. in 2006. Over the COVID-19 pandemic, Live Nation continued its acquisitions, buying a competing ticketing startup Rival in 2020, acquiring a majority stake in a live-streaming platform Veeps, and expanding internationally.
In their call for DOJ’s investigation, the senators emphasized the negative effects of the industry’s consolidation on consumers, writing: “Multiple reports indicate the industry is rife with practices that prevent consumers from accessing tickets at affordable prices or prevent access entirely, including holdbacks and staggered sales, bots, lack of all-in pricing, and the reselling of free tickets.”
The full text of the letter is available here.