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The United States calls for the dissolution of the owner of Ticketmaster| GuyWhoKnowsThings

The Justice Department on Thursday sued Live Nation Entertainment, the concert giant that owns Ticketmaster, asking a court to dissolve the company over allegations that it illegally maintained a monopoly in the live entertainment industry.

In the lawsuit, joined by 29 states and the District of Columbia, the government accuses Live Nation of dominating the industry by locking venues into exclusive ticketing contracts, pressuring artists to use its services and threaten rivals with financial retaliation.

Those tactics, the government argues, have resulted in higher ticket prices for consumers and have stifled innovation and competition across the industry.

“It is time to dissolve Live Nation-Ticketmaster,” Merrick Garland, the attorney general, said in a statement announcing the lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The lawsuit asks the court to order “the sale of, at a minimum, Ticketmaster” and to prevent Live Nation from engaging in anti-competitive practices.

The lawsuit is a direct challenge to the business of Live Nation, a colossus of the entertainment industry and a force in the lives of musicians and fans alike. The case, filed 14 years after the government approved the merger of Live Nation with Ticketmasterhas the potential to transform the multi-billion dollar concert industry.

Live Nation's scale and reach far exceeds that of any competitor, encompassing concert promotion, ticket sales, artist management and the operation of hundreds of venues and festivals around the world.

According to the Department of Justice, Live Nation controls about 60 percent of concert promotions at major concert venues in the United States and about 80 percent of primary ticket sales at major concert venues.

Lawmakers, fans and competitors have accused the company of engaging in practices that hurt rivals and drive up ticket prices and fees. At a congressional hearing early last year, prompted by Ticketmaster's pre-sale of Taylor Swift's tour that left millions unable to buy tickets, senators from both parties called Live Nation a monopoly.

In its complaint, the Justice Department refers to the numerous additional fees as “essentially a 'Ticketmaster tax' that ultimately increases the price fans pay.”

In response to the lawsuit, Live Nation denied it was a monopoly and said breaking it up would not result in lower ticket prices or fees. According to the company, artists and sports teams are primarily responsible for setting ticket prices, with other business partners, such as venues, taking the lion's share of the markups.

In a statement, Dan Wall, Live Nation's executive vice president of corporate and regulatory affairs, said the Justice Department's lawsuit was the result of “intense political pressure.”

The government's argument, Wall added, “ignores everything that's really responsible for rising ticket prices, from rising production costs to the popularity of artists to 24-hour online ticket scalping. of the day, 7 days a week, which reveals the public's willingness to pay much more than the primary tickets cost. “

The company also says its share of the ticketing market has declined in recent years as it competes with rivals to win business.

In recent years, American regulators have sued other big companies, testing centuries-old antitrust laws against the new power exercised by big companies over consumers. The Department of Justice sued Apple in March, arguing that the company has made it difficult for customers to get rid of their devices and has already brought two cases arguing that Google violated antitrust laws. The Federal Trade Commission filed an antitrust lawsuit last year. against amazon for harming sellers on its platform and is pursuing another against goalpartly due to its acquisitions of Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp.

The Justice Department allowed Live Nation, the world's largest concert promoter, to buy Ticketmaster in 2010 under certain conditions laid out in a legal agreement. If venues didn't use Ticketmaster, e.g. Live Nation could not threaten for concert tours.

In 2019, however, the Department of Justice found that Live Nation had violated those terms and modified and expanded its agreement with the company.

The Justice Department argued in its lawsuit to the New York Times that Live Nation exploited relationships with its partners to keep competitors out of the market. Request a jury trial.

The government's complaint argued that Live Nation threatened venues with losing access to popular tours if they did not use Ticketmaster. That threat could be explicit or simply an implication communicated through intermediaries, the government said, adding that it could also prevent artists who did not work with the company from using its venues.

Additionally, Live Nation has acquired several smaller companies, something Live Nation described in internal documents as eliminating its biggest threats, according to the government.

The Justice Department accused Live Nation of anticompetitive behavior with Oak View Group, a venue company co-founded by Live Nation's former CEO. Oak View Group has avoided competing against Live Nation when it comes to working with artists and has influenced concert venues to sign deals with Ticketmaster, the government argues.

In 2016, Live Nation's CEO complained in an email that Oak View Group had offered to promote an artist who had previously worked with Live Nation. Oak View Group backtracked, according to the government.

“Our guys got a little ahead of themselves,” the company's CEO responded in an email, according to the government. “Everyone knows we don't promote and we only tour with Live Nation.”

The Justice Department's latest investigation into Live Nation began in 2022. Live Nation simultaneously ramped up its lobbying efforts, spending $2.4 million on federal lobbying in 2023, up from $1.1 million in 2022, according to the documents available through the nonpartisan website OpenSecrets.

In April, the company co-hosted a lavish party in Washington before the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner, which featured a performance by country singer Jelly Roll and cocktail napkins that showed positive facts about Live Nation's impact on the economy, such as the billions it says it pays artists.

Under pressure from the White House, Live Nation said in June it would begin show prices for shows at venues they owned that included all charges, including additional fees. The Federal Trade Commission has proposed a rule that would ban hidden fees.

A former commission chairman, Bill Kovacic, said Wednesday that a lawsuit against the company would be a rebuke to previous antitrust officials who had allowed the company to grow to its current size.

“It's another way of saying that the previous policy failed and failed badly,” he said.

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