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May 23, 2024

Pa. joins federal antitrust lawsuit against Live Nation and Ticketmaster

Attorney General Michelle Henry is leading a coalition of states on the Justice Department suit, which aims to sever the companies.

Lawsuits Antitrust
Ticketmaster lawsuit Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

The U.S. Justice Department and attorneys general from states including Pennsylvania accuse Live Nation Entertainment of operating an illegal monopoly over live music. Above the Blind Boys of Alabama perform at the XPoNential Music Festival.

The U.S. Justice Department announced an antitrust lawsuit Thursday against Live Nation and Ticketmaster that aims to break up the entertainment conglomerate. 

Federal prosecutors accuse the companies, which merged into Live Nation Entertainment in 2010, of operating an illegal monopoly over the live music industry. Their "unlawful, anticompetitive conduct" has resulted in more fees for customers and fewer opportunities for musicians and promoters, Attorney General Merrick Garland said. The prosecution is calling for Live Nation to divest from Ticketmaster and compensate consumers who overpaid for tickets.

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"In recent years, Live Nation-Ticketmaster's exorbitant fees and technological failures have been criticized by fans and artists alike," Garland said at a Thursday morning news conference. "But we are not here today because Live Nation-Ticketmaster's conduct is inconvenient or frustrating. We are here because, as we allege, that conduct is anticompetitive and illegal.

"It is time to break it up."

Joining the Justice Department in its suit are 30 state and district attorneys general, including New Jersey AG Matthew Platkin and Pennsylvania AG Michelle Henry, who will lead the coalition of states.

"Live Nation and Ticketmaster have long had a chokehold on much of the live entertainment industry," Attorney General Henry said in a statement. "Consumers who want to see one of their favorite bands, artists, or shows, are likely to encounter Live Nation and Ticketmaster at the gates. Pennsylvanians deserve to have fair and competitive choices when it comes to tickets to live entertainment."

The antitrust lawsuit specifically accuses Live Nation Entertainment of violating the Sherman Act, an 1890 law designed to preserve free competition. The suit describes several anti-competitive practices, including locking venues into exclusive long-term contracts, barring venues from using other ticketers and buying small promoters to eliminate rivals. Live Nation Entertainment also allegedly used Oak View Group, a partner that manages several sports arenas, as a "hammer" and "protect(or)" to "cement Live Nation’s dominance."

Live Nation Entertainment generates $22 billion annually from concerts, ticketing, sponsorship and advertising. It controls or owns 256 concert venues in North America, and controls at least 80% of primary ticketing at major concert venues, according to Garland.

The company called claims that it is operating as a monopoly "absurd" and insinuated that the Justice Department was bowing to pressure from "rivals and ticket brokers" in a lengthy response posted on its website. Live Nation Entertainment said the lawsuit would not reduce ticket prices, blaming their inflation instead on increasing production costs, artist demand and online ticket scalpers.

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