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Live Nation calls monopoly claim absurd, calls administration anti-business

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Entertainment giant Live Nation shot back Thursday after the U.S. Department of Justice alleged it maintains an illegal monopoly over the live concert industry.

The Beverly Hills company called claims it maintains a monopoly “absurd” and said the Biden administration was “anti-business.”

“We are another casualty of this Administration’s decision to turn over antitrust enforcement to a populist urge that simply rejects how antitrust law works,” Live Nation Executive Vice President Dan Wall said. “Some call this ‘anti-monopoly,’ but in reality it is just anti-business.”

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the U.S. Department of Justice’s lawsuit Thursday. He said the company suffocates competition through illegal and anti-competitive practices that harm the entire industry – concert-goers, artists and venues.

Garland said Live Nation and its subsidiary, Ticketmaster, control at least 80% of primary ticketing at major concert venues, manage more than 400 artists and controls more than 60% of concert promotions across the country. The company also owns or controls more than 60% of large amphitheaters in the U.S., Garland said.

“Rather than investing in better products and services, we allege that Live Nation has illegally monopolized markets across the live concert industry in the United States for far too long,” Garland said during a news conference. “We allege that to sustain this dominance, Live Nation relies on unlawful anti-competitive conduct to exercise its monopolistic control over the live events industry in the United States. And over the fans, artists, independent promoters and venues that power the industry. The result is that fans pay more in fees, artists have fewer opportunities to play concerts, smaller promoters get squeezed out, and venues have fewer real choices for ticketing services.”

Live Nation Entertainment Inc. owns or controls more than 265 concert venues in North America, including more than 60 of the top 100 amphitheaters in the U.S. It generates over $22 billion globally in annual revenue from three business segments: concerts, ticketing, and sponsorship and advertising, according to the Justice Department. Ticketmaster LLC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Live Nation. Ticketmaster sells concert tickets to fans and operates resale platforms that enable buyers to resell those tickets.

Live Nation said performers set prices. Wall said when Live Nation and Ticketmaster merged in 2010, it did so under the terms of an agreement with the Justice Department.

“The Obama Administration saw it differently. It allowed Live Nation and Ticketmaster to merge, and in defending that position acknowledged that there was no legal basis for challenging the vertical aspects of the merger – specifically, allowing a large concert promoter to combine with a large ticketing company,” Wall wrote. “In one filing, it said that it had ‘determined that it could not prove that the vertical integration resulting from the merger would significantly harm competition in the concert promotion market.’ There is no factual basis for concluding otherwise today. The world is a better place because of that merger, not a worse one.”

Live Nation stated limited supply drove up ticket costs.

An example was a 2014 concert that Beyonce gave at the 3,200-seat Roseland Ballroom in New York. A Beyonce fan site called it “4 Intimate Nights With Beyonce” and reported the first date sold out in 22 seconds and the rest of the three shows were sold out within a minute of going on sale.

“The real explanations for high ticket prices are well-understood and have very little to do with Live Nation or Ticketmaster,” Live Nation stated on its website. “They begin with the economic conditions that explain most pricing: supply and demand. For a small percentage of concerts — the high-profile ones — consumer demand greatly exceeds the supply of available tickets. This is obvious at the apex of the industry, where stars like Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, Ed Sheeran, Bruce Springsteen and Harry Styles could easily sell out far more shows than they could realistically play. But it’s not just them. For the top 5-10% of touring artists, demand is regularly well in excess of the supply of tickets. We are fortunate that artists in this category choose not to exercise their full pricing power; otherwise, they would charge the much higher prices we see on resale markets. But basic economics applies to concert tickets too, so strong demand naturally leads to higher ticket pricing.”