Two Democratic senators are calling for a federal antitrust investigation of Live Nation and its online concert ticket platform, Ticketmaster, in light of what they say are “nefarious practices” and “sky-high fees” levied on consumers.
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democratic presidential contender, and Connecticut Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal sent a letter to the Justice Department that they have “serious concerns” about the online ticketing industry.
“The ticketing industry is broken,” they wrote. “We strongly urge you to investigate this market and take any actions necessary to ensure that it serves the public.”
Billboard first reported on the letter.
In a high-profile merger in 2010, Live Nation merged with Ticketmaster in a massive deal that gave it ownership over more than 140 concert venues around the world, according to Reuters.
The Justice Department eventually approved the tie-up after the combined company agreed to license some of its ticketing software to a rival and to spin off other parts of its business. Live Nation also agreed not to punish concert venues that were loyal to competing ticketing systems by denying them access to artists affiliated with Live Nation.
Blumenthal and Klobuchar say the Justice Department’s conditions haven’t worked, and cited a 2018 Government Accountability Office study that said fees average 27% of ticket prices and are often displayed late in the purchasing process.
“Ticket markets are dominated by one corporation, Live Nation Entertainment (Live Nation), which has the power to impose hefty fees on consumers who lack real competitive alternatives,” the senators wrote.
“The losers in all of this are the American people. Without significant market competition, Ticketmaster and other primary ticket providers continue to charge high fees to consumers,” they said.
Citing a report by The New York Times showing that Live Nation ticketed 80 of the top 100 concert arenas in America in 2016, Blumenthal and Klobuchar said DOJ’s antitrust division should investigate whether Live Nation has lived up to its commitments. If not, they said, DOJ should consider trying to extend the agreement past its 2020 expiration date.
In a statement, the Justice Department said it had received the letter and appreciated the lawmakers’ views. Live Nation, in a statement, said there is “no cause for further investigation.”
“Unfortunately, the Senators’ letter is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of our consent decree and general ticketing industry dynamics,” the company said. “Live Nation and Ticketmaster have always complied with their obligations under the consent decree. We do not force anyone into ticketing agreements by leveraging content, and we do not retaliate against venues that choose other ticketing providers.”