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Congress members again raise competition concerns about Live Nation and Ticketmaster following John Oliver segment

By | Published on Thursday 17 March 2022


US Congress members Richard Blumenthal and Amy Klobuchar have again asked the country’s Department Of Justice to review competition in the live entertainment and ticketing market, and in particular the dominance of Live Nation and its Ticketmaster division.

The new intervention follows a recent segment on John Oliver’s ‘Last Week Tonight’ which ran through the various issues that have been raised in relation to the ticketing market over the years, including secondary ticketing which – unlike in Europe – Live Nation’s Ticketmaster is still actively involved in Stateside.

Senators Blumenthal and Klobuchar – alongside Bill Pascrell in the US House Of Representatives – have criticised Live Nation and Ticketmaster’s dominance of the US live entertainment sector before.

In 2019, Blumenthal and Klobuchar called on the DoJ to look into the consent decree that regulates to an extent the relationship between Live Nation and Ticketmaster, and which was agreed with the US government department when the two live music firms merged back in 2010.

That consent decree was actually due to expire in 2020. However, after an investigation by the DoJ – which identified a small number of incidents when Live Nation had arguably broken the rules set out in that document – a new deal was done between the regulator and the live music giant that extended the consent decree, in a slightly revised form, for another five years.

Confirming they remain concerned about competition issues in the US live sector – and citing Oliver’s recent report – Blumenthal and Klobuchar said in a statement earlier this week: “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”.

They then confirmed that they have sent a new letter to the DoJ, which reads: “We write to urge the department to investigate the state of competition in the live entertainment and ticketing industry, including any potential anti-competitive 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”.

“We are deeply concerned”, the letter goes on, “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”.

“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”, the letter adds.

“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”.

It then concludes: “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”.

Responding to the latest intervention by Blumenthal and Klobuchar, a spokesperson for Live Nation disputed their description of the US live entertainment market today, insisting that there is plenty of competition in that marketplace. They also cited the live firm’s past support for various measures to make the live sector more consumer-friendly.

The spokesperson told Billboard: “The live entertainment industry has never been more vibrant and competitive, which is evident from the many companies that continue entering the market and growing. We are proud of the many progressive policies we have innovated and advocated for – from refunds, to all-in pricing, transparent resale disclosures and more. We will continue using our influence to improve the industry”.

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