The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has confirmed that it is investigating whether Live Nation has been violating a consent decree that it has been required to follow since merging with Ticketmaster nearly a decade ago.
The consent degree forbids Live Nation from keeping concerts and tours from venues that do not use Ticketmaster for ticket services. It also prevents the company from retaliating against venues that engage one of Ticketmaster’s competitors.
For many years, people have accused Ticketmaster of practicing monopolistic behavior in light of the fact that it has arrangements with 80% of the most important U.S. venues. In April of last year, Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. wrote an editorial in the New York Times demanding that the DOJ investigate what he called “Ticketmaster corruption.”
Then, in June, Pascrell and Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. — along with Sen. Richard Blumenthal — introduced legislation to bring more transparency to the ticketing industry.
But things really got boiling last month when Blumenthal and fellow Senator Amy Klobuchar requested that the DOJ conduct an antitrust investigation of the ticketing industry, with an emphasis on Live Nation and its Ticketmaster merger.
Back then, Live Nation indicated that those who were demanding an investigation misunderstood the consent degree as well as “general ticketing industry dynamics.” On September 18th, Michael Rapino, who runs Live Nation, further addressed the issue at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference, which took place in New York.
Rapino insisted that, while the consent decree prevents Live Nation from threatening to block shows at venues that use a different ticketing platform than Ticketmaster, it does not prevent the company from making decisions that make economic sense.
He further said that, if a venue wants to use a ticketing platform other than Ticketmaster, the venue may not make economic sense to his company.
That’s a very gray line Rapino is drawing, and the DOJ could decide that the ‘making economic sense’ is simply anti-competitive. Rapino went on to say that Live Nation has been compliant with the decree for 8 years.