DOJ Officially Files Antitrust Complaint Seeking Live Nation-Ticketmaster Split — Here’s a Detailed Look at the 124-Page Filing

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Live Nation head Michael Rapino, whose company is officially facing a DOJ antitrust lawsuit. Photo Credit: Live Nation

After years of speculation, the Justice Department and 30 state attorneys general have officially filed an antitrust lawsuit against Live Nation, seeking, among other things, the split of the promoter from its Ticketmaster subsidiary.

The DOJ submitted that all-encompassing suit to a New York federal court today, accusing the defendants of “monopolizing markets across the live concert industry.” Live Nation has already fired back against the corresponding press conference and the long-expected complaint itself, which is spurring a number of comments from both in and beyond the music industry.

A Top-Level Look At the DOJ’s Antitrust Suit: Live Nation and Ticketmaster Allegedly “Freeze Innovation and Bend the Industry to Their Own Benefit”

Beginning with the 124-page action, the plaintiffs allege multiple Sherman Antitrust Act violations (monopolization, unlawful exclusive dealing, and much else) as well as violations of participating states’ various competition laws.

These purported infractions, the action claims early on, constitute “additional, different, and more expansive forms of anticompetitive conduct and exclusionary practices” than were discussed when the federal government approved the original merger (with a consent decree) in 2010 before extending the decree into 2025 towards the start of 2020.

At the top level – and in support of a request that the court compel “the divestiture of, at minimum, Ticketmaster” from Live Nation – the filing parties maintain that the promoter and its ticketing platform leverage their joint ownership to stomp out competition, “freeze innovation,” and ultimately “bend the industry to their own benefit.” In the end, those alleged practices harm consumers, per the plaintiffs.

“Live Nation possesses and routinely exercises control over which artists perform on what dates at which venues,” the voluminous legal text reads in part. “Through Ticketmaster, Live Nation also possesses and exercises control over how fans are able to purchase tickets to see their favorite artists in concert and what fees those fans will pay to do so. Artists and fans as well as the countless people and other services that support them suffer from the loss of dynamism and growth that competition would inevitably usher in.”

The Specifics of the DOJ’s Live Nation and Ticketmaster Complaint

Behind that overarching argument, the suit accuses the defendants of retaliating to prevent new competitors from entering the live entertainment space, “threatening and retaliating against venues that work with rivals,” restricting artists’ access to venues, blocking venues from using multiple ticket providers, and more.

Interestingly, while Irving Azoff isn’t mentioned by name in the complaint, Oak View Group (which he co-founded) factors prominently into the action and the alleged monopolistic business practices at hand.

Taking aim at the alleged “cozy relationship” between Live Nation and Oak View, the suit, making good use of executive-level communications, alleges “a competitive détente in concert promotions to avoid competition…over artists and tours.”

“Oak View Group effectively ceded the concert promotions space to Live Nation, Live Nation effectively ceded its arena consulting business to Oak View Group,” the text proceeds, subsequently calling for the outright “termination of Live Nation’s ticketing agreement with Oak View Group.”

Moreover, the suit cites a 2022 pact between the businesses in support of an argument that “Live Nation exploits its long-term relationship with Oak View Group to flip venues to Ticketmaster.”

At the intersection of its well-established (and highly profitable) roles as a promoter and a ticketing provider, Live Nation allegedly “relies on ‘carrots and sticks’ to induce venues to sign long-term exclusive ticketing contracts that offer durable protection for Ticketmaster’s dominance,” according to the plaintiffs.

“Venues have seen that if they sign with a Ticketmaster competitor, they risk losing lucrative Live Nation concerts and may suffer other harmful retaliation,” the document continues.

Live Nation’s Response to the DOJ Complaint: “It Ignores Everything That Is Actually Responsible for Higher Ticket Prices”

Hardly shying away from the media spotlight in the lead-up to the suit’s official filing, Live Nation, having long grappled with ample lawmaker scrutiny, addressed the Justice Department’s investigation multiple times. March of 2024 brought a lengthy analysis of “the truth about ticket prices,” for instance.

And earlier in May, during a Q1 earnings call, CFO Joe Berchtold said he and other execs “don’t believe a break-up of Live Nation and Ticketmaster would be a legally permissible remedy.”

In keeping with this strategy, Live Nation (shares in which dipped by about 8% today) has rolled out a “Breaking Down the DOJ Lawsuit” page. Featuring text penned by EVP of corporate and regulatory affairs Dan Wall and expected to receive updates, the breakdown pushes back against the argument that Live Nation is “the cause of fan frustration with the live entertainment industry” and challenges the “absurd” monopoly allegations.

The refutation includes a visual resource comparing “commission rates of digital marketplaces” and a separate graph showing how Live Nation’s 2023 net profit margin stacks up against the margins of Alphabet, Apple, and Meta.

“It is also clear that 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,” Wall wrote, later reiterating that “the Obama Administration saw it differently” back in 2010. “Some call this ‘Anti-Monopoly’, but in reality it is just anti-business.

“A central tenet of these populists is that antitrust should target companies that have grown large enough that in some nebulous way they ‘dominate’ markets—even if they attained their size through success in the marketplace, not practices that harm consumers, which is the focus of antitrust laws,” he proceeded.

Responses to the DOJ’s Antitrust Action Against Live Nation and Ticketmaster

Predictably, many of the politicians who have for years criticized Live Nation’s business model and practices are expressing support for the action. And organizations including but not limited to the Coalition for Ticket Fairness reached out to DMN with remarks concerning the development.

“This news from the DOJ is promising, and we believe it highlights the need for federal legislation to address the near monopoly and its negative impact on fans,” the Coalition for Ticket Fairness said in part. “It is important to note that Live Nation has also shifted in strategy, pushing for legislation at the state level.

“Bills have been aggressively lobbied in several states, including Maryland, California, and Colorado,” continued the entity, “where state legislators are told that they are ‘fan friendly’ and better for the artist, when the opposite is true. The truth of course is that in the live event ticket market, allowing for more competition and lower prices is always best for fans.”