WSJ: DOJ on the verge of suing Live Nation, Ticketmaster's parent company, for monopolistic practices

The Wall Street Journal reported that the government agency is just a month away from filing a lawsuit against Live Nation due to exorbitant ticket prices and faulty customer service.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) could sue Live Nation, Ticketmaster's parent company, for monopolistic practices within the next month. The event company has been in the judicial body's crosshairs for a few months following the "Eras Tour" ticketing fiasco regarding Taylor Swift in 2022. At the time, thousands of fans were left without tickets as Ticketmaster crashed, and the company was unable to fix the error in time, causing frustration for thousands of people and raising questions that American lawmakers did not hesitate to investigate.

This, along with other monopolistic practices, have reportedly caused an imminent lawsuit to be filed by the Department of Justice against Live Nation. The news, revealed exclusively by The Wall Street Journal, is not surprising. The company has been under investigation by the DOJ since Live Nation and Ticketmaster decided to merge in 2010. Even then, some of its practices were frowned upon, but the government agency didn't have enough evidence to file a suit.

In November 2022, the aforementioned investigation into poor organization during the sale of tickets for Taylor Swift's "Eras Tour" began. The show, which first came to the United States and will reach Europe in a few weeks, gave the DOJ the evidence it needed to file the complaint.

Ticket prices and poor customer service among DOJ's reasons for suing Live Nation

These malfunctions were not the only reasons. Exorbitant prices for certain events, coupled with poor customer service and anti-competitive practices, resulted in the judicial body's choice to sue the company for monopolistic competition.

These anti-competitive practices, explained CNN, consisted of requiring venues to have ticket sales through Ticketmaster, otherwise the event might not be held, at least not with Live Nation's support. This was coupled with complaints from certain artists that the price for access to their shows was excessive and that, in turn, provoked complaints from their fans who, in many cases, were unable to attend the event.

Live Nation executives say prices are not set by the company

Live Nation Executive Vice President for Corporate and Regulatory Affairs Dan Wall attempted to explain the controversy over event pricing. Via a statement posted on Live Nation's website, the executive assured that the ticket price was chosen by the "artists and teams."

Tickets are actually priced by artists and teams. It’s their show, they get to decide what it costs to get in. The NFL tickets on Ticketmaster were priced by the home teams, concert tickets were priced by the performer’s business teams, Monster Jam tickets were priced by its producer (Feld Entertainment), and so forth.

This same argument was used by company President and CFO Joe Berchtold during the 2023 hearing. He assured that Ticketmaster does not set the prices of tickets nor does it determine the number of tickets that are offered for sale. In fact, he explained, "In most cases, venues set service and ticketing fees."

Berchtold also asserted that Live Nation was not to blame for the exorbitant rate increase, as the company only owns only 200 of the nearly 4,000 venues that choose to offer events in the United States, which would represent about 5% of the total market.

These arguments could be used if the DOJ goes forward with the lawsuit, which may result in the company trying to reach some type of agreement with the judicial body instead of being handed down sanctions.