US Department of Justice launches investigation into Live Nation Entertainment and Ticketmaster

The US Department of Justice is opening an investigation into Live Nation and Ticketmaster. According to The New York Times, the antitrust investigation “is focused on whether Live Nation Entertainment has abused its power over the multibillion-dollar live music industry.” 

Live Nation and Ticketmaster have come under scrutiny for monopolising the live music sector multiple times over the past two decades. Pearl Jam famously took Ticketmaster to court in 1994, testifying before a committee at Capitol Hill about “the lack of any national competition for Ticketmaster that has created this situation we’re dealing with today.” Issues of monopolisation were only exacerbated after Ticketmaster and Live Nation merged in 2010 to form Live Nation Entertainment. The Department of Justice accepted the merger on a number of conditions. These included Ticketmaster selling another ticketing company it owned to a rival enterprise, as well as licensing its ticket selling software to another rival, Anschutz Entertainment Group. This agreement was revised in 2019, after it was discovered that Live Nation Entertainment had violated the original terms. 

The concern from the general public around Ticketmaster increased significantly this week after the botched rollout of ticket sales for Taylor Swift’s upcoming tour. Tickets were released on pre-sale to fans through Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan Programme, which was implemented to reduce the number of bots and scalpers vying for tickets. However, demand was unprecedented, with many fans facing extreme wait times and a queue of over 2000 people. Despite over 2 million fans being able to secure tickets, Ticketmaster’s servers were unable to handle the demand, leading to multiple technical errors. As a result, Ticketmaster cancelled the planned general public sale of tickets for Swift’s tour, citing “lack of ticket inventory” and “historically unprecedented demand”leading to outrage from fans. This is despite Live Nation Entertainment being aware of the number of fans that had registered for the pre-sale, and warning from Swift’s camp regarding demand for her first tour in five years. 

Swift released a statement on Instagram, expressing disappointment in the experience her fans were made to endure and reiterating the fact that she and her team were told by Ticketmaster that they would be able to handle the demand. “It’s really difficult for me to trust an outside entity with these relationships and loyalties, and excruciating for me to just watch mistakes happen with no recourse” Swift said. “I’m not going to make excuses for anyone because we asked them, multiple times, if they could handle this kind of demand and we were assured they could. It’s truly amazing that 2.4 million people got tickets, but it really pisses me off that a lot of them feel like they went through several bear attacks to get them.”

Following the debacle, a number of senators and congresspeople voiced concern over Ticketmaster and Live Nation Entertainment as a monopoly. On Twitter, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wrote, “Daily reminder that Ticketmaster is a monopoly, its merger with LiveNation should never have been approved, and they need to be reigned in. Break them up.” Senator Amy Klobuchar penned a letter to Ticketmaster CEO Michael Rapino, stating “reports about system failures, increasing fees, and complaints of conduct that violate the consent decree Ticketmaster is under suggest that Ticketmaster continues to abuse its market positions.” Attorney generals in Nevada, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania have all opened inquiries into Ticketmaster on the basis of unfair trade practices. 

Ticketmaster has since issued an apology to Swift and her fans in a blog post, saying “we want to apologise to Taylor and all of her fans – especially those who had a terrible experience trying to purchase tickets,” before going on to explain what happened and how they plan to avoid a situation like this in the future. 

Read Taylor Swift’s full statement below.