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DOJ’s Antitrust Division urged to continue monitoring Live Nation’s dominance

US Senators have called on the country’s competition watchdog to continue to monitor Live Nation’s dominance of the live events sector once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

Senators Amy Klobuchar, Richard Blumenthal, and Cory Booker sent a letter to on Thursday to Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust Makan Delrahim requesting the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice helps to ensure a “vibrant and competitive live performance marketplace” following the pandemic.

The letter notes how hard the live events industry has been hit and that venues, which mostly closed in mid-March, will “likely be among the last to reopen.”

It reads: “This has caused event spaces across the country to close their doors, with little prospect of reopening in the near future and no alternative sources of income. We recognise that independent industry participants may face additional challenges in weathering this crisis and are concerned that Live Nation Entertainment, a company that already dominates the live entertainment industry, will emerge even more powerful once it is over.

“When Americans are ready to go back to stadiums, theatres, and concert halls, they deserve a competitive marketplace that offers value, choice, and a variety of entertainment experiences.

“Accordingly, we urge you to closely monitor these markets during and after this pandemic to ensure that all industry participants and consumers benefit from free and fair competition.”

The COVID-19 shutdown of live events has forced hundreds of independent performance venues in the US to cease operations. The letter highlights that independent venues, most of which compete with Live Nation venues, do not have the “financial resources of a multibillion-dollar company to weather a drastic downturn in revenue.”

The Senators also suggest that due to the financial stress of the pandemic many venues could be forced to close or sell out to large buyers, “if not to Live Nation itself.”

The letter continues: “And for those venues that are able to remain independent through the pandemic, many have raised concerns about Live Nation leveraging its dominance in ticketing, artist management, and other markets to prevent independent venues from booking events after the crisis is over.”

It mentions Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), purchasing a 5.7 per cent stake in Live Nation last month, noting that “some investors are also optimistic about Live Nation’s long-term prospects.”

Last August, Klobuchar and Blumenthal requested the DOJ conduct an investigation into the state of competition in the ticketing marketplace given concerns that Live Nation, which owns Ticketmaster, was ignoring a 2010 consent decree.

Live Nation reached a tentative settlement with the Antitrust Division and will extend the 2010 consent decree regarding the company’s merger with Ticketmaster until 2025.

Image: Splitshire