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Live Nation accused of profiteering from COVID-19 by US musicians’ groups

Live Nation has been accused of profiteering from the COVID-19 pandemic by groups representing US artists and musicians, who have called on authorities to investigate the group’s venue policies.

The Artist Rights Alliance, Center for Digital Democracy, and Future of Music Coalition have sent a letter calling on the House Judiciary Committee to investigate Live Nation’s 2021 venue policies and its parent company, Liberty Media, for “monopolistic behaviour and abuses”.

The groups said Live Nation has used uncertainty created by the pandemic among performers to implement unfair “take it or leave it” contract terms for 2021 that radically cut performance fees and expose artists to “absurdly high penalties in the event of any pandemic-related delays or cancellations”.

“Liberty/Live Nation should not be allowed to exploit its multi-market monopoly and impose overwhelmingly one-sided and exploitative terms on performers under cover of a worldwide pandemic emergency,” the joint letter reads.

“Consumers in areas served by Live Nation’s huge array of venues and should not be held hostage to grotesquely overreaching corporate demands.”

Live Nation has been approached for comment on the allegations made by the groups.

In addition to calling on Congress to investigate, the Artist Rights Alliance has launched a petition calling on artists to boycott Live Nation venues and find alternatives to Liberty Media’s offerings when and if possible. The petition also urges the Department of Justice (DOJ) to stop Liberty Media’s planned merger with iHeartMedia which would only expand their market dominance.

The Artist Rights Alliance is led by board members including songwriter Rosanne Cash, Thomas Manzi of The Umbrella Group and CAKE singer John McCrea. Its wider music council includes Sheryl Crow, Elvis Costello and Bette Midler.

In May, US Senators called on the Antitrust Division of the DOJ – 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 Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust Makan Delrahim requesting the Antitrust Division helps to ensure a “vibrant and competitive live performance marketplace” following the pandemic.

The letter noted 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 read: “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.”

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.