Ticketing coalition responds to Live Nation-Ticketmaster DOJ lawsuit

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The Ticket Buyer Bill of Rights Coalition has responded to the antitrust lawsuit filed by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) against Live Nation-Ticketmaster.

Yesterday (Thursday) saw the lawsuit filed in federal court in Manhattan with 30 state and district attorneys general present. 

The lawsuit alleges that Live Nation uses “anticompetitive conduct” to exercise control over the live events industry at the “cost of fans, artists, smaller promoters, and venue operators”, according to Attorney General Merrick Garland. 

In response to the filing of the lawsuit, the numerous organisations that make up the Ticket Buyer Bill of Rights Coalition in the US have responded. 

“The members of the Coalition have long awaited this day, and we are thrilled by the DOJ’s case,” said the coalition. 

“It is strong, compelling, and proves many of the anti-competitive concerns we have shared through our policy debates at the federal and state levels. Breaking up Live Nation and Ticketmaster is just the start, any remedies should also include behavioural changes that protect fans rights, including transferability, transparency, prohibitions on price floors, bots reporting, and a prohibition on their forced arbitration clauses.”

Additionally, Brian Hess, executive director of Sports Fans Coalition, said: “Sports Fans Coalition has called for the break up of Live Nation/Ticketmaster for many years. The landmark lawsuit answers that call. 

“The harms the DOJ has identified affect sports and concert fans alike, especially as a result of Ticketmaster’s ‘data supremacy’ scheme known as SafeTix, which makes it difficult for fans to freely transfer their tickets and puts these fans at risk for retaliation at the gate by denying them access. We applaud Assistant Attorney General Kanter and the 30 other state attorneys general for standing up for sports fans across the country and taking this important action.”

Elsewhere, Live Nation has continued to defend itself against some of the accusations made by the antitrust lawsuit and during a press conference yesterday. 

Dan Wall, executive vice-president, corporate and regulatory affairs, Live Nation Entertainment updated his blog post to address the company’s relationships with Oak View Group and Silver Lake, which backs live entertainment, ticketing and technology company, TEG. 

The lawsuit alleges that Live Nation “scolded” Oak View Group for trying to compete in the US, while it also claims that Live Nation “threatened to retaliate” against private equity firm Silver Lake, unless TEG stopped competing with Live Nation for artist promotion contracts in the US.

“The complaint makes two principal claims concerning Live Nation’s relationship with the Oak View Group (“OVG”), a venue management company.  The first qualifies as disingenuous, in that it is premised on the idea that OVG was a serious potential rival to Live Nation in concert promotion,” wrote Wall. 

“OVG owns and manages venues. It has never been a concert promoter, nor aspired to be one – which is precisely the point being made in the email DOJ quotes.  DOJ’s claim is based on two incidents in which Live Nation and OVG were discussing what to do when an OVG venue wanted to book an occasional show itself on a dark night. To portray that as an agreement not to compete in concert promotion is farcical – particularly when the complaint defines the relevant promotions market as a market for regional or national tours, and explicitly disavows the suggestion that ‘self-supply’ of shows from venue owners is part of that market.”

Additionally, Wall said that the claim surrounding Silver Lake did “not only disregard the facts” but also revealed “a deep hypocrisy”. 

“The current DOJ and FTC [Federal Trade Commission] have been vocal critics of private equity companies making multiple investments in the same industry because of competitive ‘entanglements’. 

“So was Live Nation chief executive Michael Rapino when, after it had already made an investment in OVG, Silver Lake Partners decided to invest in the Australian live entertainment company, TEG.  Rapino’s complaint was fundamentally the same as the DOJ/FTC concern with private equity rollups: it created a conflict between OVG, which had become a close partner to Live Nation, and TEG. So, in December 2021 when a TEG employee wrote to say that it did not intend to compete with Live Nation in the US, Rapino replied to Silver Lake’s management that he did not care about TEG, but still had a problem with Silver Lake’s decision to make multiple conflicting investments in the industry.”

The post added: “There is no truth that this brief exchange had anything to do with Silver Lake’s decision to sell its stake in TEG.”