15-Dec-2019 (Sun) Wherein Christmas came early for Live Nation.

What's most surprising about this story is that the DOJ is actually pursuing antitrust action. That's very off-brand for this administration. Hasn't the DOJ been dismantled by now? Maybe this means that Live Nation forgot to renew their Mafia-a-Lago membership.

DOJ preparing legal action against Live Nation

The U.S. Justice Department is preparing to take legal action against Live Nation Entertainment on allegations the concert promoter has sought to strong-arm concert venues into using its dominant Ticketmaster subsidiary. The department believes the concert promoter's conduct has violated the merger settlement Live Nation and Ticketmaster reached with the government in 2010 and plans to file a decree enforcement action, the source said. [...]

The Justice Department allowed the companies to merge on condition they abide by a range of conditions to keep ticket prices in check, including agreeing here to be barred from retaliating against venue owners who use a competing ticket service.

As ticket prices rise and the settlement is set to expire next year, the government now plans to extend the restrictions by several years and prohibit coercive conduct by Live Nation.

"Extending the restrictions" means "Stop! Or I'll say 'stop' again." But hey, baby steps.

Live Nation Consent Decree Review Requested by House Reps to DOJ

The effectiveness of the consent decree's antip-retaliation provision has been the subject of debate in recent years as its July 2020 expiration nears. Besides forcing Ticketmaster to divest several assets and temporarily license its technology to AEG, the company was barred from retaliating against venues and promoters that didn't use its technology.

"The decree gets a lot of misconception," Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino said. "It says we can't threaten venues. We can't say to a Ticketmaster venue that says they want to use a different ticketing platform, 'If you do that, we won't put shows in your building.' It also says we can do what's right for our business, so we have to put the show where we make the most economics and maybe that venue [that wants to use a different ticketing platform] won't be the best economic place anymore because we don't hold the revenue."

"Nice venue you've got there. Be a shame if something.... happened to it."

That distinction -- between retaliating against companies that go with competitors (not allowed) and rewarding clients that do go with Ticketmaster (allowed) -- critics argue has essentially given Ticketmaster the de facto monopoly position in music and the ticketing supply chain that many feared 10 years ago.

I'm old enough to remember that time in 2018 when Live Nation got caught scalping their own tickets and then literally nothing happened. But, at least some imaginary money went back to imaginary-money-heaven: "Live Nation shares fell 7.3% on Friday [...] The drop shaved about $1 billion off Live Nation's market cap, which sits around $13.8 billion."

You may recall from my earlier round-up on the corporate consolidation of live music that TicketMaster sells 80% of all tickets in the US, and their parent company, Live Nation, own 117 venues and exclusively books 33 others, including The Fillmore, The Masonic, Cobb's, Punch Line and August Hall.

Update, a week later:

Live Nation and the DOJ reached a "settlement" that does nothing but extend the time period of the consent decree, with no fine. So it goes like this:

    "You have to follow these rules for ten years."
    "Hey, you didn't follow those rules at all!"
    "Ok, now you have to follow them for another ten years. Please?"

"Live Nation's stock immediately rebounded after the story broke, up nearly 10%." So all that imaginary money came back from imaginary-money-heaven, with interest.

2 Responses:

  1. Dave says:

    Considering I've been around a lot of this crap from the beginning, I'm not surprised at all with the garbage Live Nation pulls. What does surprise me is that anyone in the government is doing anything against them now, when you could see from the very beginning that they were strong arming every promoter in the country, and did absolutely nothing back then.

    • Jim says:

      The loudest guy on Twitter complaining about monopoly, monopsony, and consolidation in particular is Matt Stoller. As you might expect from the meaningless retaliation vs. reward distinction cited, lawyers are close to the heart of the problem.

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