Back in 2010, Live Nation, the biggest concert promotion company in the world, bought Ticketmaster, the biggest seller of tickets on the planet. What could possibly go wrong?
From the New York Times:
Federal officials tried to reassure the skeptics. They pointed to a consent decree, or legal settlement, they had negotiated as part of the merger approval. Its terms were strict, they said: It would boost competition and block monopolistic behavior by the new, larger Live Nation.
“There will be enough air and sunlight in this space for strong competitors to take root, grow and thrive,” said the country’s top antitrust regulator, Assistant Attorney General Christine A. Varney. And she went further, suggesting that reduced ticket service fees, even lower ticket prices, might be on the horizon.
Eight years after the merger, the ticketing business is still dominated by Live Nation and its operations extend into nearly every aspect of the concert world.
Ticket prices are at record highs. Service fees are far from reduced. And Ticketmaster, part of the Live Nation empire, still tickets 80 of the top 100 arenas in the country. No other company has more than a handful. No competitor has risen to challenge its pre-eminence.
Now Department of Justice officials are looking into serious accusations about Live Nation’s behavior in the marketplace.
They have been reviewing complaints that Live Nation, which manages 500 artists, including U2 and Miley Cyrus, has used its control over concert tours to pressure venues into contracting with its subsidiary, Ticketmaster. The company’s chief competitor, AEG, has told the officials that venues it manages that serve Atlanta; Las Vegas; Minneapolis; Salt Lake City; Louisville, Ky.; and Oakland, Calif., were told they would lose valuable shows if Ticketmaster was not used as a vendor, a possible violation of antitrust law.
Ah. Right. The whole monopolistic behavior thing. The thing that was never supposed to happen.
The company responded this way. From Variety:
In a long response posted on the company’s website, Ticketmaster president Jared Smith said in part: “Ticketmaster continues to maintain its position as the clear industry leader. That leadership, however, is not the result of any unfair advantages resulting from being a part of Live Nation Entertainment as some are suggesting. … The New York Times article suggests that any benefits of being a vertically integrated company are, in and of themselves, anticompetitive. They insinuate that we “condition” content. That we “retaliate” when Ticketmaster is not selected as a venue’s ticketing partner. In short, they say we have stifled competition.
“The reality is that none of these things are true,” he continues. “It is absolutely against Live Nation and Ticketmaster policy to threaten venues that they won’t get any Live Nation shows if they don’t use Ticketmaster. We also do not re-route content as retaliation for a lost ticketing deal. Live Nation is the most artist-focused company in the world, and misusing our relationship with artists to ‘settle scores’ with venues would be both bad business and counter to our core beliefs.”
Why do I have a feeling that this is gonna get very, very weird?