What the major Ticketmaster lawsuit means for you

What the major Ticketmaster lawsuit means for you
  • PublishedMay 24, 2024

The Justice Department’s massive antitrust suit against Live Nation on Thursday reflects widespread frustration among fans and concertgoers everywhere who are fed up with confusing fees, ticket restrictions and poor customer service at its Ticketmaster business, the country’s biggest live event ticketing company.

But the Department of Justice says those complaints are just the symptom of a more fundamental problem with Live Nation.

“We’re here not because Ticketmaster’s conduct is inconvenient or frustrating,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland at a press conference. “We’re here because it’s illegal.”

Here are four major takeaways for concertgoers from Thursday’s groundbreaking suit.

More competition for fans and artists

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland Kent Nishimura/Getty Images

According to the lawsuit filed in New York by the US government and 30 attorneys general from both political parties, Live Nation has monopolized the live events market by owning key chunks of every industry needed to put on a successful tour.

That stack includes not just Ticketmaster, which sells tickets to fans, but also other parts of the value chain, including the concert promoters who work with artists to put on shows and even many of the venues where they play.

Antitrust officials say Live Nation has weaponized that integration, resorting to exclusive contracts, threats and retaliation to keep competition at bay and to make sure venues and rivals stay in line. Those tactics are what allow Live Nation to charge exorbitant fees that ultimately harm the consumer and to punish artists who boycott the company, the governments say.

Ticket prices won’t go down

The Justice Department seems to think so. Antitrust officials are pushing for a breakup of Live Nation on the theory that splitting it apart will disrupt the “flywheel” that allegedly lets it hold users, artists and venues hostage.

Live Nation, for its part, says even if the lawsuit succeeds, it won’t lead to cheaper ticket prices.

“Calling Ticketmaster a monopoly may be a PR win for the DOJ in the short term,” the company said in a statement, “but it will lose in court because it ignores the basic economics of live entertainment.”

Consumer groups that have advocated for a breakup are applauding the antitrust suit.

“The only way to ensure fair competition, more access, and better service for fans and artists is for the DOJ to see this lawsuit through to the end of Live Nation-Ticketmaster,” said the Fan Fairness Coalition in a statement.

An uncertain path forward

To fix the issue, regulators say Live Nation must be broken up.

Officials won’t say exactly how they think a breakup should work; on a call with reporters Thursday, senior DOJ officials said they are keeping their options open while the case moves forward. If they win the lawsuit and persuade a court that Live Nation broke the law, there could likely be a separate court proceeding to determine what remedies would be appropriate.

But based on past criticism of Live Nation, one possible outcome at a minimum could be a spinoff of Ticketmaster. The two companies famously merged in 2010, creating a vertically integrated behemoth. The DOJ didn’t oppose the deal at the time, instead reaching an agreement with Live Nation that imposed some commitments on the combined company.

Thursday’s lawsuit, in a way, reflects an admission by DOJ that the deal was bad from the start and that the conditions it imposed on Live Nation haven’t worked.

Better customer service

Complaints about Ticketmaster and Live Nation are nothing new. But Taylor Swift may have brought them to the forefront of the public’s attention.

Spurred on by debacles such as the 2022 Taylor Swift fiasco, in which technical glitches at Ticketmaster prevented millions of fans from buying tickets for Swift’s “Eras” tour, criticism of Live Nation and Ticketmaster have reached a fever pitch.

Reacting in 2022 to the Ticketmaster fiasco that enraged her fans, Swift wrote on Instagram that the situation was “excruciating for me” and “pisses me off.”

For many critics of Live Nation, the Swift debacle revealed how a lack of competition has led to harms ranging from poor customer service to confusing pricing to expensive ticketing fees to restrictions on ticket resales — amounting to what many consumers complain of as death by a thousand cuts.


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