To approve the merger, the Justice Department required that the combined company agree to certain rules. One was that Ticketmaster wasn’t allowed to force venues to sign ticketing deals by threatening to deny them access to Live Nation tours. They couldn’t say, “If you don’t use Ticketmaster, you’re not getting X-Y-Z tours next year.”
But a few years ago, the Justice Department investigated and found that Ticketmaster had in fact done this a number of times.
And at the hearing this week, the C.E.O. of rival ticketing service SeatGeek testified that when they pitch their services, venues will be impressed with their proposal, but say that they’re worried about losing concerts if they drop Ticketmaster. Senator Klobuchar said that this is the definition of monopoly — that Live Nation doesn’t even need to exert pressure, and people just fall in line.
How do artists feel about this? Could they just sell their own tickets?
Nearly 30 years ago, Pearl Jam sued Ticketmaster, which the band said had a monopoly on concert tickets. They tried to book a tour without Ticketmaster, but it was a challenge for them to find venues to play outside the Ticketmaster ecosystem. They eventually abandoned the fight and came back to Ticketmaster.
For very large artists, it could be possible. Taylor Swift sells her own merch; maybe she could sell tickets too? But there is a status quo built into the marketplace for live music: An artist goes out and makes a deal with a promoter to put on a show, the promoter finds a venue for the show to happen, and the venue has a deal with a ticketing system for everyone who performs there. It’s not easy to change, especially when one big player controls multiple parts of it.
Back in 2018, we reported that Ticketmaster handles 80 of the top 100 U.S. venues. The company’s market share is a matter of debate, but it is still very high.
What might come after the Senate hearing?
It’s unclear. If the Justice Department does seek to break up the company, it would be a very big deal. Even though the senators were united in their displeasure about the power that Live Nation Entertainment has, I think it’s an uphill battle to change the system.