The Department of Justice is reviewing complaints that Live Nation has used its control over concert tours to pressure venues into contracting with its subsidiary, Ticketmaster, the New York Times reports. According to the publication, numerous venues managed by Live Nation’s chief competitor, AEG, were allegedly told—in a possible violation of anti-trust laws—that they would not be able to book valuable shows if they refused to use Ticketmaster as a vendor.
The issues at hand stem from a consent decree that federal officials signed with Live Nation and Ticketmaster when the two live music giants merged back in 2010. At the time, many observers worried that combining the world’s largest concert promoter with the with the world’s largest ticketing entity could lead to monopolistic behavior. However, the consent decree—a legal agreement between all of the parties—was supposed to keep Live Nation from using its power as a promoter to shut down competition in the ticketing market.
Eight years have passed since Live Nation acquired Ticketmaster, and since then ticket prices and service fees have reached records highs. The company, through its Ticketmaster subsidiary, currently runs ticketing at 80 of the United States’ 100 most popular arenas—far more than any of their nearest competitors. In light of AEG’s accusations, federal officials are are now investigating whether or not this market domination has been bolstered by anticompetitive practices.
“The Consent Decree was supposed to prevent Live Nation from using its strength in live entertainment to foreclose competition in ticketing,” Beau Buffier, the chief of the New York Attorney General’s Antitrust Bureau, told the New York Times. “But it is now widely seen as the poster child for the problems that arise when enforcers adopt these temporary fixes to limit the anticompetitive effects of deeply problematic vertical mergers.”
Ticketmaster, for its part, has denied the allegations. The company’s president, Jared Smith, released a statement on Sunday that says, among other things, “We take our obligations under the DOJ Consent Decree very seriously and we do not ever knowingly violate it. The fact is, the Consent Decree simply doesn’t mean what AEG and some of our competitors want it to mean.”
You can read the full report via The New York Times.