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November 21, 2022

Lawmakers Demand Ticketmaster Probe After Taylor Swift Fiasco

Credit: Ticket News, Dave Clark

A consortium of House Democrats is calling on the Department of Justice to take action against Ticketmaster/Live Nation, with 31 signing a letter addressed to Attorney General Merrick Garland that was made public on Friday. The letter asks for Garland and the DOJ to open a formal investigation of Ticketmaster “in light of the Taylor Swift tour fiasco” with the reversal of the approval of the 2010 Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger as a goal.

“There is overwhelming evidence that the merger between the world’s largest concert promoter and the largest ticket provider strangled competition for ticketing in the live entertainment marketplace,” the letter reads, in part. “While the harm consumers and artists have endured for over a decade cannot be reserved, ticketing and venue competitors, fans, and local music communities would breathe a collective sigh of relief if the merger were undone.”

Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) is the lead signer of the document, having served as a longtime antagonist of Ticketmaster/Live Nation through the years, including strong opposition to the merger’s original approval back in 2010. Other lawmakers to sign the document are Reps. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-IL-04), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ-12), Barbara Lee (D-CA-13), Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO-05), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY-14), Brendan Boyle (D-PA-02), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI-13), John Garamendi (D-CA-03), Shontel Brown (D-OH-11), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH-09), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA-20), Kathy Castor (D-FL-14), Donald Beyer (D-VA-08), Donald Payne, Jr. (D-NJ-10), Ilhan Omar (D-MN-05), Sanford Bishop (D-GA-02), Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ-02), Jamaal Bowman (D-NY-16), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-03), Katie Porter (D-CA-45), Gerry Connolly (D-VA-11), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-03), David Trone (D-MD-06), Steve Cohen (D-TN-09), Mondaire Jones (D-NY-17), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ-05), Seth Moulton (D-MA-06), Mike Doyle (D-PA-18), Al Green (D-TX-09), Andy Kim (D-NJ-03) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD-08).

The letter was released on Friday afternoon, around the same time that the New York Times reported that a DOJ investigation of Ticketmaster/Live Nation is already underway, news that caused the company’s stock (NYSE:LYV) to drop quickly, stabilizing at around $66/share, nearly 10 percent down from where it had been trading last week and approaching half of its all-time highs reached last fall as confidence in the sustained rebound from COVID-related restrictions on live events was high, right before the Astroworld tragedy.

Among the issues cited in the letter as reasons for lawmakers demanding action are the overwhelming market share held by Live Nation and Ticketmaster – put at more than 80 percent by a 2018 Government Accountability Office report, threats of retaliation if venues did not use Ticketmaster’s services, “squeezing” consumers through the use of “platinum” surge pricing, and “exploitative” contract terms coming out of the pandemic.

“A fair, open, and competitive marketplace has long been a cornerstone of our economy. In line with the [President Biden’s order last week taking action against “Junk” fees], we urge robust enforcement of our laws “to combat the excessive concentration of industry, the abuses of market power, and the harmful effects of monopoly and monopsony” that we continue to see in the ticketing industry,” it says. “Without proper competition in the ticketing industry, music lovers, sports fans, and live event attendees are at the whim of Live Nation Entertainment. We strongly urge the DOJ to prevent anti-competitive practices and protect consumers, artists, and independent venues by immediately beginning a process to review and reverse the disastrous Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger.”

Lawmakers have been vocal in their criticism of Live Nation and Ticketmaster throughout the last week, with many openly calling the company a monopoly in need of remedy as the Taylor Swift saga unfolded. Following news that Friday’s general ticket sale would be cancelled, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez tweeted the link to the Break Up Ticketmaster campaign, helping fuel a surge that has seen it more than quadruple its support just days. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) also published a critical letter to Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino, demanding answers to many anti-trust questions she has regarding the company and its operations.

The full text of the letter and members signatures is available here (PDF opens in new window).