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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Taylor Swift Ticket Fiasco Could Rock Sports As Feds Step In

  • The DOJ is suing Ticketmaster and Live Nation for allegedly monopolizing the live event space.
  • In 2022, Ticketmaster was the primary ticketer for 70% of NBA and NHL arenas, the lawsuit claims.
Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

After millions of Taylor Swift fans spent hours fighting “The Great War” on Ticketmaster trying to secure seats to the singer’s Eras Tour, public outcry against the ticketing platform swelled. Now, the Justice Department and 30 state attorneys general have launched a legal attack against Ticketmaster and its parent company, Live Nation, over claims of monopolizing the live entertainment industry.

The 128-page complaint, filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York, lays out allegations of shutting out competition through exclusive contracts, presenting conflicts of interest by controlling several steps of the live music process, and creating an environment that could keep prices higher and quality lower than they would be in a free market.

“Without competitive pressure to spur investment and innovation, customer service, website and app design, and product quality and stability suffer,” the suit reads. “These harms are the natural and predictable consequence of an industry suffocating under monopoly.”

The DOJ’s investigation into the company started in 2022, before the Eras Tour fiasco, according to CBS News. But after the high-profile Swift debacle, public heat was on Ticketmaster, and pressure from the Biden Administration led the events giant last year to say it would start including its so-called “junk fees” as part of the actual price instead of the longtime practice of tacking them on at the end of an online purchase. (The Federal Trade Commission has proposed an outright ban on junk fees.) 

Though the lawsuit is primarily focused on live music, sports are a big part of Ticketmaster’s business. Roughly 60–70% of ticket volume on the platform is for sports events, but the concert business makes more money, Live Nation president and CEO Michael Rapino said in 2021. And in the sports industry, Ticketmaster is king. The company controlled more than 70% of primary ticketing for NBA and NHL arenas in ’22, the suit claims.

The Las Vegas Aces are one example of a team whose tickets are available through the Ticketmaster competitor AXS, which the lawsuit calls the nation’s second-largest primary ticketer. Still, AXS is under one-fifth of the size of Ticketmaster and hasn’t gobbled up a single one of Ticketmaster’s arenas in the past decade, according to the suit.

“We allege that Live Nation relies on unlawful, anticompetitive conduct to exercise its monopolistic control over the live events industry in the United States at the cost of fans, artists, smaller promoters, and venue operators,” U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement. “It is time to break up Live Nation-Ticketmaster.”

If the government does break them up, Swift has plenty of songs to help Live Nation and Ticketmaster get through it.

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