Following an antitrust investigation into the business practices of Live Nation and Ticketmaster, the Department of Justice has reached a deal with the two companies to amend and extend the regulatory agreement they signed when their merger was approved in 2010. The DOJ investigation found that Live Nation had repeatedly violated the 10-year consent decree signed after the merger, in which the company agreed to refrain from monopolistic practices such as withholding valuable shows from venues in order to force them to contract Ticketmaster for ticketing services.
Billboardreported on Monday that the DOJ identified five discrete violations of the consent decree in which Live Nation did just that, threatening to withhold tours from venues if they did not renew their deals with Ticketmaster. A 2018 report inThe New York Timesalso suggested that the terms laid out in the consent decree were not fully followed.
The proposed amendments to the agreement filed in federal court today extend the decree through the end of 2025. It was set to expire in July 2020. Live Nation will also be responsible for reimbursing the government for any costs incurred in enforcing the regulations, such as an the independent monitor the DOJ will appoint to investigate and report on Live Nation’s activities, as well as an internal Live Nation antitrust compliance officer. Live Nation will also be fined $1 million for each violation.
“Today’s enforcement action including the addition of language on retaliation and conditioning will ensure that American consumers get the benefit of the bargain that the United States and Live Nation agreed to in 2010,” Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim in a press release from the DoJ’s Antitrust Division. “Merging parties will be held to their promises and the Department will not tolerate transgressions that hurt the American consumer.”
A statement posted to the Live Nation website reads: “We have reached an agreement in principle with the Department of Justice to extend and clarify the consent decree. We believe this is the best outcome for our business, clients and shareholders as we turn our focus to 2020 initiatives.”
The DOJ opened the regulatory investigation into Live Nation and Ticketmaster in August, following a request from Senators Amy Klobuchar and Richard Blumenthal for an inquiry into the concert companies’ business practices. In a five-page letter published on August 27, Senator Blumenthal’s office laid out a “serious concern” about the state of the ticketing industry, specifically the “exorbitant fees and inadequate disclosures” that concert-goers face when they go online to purchase tickets from sites such as Ticketmaster and StubHub.
In response to the Senators’ initial request for an inquiry, Live Nation said in a statement: “Ticketmaster has been successfully growing its client base over the past decade as a result of continuous innovation and providing the best ticketing solution in the industry. During that period, Live Nation and Ticketmaster have always complied with their obligations under the consent decree. We do not force anyone into ticketing agreements by leveraging content, and we do not retaliate against venues that choose other ticketing providers. There is no cause for further investigations or studies.”