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Taylor Swift accepts the award for favorite music video for "All Too Well (Taylor's Version)" at the American Music Awards on Nov. 20, 2022, in Los Angeles. (AP) Taylor Swift accepts the award for favorite music video for "All Too Well (Taylor's Version)" at the American Music Awards on Nov. 20, 2022, in Los Angeles. (AP)

Taylor Swift accepts the award for favorite music video for "All Too Well (Taylor's Version)" at the American Music Awards on Nov. 20, 2022, in Los Angeles. (AP)

Sara Swann
By Sara Swann November 18, 2022

If Your Time is short

  • Antitrust experts say that Live Nation Entertainment created in 2010 through a merger of Ticketmaster and Live Nation is a monopoly.   

  • Live Nation Entertainment is under investigation by the Justice Department, an inquiry that predated the Taylor Swift ticket fiasco. 

  • Nonprofits and others have called on the Justice Department to undo the merger.

After a chaotic ticket presale for Taylor Swift’s Eras tour, riddled with long queues and website crashes, fans are saying to Ticketmaster: Now we’ve got bad blood.

But it wasn’t just Swifties who were rankled by Ticketmaster’s handling of the ticket sales. Several Democratic lawmakers also seized on the moment to lambaste the ticketing platform for its control of the live entertainment market.

"Daily reminder that Ticketmaster is a monopoly, its merger with Live Nation should never have been approved, and they need to be reigned in. Break them up," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., tweeted.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., also pointed to the Taylor Swift dust-up as an example of the need for strong antitrust enforcement.

Without directly mentioning Ticketmaster or Live Nation, Swift told fans Nov. 18 on Instagram, "It’s really difficult for me to trust an outside entity with these relationships and loyalties, and excruciating for me to just watch mistakes happen with no recourse."

Ticketmaster’s parent company, Live Nation Entertainment, was already on the radar of the Justice Department, which has opened an investigation, The New York Times reported Nov. 18. The inquiry predates the Taylor Swift ticketing fiasco and will focus on whether Live Nation Entertainment has abused its power over the multibillion-dollar live music industry.

Ticketmaster and Live Nation have long histories of dominating the live entertainment market — and being reprimanded for abusing their control of the market. Critics say not enough is being done to rein in their power.

Is Ticketmaster a monopoly?

In 2010, Ticketmaster and Live Nation merged to form Live Nation Entertainment, with the two original companies as subsidiaries of the new company. Before the merger, Ticketmaster was the U.S.’ largest ticketing platform, with 80% of the market, and Live Nation was the U.S.’ biggest concert promoter, controlling more than 75 venues across the United States.

At the time of the merger, the companies "argued that by combining they would be able to reduce inefficiencies in the marketing and presentation of live events, which would help to revive the ailing music industry and ultimately benefit consumers," The New York Times reported in 2010.

Now, Live Nation Entertainment controls 70% of the primary ticketing and live-event venues marketplace, according to the American Economic Liberties Project, a nonprofit advocating for corporate accountability and antitrust regulations.

Krista Brown, senior policy analyst at the nonprofit, said she would consider Ticketmaster a monopoly because of the "incredible power" it holds over the primary ticketing marketplace.

"The issue is not what exact percent of a market a corporation controls, but whether or not their dominant position allows them to act anti-competitively. That’s a violation of antitrust laws," Brown said.

Diana Moss, president of the nonprofit American Antitrust Institute agreed with Brown. She told PBS NewsHour on Nov. 16 that the merger "created an enormous monopoly, with a wingspan that covers everything from artist management, to concert promotion, to venue management, to ticketing."

"And when you put a firm together that has that kind of market power, the exercise of that market power, whether it be through threats to concert venues if they don't take Ticketmaster as their platform, or whether it is high ticket fees to consumers, we are seeing all of that market power," Moss said.

Antitrust laws, which have been around since 1890, are designed to benefit consumers by prohibiting unlawful mergers and business practices that reduce competition in a marketplace.

When the Justice Department approved the 2010 merger, the 10-year legal agreement had strings attached. Ticketmaster had to sell parts of its business to preserve competition, and Live Nation could not withhold access to artists if concert venues chose a ticketing provider other than Ticketmaster.

However, in 2019, the Justice Department investigated Live Nation and found it had violated these terms. The settlement clarified what Live Nation could do when negotiating ticketing deals with venues, and the consent agreement was extended until 2025.

Moss told PBS NewsHour the extension was "a real failure of antitrust — antitrust enforcement. And what we need is stronger antitrust enforcement in this space to create the competition that the merger wiped out."

Brown said smaller companies cannot reasonably compete with Ticketmaster and Live Nation because a majority of venues, artists and sports leagues have exclusive contracts with the companies.

"Ticketmaster’s ability to consistently increase fees, acquire venues, gain exclusive contracts, and control many of the largest artists' tours illustrates its monopolistic power," she said.

How do you solve a problem like Ticketmaster?

The American Economic Liberties Project and other critics have long called for unwinding the merger. In October, the nonprofit, along with a dozen other organizations, formed a coalition called BreakUpTicketmaster, which calls on the Justice Department to act.

Members of Congress have also pushed for stronger antitrust policies in the music industry. On Nov. 17, Klobuchar, who heads the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust and Consumer Rights, sent a letter to Live Nation Entertainment CEO Michael Rapino expressing concern over the lack of competition in the live music industry.

In the letter, Klobuchar asked Rapino to provide information about the percentage of tickets available to the general public versus restricted sale opportunities, and what the company has done to improve its systems to address demand surges.

Congressional inquiries go beyond the Taylor Swift fiasco. In 2021, five House Democrats sent a letter urging the Biden administration to investigate the Ticketmaster-Live Nation merger, which they said, "strangled competition in live entertainment ticketing and harmed consumers."

Another common gripe with Ticketmaster is the expensive service fees tacked onto ticket prices. In October, President Joe Biden pledged to crack down on hidden fees for concert tickets and a variety of other services.

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Our Sources

Email interview, Krista Brown, senior policy analyst, American Economic Liberties Project, Nov. 18, 2022

American Economic Liberties Project, "How Antitrust Enforcers Helped Create a Live Events Monster," Oct. 19, 2022

Department of Justice, "U.S. and Plaintiff States v. Ticketmaster Entertainment, Inc. and Live Nation Entertainment, Inc.," Jan. 25, 2010

Federal Trade Commission, "The Antitrust Laws," accessed Nov. 18, 2022

BreakUpTicketmaster website, accessed Nov. 18, 2022

Ticketmaster tweet, Nov. 17, 2022

Sen. Amy Klobuchar tweet, Nov. 16, 2022

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweet, Nov. 15, 2022

Sen. Richard Blumenthal tweet, Nov. 15, 2022

Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. tweet, Nov. Nov. 17, 2022

Rep. David Cicilline tweet, Nov. 15, 2022

Taylor Swift Instagram story, Nov. 18, 2022

Rolling Stone, "Amy Klobuchar Demands Live Nation Address Ticketmaster Antitrust Concerns in Letter to CEO," Nov. 17, 2022

The New York Times, "Justice Department Said to Investigate Ticketmaster’s Parent Company," Nov. 18, 2022

The New York Times, "Lawmakers Criticize Ticketmaster After Taylor Swift Presale Snags," Nov. 16, 2022

The New York Times, "Justice Dept. Clears Ticketmaster Deal," Jan. 25, 2010

CNBC, "Taylor Swift tour ticket fiasco leads to calls for Ticketmaster and Live Nation to break up," Nov. 17, 2022

Reuters, "Biden targets hidden 'junk fees' from banks, cable TV, concert tickets," Oct. 26, 2022

PBS NewsHour, "Taylor Swift ticket sale problems spark widespread criticism of Ticketmaster," Nov. 16, 2022

Variety, "U.S. Representatives Pen Letter Urging Biden to Investigate Live Nation-Ticketmaster ‘Monopoly,’" Apri. 19, 2021

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