A group of prominent House Democrats are calling for Joe Biden’s administration to investigate the 2010 merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster, arguing that the combination has “strangled competition in live entertainment ticketing and harmed consumers and must be revisited.”
The letter comes amid expectations that the Biden administration will take stronger stance on antitrust enforcement, even compared to Barack Obama’s administration, when the Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger was approved.
The letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland and Acting Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Rebecca Kelly Slaughter was written by Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), along with the chairs of four House committees: Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), who leads the Judiciary Committee; Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ), House Energy and Commerce; Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee; and Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), Antitrust Subcommittee.
The lawmakers say that Live Nation Entertainment has a “near monopoly on the primary sale of tickets,” and that it “has tightened its grasp on the secondary market, making it one of the largest ticket resellers in the United States.”
“The company is now leveraging its position in the primary channel to drive out competition in the resale market and allowing for potentially unfair and deceptive practices,” they wrote.
They focused on the introduction of SafeTix, a smart phone ticketing service “purportedly created to fight fraud.” But the lawmakers accuse the company of “using this program to ensure that tickets can only be resold or gifted within the Ticketmaster system.”
“Ticketmaster has also used ‘SafeTix’ to cancel resold tickets minutes before showtime,” they wrote. “Media reports tell of patrons who purchased tickets on a competing resale platform being literally left out in the street while the show went on without them.”
They also cited reports that the company was, “under the guise of protecting the public health,” using ticket transfer technology to restrict fans from reselling tickets to high demand shows, and requiring most people entering a concert to register an account with Ticketmaster. They suggested that this was a way “to leverage the pandemic to choke off competition by eliminating ticket transfer.”
A spokesperson for Live Nation did not immediately return a request for comment.
The Justice Department already has concluded that Live Nation violated restrictions placed on its merger, which combined ticket, promotion, concert and management businesses. Under an agreement reached with the DOJ in 2019, Live Nation will be bound by a consent decree for another 5 1/2 years beyond its 2020 expiration. The company is prohibited from retaliating against concert venues for using another ticketing company. It also it prohibited from making threats to withhold concerts.