Q&A: Does Ticketmaster Have a Monopoly on Live Entertainment?

June 18, 2024 By Alice Berry, aberry@virginia.edu Alice Berry, aberry@virginia.edu

In late May, the U.S. Department of Justice sued Live Nation Entertainment, the owner of the concert giant Ticketmaster, claiming the company has a monopoly on live entertainment, sending ticket prices skyrocketing and stifling competition. Washington, D.C., and 29 states have joined the Justice Department’s lawsuit. 

Whether you want to see a local band play at The Southern on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall or tried to score tickets to Taylor Swift’s “Eras” tour, chances are you dealt with Ticketmaster. The vendor sold 620 million tickets in 2023, and its parent company owns 56 of the world’s top 100 amphitheaters, according to the American Economic Liberties Project.

The lawsuit has the potential to change the way Americans experience live music, and is part of a wider effort to rein in big business. 

Related Story

‘Inside UVA’ A Podcast Hosted by Jim Ryan
‘Inside UVA’ A Podcast Hosted by Jim Ryan

UVA Today talked to University of Virginia School of Law professor Joshua Fischman to find out if it’s over now for Ticketmaster and Live Nation, or if they are, in fact, getting back together.

Q. What is the Justice Department’s argument?

A. The Justice Department has raised a number of different arguments. Live Nation is a vertically integrated company that dominates the markets for concert promotion and ticketing. It also owns or has exclusive contracts with a large number of concert venues. 

DOJ argues that Live Nation has monopolized the markets for concert promotion, ticketing and large amphitheaters. The case is based primarily on two types of practices. First, Live Nation has allegedly entered into long-term exclusive dealing arrangements with concert venues that make it difficult for rivals to compete. Second, Live Nation has used tying arrangements, forcing artists who want to perform in Live Nation-controlled venues to use Live Nation for concert promotion.

The most unusual aspect of this case is that DOJ is seeking to break up the company. Live Nation merged with Ticketmaster in 2010. The government permitted the merger at the time under a consent decree that forbade Live Nation from retaliating against venues that worked with rivals for ticketing. These remedies turned out to be inadequate and were modified in 2020. But the new remedies still were ineffective.

Q. Why would the Justice Department ask to break up Live Nation?

A. The DOJ claims that the original 2010 consent decree and the 2020 modified consent decree were ineffective. 

Portrait of Law Professor Joshua Fischman.

Law professor Joshua Fischman directs the Center for Public Law and Political Economy. (UVA School of Law photo)

DOJ claimed that Live Nation violated the spirit of the original decree by exploiting loopholes. Because Live Nation is dominant in both promotion and ticketing (and also controls many large amphitheaters), it has very strong incentives to maintain dominance in these markets by demanding exclusivity from counterparties. It doesn’t have to do this explicitly; it has developed a reputation for retaliation against counterparties who work with rivals. This is an unusual remedy, but the previous conduct remedies haven’t been very effective.


Q. How is Live Nation defending itself?

A. In a press release, Live Nation claimed that the DOJ’s antitrust case was political, the result of lobbying from rivals who can’t compete on the merits. They claim that they aren’t responsible for high ticket prices and that the lawsuit wouldn’t reduce them. They also claim that their practices are typical for a vertically integrated firm and that DOJ has mischaracterized their conduct.

It is complicated to break up a company, but the fact that Live Nation and Ticketmaster merged in 2010 could make this easier.

Q. If the DOJ wins, can we expect ticket prices to go down?

A. I would expect so. The markets for ticketing and promotion are currently highly concentrated, and that leads to higher prices. The lawsuit could remedy this to some extent. But this is only one component of ticket prices, so it’s hard to know what the overall effect will be.

Media Contact

Alice Berry

University News Associate Office of University Communications