Senate Democrats raise ‘serious concerns’ about Ticketmaster, Live Nation fees

Aaron Schwartz

Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) on Wednesday called for a federal investigation of the online ticketing industry, citing a report that Ticketmaster-Live Nation has defied a 2010 consent decree.

The 2010 merger between the two companies was cleared by the Justice Department under a negotiated consent decree, which sets conditions they must abide by to ensure the deal does not hurt competition.

But the senators wrote in a letter that Live Nation’s dominance remained “virtually unchallenged” a year before the consent decree is set to expire. 

{mosads}Klobuchar and Blumenthal cite a 2018 Government Accountability Office report finding fees are, on average, more than 25 percent of ticket prices and are frequently not visible until late in the buying process.

The senators also cited a report by The New York Times noting that Live Nation ticketed 80 of the top 100 concert arenas in the nation in 2016.

That, they added, necessitated a probe by the Justice Department’s antitrust division into whether Live Nation has abided by the consent decree or determine whether the decree tenure needed to be extended.

“Americans purchase hundreds of millions of tickets every year and have grown sick and tired of the sky-high fees from Ticketmaster,” wrote the senators.

The letter also calls for a broader investigation of the state of competition within the ticketing marketplace in general, including a study of how industry consolidation has affected consumers and how competition could be strengthened under existing antitrust mechanisms.

“The ticketing industry is broken. We strongly urge you to investigate this market and take any actions necessary to ensure that it serves the public,” the letter added.

Ticketmaster said in a statement to The Hill that the lawmakers have a “fundamental misunderstanding” of both the industry and the consent decree.

“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,” the company said.

“Nevertheless, for years now some competitors have found it useful to confuse the issue with misinformation and baseless allegations of consent decree violations. These complaints have been investigated by the Department of Justice pursuant to its broad powers to monitor compliance with the decree. There is no cause for further investigations or studies,” it added.

The Hill has also reached out to Live Nation and the Justice Department for comment.

— This report was updated at 2:37 p.m.

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