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That Live Nation-Ticketmaster Merger Looks as Shady as Everyone Suspected

The Department of Justice is reportedly investigating Live Nation for antitrust violations which, yeah, everyone basically figured would be the case.

by Alex Robert Ross
Apr 2 2018, 6:02pm

In news that should shock absolutely nobody, the much-maligned 2010 merger between Live Nation and Ticketmaster, which just about everyone said would create a conflict of interest at the very top of the music industry, has indeed created a conflict of interest at the very top of the music industry. According to the New York Times, the Department of Justice is investigating Live Nation for antitrust violations after it "used its control over concert tours to pressure venues into contracting with its subsidiary, Ticketmaster."

According to the report, the DOJ is looking into complaints from Live Nation's main competitor, AEG. They've told officials that six of its US venues were "told they would lose valuable shows if Ticketmaster was not used as a vendor," a serious violation of antitrust law which, again, everyone figured would probably happen eight years ago when the merger was approved by federal officials. This is what happens when one company controls almost all of the country's biggest music venues, holds a vested interest in the world's biggest ticket vendor, and manages a shitload of artists.

The NYT report highlights one case in particular—a 2013 Matchbox 20 show in Atlanta. Live Nation, who were putting on the show, decided against placing it at the Gwinnett Center. The venue's booking director suspects that the snub had something to do with the fact that Gwinnett had recently moved over from Ticketmaster to an AEG-controlled ticketing service.

“Don’t abandon Gwinnett,” he wrote to a Live Nation talent coordinator. “If there’s an issue or issues let’s address.”

“Issue?” the Live Nation coordinator wrote back. “Three letters. Can you guess what they are?”

I can!

Live Nation, for their part, insist that this incident had nothing to do with the Gwinnett Center dropping Ticketmaster. "You have a disgruntled competitor that is trying to explain their loss around the boogeyman that there were threats made that nobody can document," Daniel M. Wall, Live Nation’s antitrust lawyer, told the Times.

Except:

AEG provided The New York Times with copies of those emails, and others, to support its account of threats.

There's plenty to tuck into in the report. Go read it.

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