WSJ: Justice Department will sue Live Nation for antitrust violations

NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 11: A Live Nation sign is seen inside a Blockbuster store February 11, 2009 in New York City. Music corporations Live Nation and Ticketmaster Entertainment announced merger plans raising anti-trust concerns. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)(Getty Images/Mario Tama)

New York (CNN) — The US Department of Justice is preparing to sue the country’s largest concert promoter and ticketing website Live Nation in the coming weeks for breaking America’s antitrust laws, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing anonymous sources familiar with the Justice Department’s plans.

The lawsuit against Live Nation Entertainment, the parent company of Ticketmaster, will allege the ticketing company used its market-leading position to harm competition for live events, the Journal reported. But the paper wasn’t able to uncover specific details of the planned lawsuit.

Shares of Live Nation (LYV) dropped nearly 7% in premarket trading Tuesday. Live Nation and the Justice Department didn’t respond to CNN’s request for comment about the Journal’s report.

Ticketmaster drew the ire of US government officials and fans after a system meltdown left millions of people unable to purchase tickets to Taylor Swift’s “Eras” tour in 2022.

US lawmakers grilled Live Nation executives at a hearing in January 2023, which, in a rare event, brought together Democrats and Republicans over the company’s industry dominance that critics argue is harming rivals, musicians and fans.

Swift later fans sued Live Nation for “unlawful conduct” in the pop star’s chaotic tour sale, with the plaintiffs claiming that the ticketing giant violated antitrust laws.

Joe Berchtold, president and CFO of Live Nation, has previously defended the company’s practices, saying at the 2023 hearing that that Ticketmaster does not set ticket prices, does not determine the number of tickets put up for sale and that “in most cases, venues set service and ticketing fees,” not Ticketmaster.

He also rejected suggestions that its dominance has allowed for soaring fees, citing data from the market intelligence firm Pollstar showing that Live Nation controls about 200 out of approximately 4,000 venues in the United States, or about 5%.

Rivals have previously spoken out, too: Jack Groetzinger, CEO of SeatGeek, alleged that many venue owners “fear losing Live Nation concerts if they don’t use Ticketmaster” and its services, and argued the company must be broken up.

Live Nation and Ticketmaster merged in 2010, now billing itself as the “largest live entertainment company in the world.”

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