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Published on May 24, 2024
Washington State AG Leads Federal Charge to Break Up Ticketmaster-Live Nation MonopolySource: Joe Mabel, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It looks like the final curtain may be closing on Ticketmaster's headlining act with Live Nation. Washington State's Attorney General Bob Ferguson, backed by the federal government and a coalition of 29 other attorneys general, is pushing to dismantle what he calls a stranglehold on live entertainment. The antitrust lawsuit, lobbed into the courts of the Southern District of New York, aims to strike a major blow to the merged giants' grip on concert tickets.

In a move that would make any monopoly board gamer jealous, Ferguson and his squad are seeking to split up the corporate behemoth, citing claims that the merger has led to unfair competition and hiked up prices for concertgoers. According to an official statement, Live Nation and Ticketmaster are in violation of none other than the Sherman Antitrust Act by muscling out rivals, and now they're facing the music. Since their 2010 merger, Ticketmaster has boasted holdings of about 70% to 80% of primary concert ducats in North America, Ferguson noted, while Live Nation has its fingerprints on venues and festivals nationwide.

Dig into the details and you'll find that Live Nation is not just selling tickets; it's ruling roosts over 250 venues and pulling the strings at top festivals like Austin City Limits and Bonaroo. The entertainment titan reportedly drummed up over $22 billion in revenue in the previous year alone. This display of financial might is precisely what has the feds and state representatives in a tizzy, driving the call to break up the band – commercially speaking.

Live Nation had a playbook that labeled independent promoters as "Biggest Competitor Threats," and according to lawsuit details, they weren't shy about playing hardball to keep these potential disruptors at bay. Facilities found themselves locked into lengthy contracts with Ticketmaster, effectively sealing them off from the overtures of competitor courters for what could be a decade-long dance. The lawsuit quotes an ominous Live Nation executive email, warning a venue owner pondering a switch to a different ticket seller to "think about the bigger relationship" with Live Nation. Despite a temporary switch, the venue in question quickly fell back in step with Ticketmaster, after a not-so-lucky year fraught with Live Nation-induced complications.

In a cultural era where high ticket costs are as common as a dropped call in a subway, AG Ferguson's crusade against this alleged monopoly is a sign that perhaps, just perhaps, the system might hold corporate giants to account. Washington isn't just content with a slap on the wrist either; they're gunning for civil penalties, restitution for wronged Washington consumers, and the disgorging of illicit profits. As AG Ferguson said, “Free enterprise is built on companies competing.” He's not standing by to watch that foundation crumble to dust, not on his watch.