In the wake of the Taylor Swift Eras Tour ticket debacle in November, fans and lawmakers alike are pushing for big change. Namely, they want to reverse the 2010 merger of Ticketmaster with Live Nation.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) is reportedly currently investigating that merger — although its probe began even before the Eras Tour disaster — and some Swifties have recently filed a lawsuit alleging that "anticompetitive behavior has substantially harmed and will continue to substantially harm Taylor Swift fans."
Before the merger, Ticketmaster was primarily a ticket sales and distribution company, while Live Nation was an events promoter and venue operator. Their 2010 combination led to the creation of Live Nation Entertainment, which would own more than 140 concert venues globally, sell around 140 million tickets a year, and promote 22,000 concerts annually.
Chair of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Lina Khan said the Eras Tour fiasco "ended up converting more Gen Z'ers into anti-monopolists overnight than anything I could have done."
Live Nation Entertainment, for its part, issued a lengthy statement refuting the claims that it has been engaging in anticompetitive practices: "As we have stated many times in the past, Live Nation takes its responsibilities under the antitrust laws seriously and does not engage in behaviors that could justify antitrust litigation, let alone orders that would require it to alter fundamental business practices."
Critics, especially musicians, say the merger has cost both fans and artists significant amounts of money, and Swifties are just the most recent victims of this situation. The singer’s fans have been facing unnecessarily high resale prices and have been finding it difficult to secure tickets at all.
Several Senators have also thrown their weight and influence behind the calls for a break-up of the merger: "Because of Live Nation's market dominance, artists, venues, and consumers simply have no choice but to use the platform notwithstanding its flaws and failures," Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Ed Markey (D-MA) wrote in a letter to the DOJ.
The FTC and DOJ have been keeping a close eye on mergers and their impact on consumers and workers alike under the Biden administration, and in the most extreme outcome, this investigation could lead to an unwinding of the merger, which critics say has led to higher costs for music fans and has left little opportunity for artists or venues to use a different vendor.
The Live Nation and Ticketmaster merger has in effect created a monopsony, in which an employer holds outsized power in the labor market, including the ability to set wages across industries. The FTC and DOJ have been focused on modernizing guidelines for mergers of late, with a particular focus on this monopsony power.
As payments to artists stay low but costs remain high, touring has broadly become more financially unsustainable for them, and fans are spending more money on ticket fees that they otherwise could be spending on other shows.
The 2010 merger was only allowed to take place because the DOJ put Live Nation under a consent decree which dictated that the company must not retaliate against concert venues for opting into a different ticketing service, or threaten them when they attempt to do so. However, according to a 2019 DOJ release, "Live Nation repeatedly and over the course of several years engaged in conduct that, in the Department's view, violated the Final Judgment."
In that 2019 judgment, the DOJ specifically prohibited Live Nation from threatening to withhold concerts for venues using a different ticketing service, and said Live Nation would incur a $1 million penalty for every violation, yet no such penalties were ever assessed.