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Justice Dept. Investigating Live Nation for Antitrust Violations Amid Taylor Swift Fiasco: Report

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In the wake of Ticketmaster’s disastrous sale of tickets to Taylor Swift’s upcoming tour, a report has surfaced that the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating whether parent company Live Nation has abused its huge market share in the live music industry.

According to a story Friday in the New York Times, the DOJ’s antitrust division had already been scrutinizing Live Nation for months before Tuesday’s botched rollout, which saw widespread service delays and website crashes as millions of fans tried – and many failed – to buy tickets for Swift’s 2023 Eras Tour.

The Times report said that antitrust investigators have been contacting music venues and others involved in the live music industry for months to ask about Live Nation’s practices, aiming to determine whether the company maintains an illegal monopoly over the sector. The story was sourced to “two people with knowledge of the matter”; a spokesperson for the DOJ did not immediately return a request for comment.

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Though the DOJ probe reportedly predates the Swift debacle, it echoes criticism that has been leveled at Live Nation in the days since the messy Eras presale.

On Thursday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), the chair of the Senate subcommittee for antitrust issues, wrote an open letter to Live Nation, complaining that the company’s market power “insulates it from the competitive pressures that typically push companies to innovate and improve their services.” Klobuchar said the results were the kind of “dramatic service failures” that took place during Swift’s presale.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), was even blunter, tweeting Tuesday: “Daily reminder that Ticketmaster is a monopoly, it’s merger with Live Nation should never have been approved, and they need to be reigned in. Break them up.”

As alluded to by Ocasio-Cortez, Ticketmaster and Live Nation have long been dogged by accusations that they exert an unfair dominance over the market for live concerts, particularly since they merged in 2010 to create their current structure.

The combined entity has operated for its entire existence under a so-called consent decree imposed by the DOJ when it approved the merger. Under the decree, Live Nation is prohibited from retaliating against venues that refuse to use Ticketmaster. Those restrictions were set to expire in 2020 but were extended by five years in 2019 after the DOJ accused Live Nation of repeatedly violating the decree.

Ticketmaster has already tried to offer explanations for what went wrong on Tuesday, publishing a since-deleted in-depth blog post that said that it had misjudged demand for presale tickets and was ill-prepared for the millions of fans that tried to log in.

“I apologize to all our fans. We are working hard on this,” Liberty Media CEO and Live Nation chairman Greg Maffei said in an appearance on CNBC on Thursday. “Building capacity for peak demand is something we attempt to do, but this exceeded every expectation.”

Whether or not that explanation satisfies federal antitrust investigators, it does not appear to have been enough for Swift. In a statement issued Friday in which the star said the calamitous presale “really pisses me off,” Swift did not call out Ticketmaster explicitly, but laid the blame on an unnamed “outside entity.”

“I’m not going to make excuses for anyone because we asked them, multiple times, if they could handle this kind of demand and we were assured they could,” Swift wrote.

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