Eight years after Live Nation joined forced with TicketMaster to create a Voltron of exorbitant service fees, The New York Times reports the concert promoter is being investigated for its ruthless business practices.
The Department Of Justice is looking into complaints that Live Nation, which manages some 500 artists, “used its control over concert tours to pressure venues into contracting with its subsidiary, Ticketmaster.” Live Nation’s biggest competitor, AEG, claims that for shows that were originally booked at its venues in Atlanta, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, and more, the company was pressured to use TicketMaster as a vendor. The claims indicate a “possible violation of antitrust law,” according to The Times.
In one case, the booking director of Atlanta’s Gwinnett Center reached out to Live Nation after a Matchbox 20 show fell through in 2013. The venue had recently switched from TicketMaster to an AEG-controlled ticketing service. “Don’t abandon Gwinnett,” the director, Dan Markham, wrote in an email to an unnamed Live Nation talent coordinator. “If there’s an issue or issues let’s address.” The response was terse but suggestive: “Issue? Three letters. Can you guess what they are?”
Emails aside, Live Nation insisted “the decision to bypass the center was not punitive. The other venue was managed by Live Nation and simply fit more people.” But in 2014, the number of Live Nation tours that hit the Gwinnett was down from four to two. Live Nation says this shift is “routine,” but Markham feels the company was essentially “[warning] us that they would put us in a literal boycott.” AEG provided the DOJ with the aforementioned emails, which is why Live Nation’s antitrust lawyer now says “You have a disgruntled competitor that is trying to explain their loss around the boogeyman that there were threats made that nobody can document.” AEG’s also come under fire for possible antitrust violations; Ozzy Osbourne filed suit last month against the company for allegedly trying to prevent him from playing a show at its O2 arena in London if he didn’t also book one at the Staples Center (which AEG also owns).