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A new Justice Department lawsuit aims to end the Live Nation-Tickemaster monopoly

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

This morning, the Department of Justice and 30 states filed an antitrust lawsuit against Live Nation Entertainment and its subsidiary, Ticketmaster. The lawsuit alleges that the company has created a monopoly on live show prices across the U.S. NPR culture correspondent Anastasia Tsioulcas joins us now to talk about the suit and its potential ramifications. So, Anastasia, what's the DOJ saying, basically? Like what - Ticketmaster and Live Nation dominate live concerts and all other events in the U.S. at this point?

ANASTASIA TSIOULCAS, BYLINE: That's exactly it, A. Live Nation and Ticketmaster are hugely powerful players, and according to the suit, Live Nation currently owns or controls over 250 concert venues across North America, just as one example, and the company also directly manages the careers of more than 400 musical acts. So the Justice Department is alleging that Live Nation has so much power over so many very different aspects of the live entertainment industry that it's able to effectively limit competition. So if the suit is successful, it really has the potential to reshape the live show industry across the U.S. and of course, the price that fans are paying to see their favorite artists.

MARTÍNEZ: Right. So what's the suit calling for, exactly?

TSIOULCAS: Well, Attorney General Merrick Garland said earlier this morning in a statement, and I'm quoting, "it is time to break up Live Nation and Ticketmaster." The government's alleging that Live Nation, especially through its subsidiary Ticketmaster, has been engaging in numerous forms of anti-competitive behavior. And that's things like retaliating against companies and venues that worked with Live Nation's rivals, as well as locking out ticket competitors and acquiring smaller companies that Live Nation allegedly perceived as threats to its market dominance.

MARTÍNEZ: But didn't the federal government approve the merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster years ago?

TSIOULCAS: They sure did, back in 2010. But now DOJ and these states are arguing that Live Nation has developed a stranglehold on live events. And I have to tell you, A, this fight has been long in coming. Music fans, performers, independent venues and even members of Congress have been arguing for years that Live Nation and Ticketmaster had artificially pushed ticket prices sky high. And that's potentially even more true now after COVID. Lots of small venues have really struggled to stay afloat, and they have argued that Live Nation has been trying to create even more dominance in this industry.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, and in the past, hasn't Live Nation argued that it's musicians, not its own company, who are the ones that set their own ticket prices?

TSIOULCAS: That's absolutely true, and I will say that lots of musicians, as well as these federal and state attorneys within the suit, are arguing that musicians already get squeezed in terms of getting compensated for their creative work and that they are essentially also now just cogs in a totally broken ticketing system.

MARTÍNEZ: So Anastasia, Peso Pluma is going to be in LA in August. Should I buy the ticket? Should I not buy the tickets? What should people do?

TSIOULCAS: Well, A, I hear your pain. It's going to be a long time. It's going to be a long process. But I have to say, you know, so don't hold off immediately. You know, it's going to be what it's going to be. But it's clear that a federal antitrust suit that's this large is going to put a lot of pressure and a lot of attention on what's been a simmering issue for a very long time now.

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR culture correspondent Anastasia Tsioulcas. Thanks a lot.

TSIOULCAS: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Anastasia Tsioulcas is a reporter on NPR's Arts desk. She is intensely interested in the arts at the intersection of culture, politics, economics and identity, and primarily reports on music. Recently, she has extensively covered gender issues and #MeToo in the music industry, including backstage tumult and alleged secret deals in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against megastar singer Plácido Domingo; gender inequity issues at the Grammy Awards and the myriad accusations of sexual misconduct against singer R. Kelly.