Analysis – Taylor Swift’s ticket game turns regulatory heat on Ticketmaster by Reuters

© Reuters. Taylor Swift poses on the red carpet at the 2022 MTV Europe Music Awards (EMAs) at the PSD Bank Dome in Dusseldorf, Germany, November 13, 2022. REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen/File Photo

Written by Diane Bartz

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Ticketmaster’s botched sale of tickets to Taylor Swift’s 2023 tour, the first by a major star in five years, has led to calls to break up the company — a proposal antitrust experts say could find an audience far more receptive than the public. Past.

The US Department of Justice, which approved the much-criticized Ticketmaster purchase of Live Nation in 2010, is different than it was 12 years ago. It’s proven more willing to file antitrust lawsuits against the giants — including the ongoing December 2020 lawsuit against Google (NASDAQ:) — and to fight mergers, not all of which it wins.

In fact, management has opened an antitrust investigation against Ticketmaster’s owner, Live Nation Entertainment (NYSE: ), the New York Times reported Friday, saying agency employees appear to be conducting a broad investigation and talking to concert halls and other ticket companies about their practices. live nation.

The Justice Department declined to comment. Ticketmaster did not respond to a request for comment.

The investigation is much less than the decision to file a lawsuit asking a judge to break up a company. Experts said that this is a long and difficult process through which the government has to prove to the court its monopoly and that the company is abusing its monopoly power.

If the DOJ went down this route, it would likely fight all the way to the Supreme Court. William Kovacic, a professor of antitrust at George Washington University School of Law, said this will happen “at some point in our lives if we’re lucky enough to live that long.”

For example, the battle to break up AT&T (NYSE:) took nearly a decade.

The American Economic Freedoms Project, which has pushed for stricter antitrust enforcement, launched a campaign to crack Ticketmaster in October, before the latest debacle.

About 38,000 people had used the group’s website as of Friday to tell the government to dismantle Ticketmaster, said Morgan Harper, the attorney leading the project’s effort.

Taylor Swift said on Friday that it was “painful” to watch ticket problems unfold this week, and that her team had been reassured several times that ticket sellers could handle the demand.

Ticketmaster previously said in a statement that Swift’s ticket selling problems were caused by unprecedented demand, much of it caused by bots trying to buy tickets for resale.

Ticketmaster has angered many artists and fans for decades. In the mid-1990s, grunge band Pearl Jam decided to tour without Ticketmaster but found handling ticket sales alone too difficult and soon returned to the service.

Ticketmaster’s merger with Live Nation was controversial in 2010 because Ticketmaster was already a giant and Live Nation, which was primarily a promoter at the time, was beginning to transition into the ticketing business, said Andre Barlow of Doyle, Barlow and Mazard PLLC.

“Live Nation was a new entrant, but had enough potential to really compete,” he said.

Ticketmaster’s previous battle with management culminated in a December 2019 settlement that extended for another five years a consent decree that was part of the deal’s initial approval.

The new consent agreement barred Ticketmaster from “retaliating against concert venues for using another ticket company, threatening concert venues, or taking other specific actions against concert venues for ten years,” the ministry said in 2019.

US Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who tweeted this week that the company should be broken up, isn’t the only lawmaker taking an interest in Ticketmaster’s problems this week.

US Senator Amy Klobuchar, chair of the Senate Antitrust Committee, said Friday that she plans to hold a hearing on the matter, in addition to long-running concerns about hidden fees. She did not give a date for the session, but said it would be this year.