Live Nation Entertainment and Ticketmaster face yet another proposed class action over the alleged monopoly they hold over the primary and secondary ticket and concert promotion markets in the United States.
The 74-page lawsuit is the latest case to allege Ticketmaster and Live Nation, who reportedly hold an overall market share in excess of 70 percent for primary ticketing services for major concert venues, have erected myriad anticompetitive barriers to entry in the market that have ensured the companies’ power remains “impregnable.” The suit alleges the companies’ ticket-selling dominance has consequently allowed them to maintain a “stranglehold” on the market for concert promotion services, which, despite costing the defendants “tens of millions of dollars annually,” leaves venues with a delicate choice as to who to work with when a big show is on the horizon.
“Using its promotion business as a loss leader in turn helps maintain Ticketmaster’s dominance, because venue operators must take into account the very real possibility that Live Nation Entertainment will not route tours through their venues if they do not select Ticketmaster as their primary ticketing service provider,” the lawsuit alleges.
As the lawsuit tells it, the threat of Live Nation keeping big tours away from venues who do not work with Ticketmaster for ticketing services went unchecked for so long that the companies “recently became brazen in their conduct.” According to the suit, Live Nation CEO and President Michael Rapino reportedly stated publicly in 2019 that a venue who chooses not to work with Ticketmaster “won’t be the best economic place anymore [sic]. . .” for tours promoted by Live Nation.
Consumers looking to see their favorite acts in concert have shouldered the brunt of the economic harm birthed by Live Nation and Ticketmaster’s allegedly anticompetitive conduct, the lawsuit claims, as fans are left to either pay the companies extraordinarily high fees or choose to not attend a performance at a particular concert venue.
Moreover, the lawsuit alleges the defendants have wielded the conditional copyright license Ticketmaster utilizes to grant access to its online platform as an “anticompetitive weapon” against everyone who uses the site. Ticketmaster’s conditional license tool, which amounts to a list of practices website users cannot engage in as far as buying large quantities of tickets at once, “shows the lengths to which the Defendants will go to stifle competition,” the suit argues:
“In reality, Ticketmaster’s conditional license is a tool to maintain its monopoly power in primary ticketing services for major concert services [sic], as well as extend and leverage Ticketmaster’s monopoly power into secondary ticketing services for major concert venues, which it is attempting to monopolize just as it has already monopolized primary ticketing services for major concert venues. Defendants were recently caught red-handed telling consumers they are fighting ticket brokers (via the conditional license and other means) when they were actually using the license as a bludgeon to force secondary ticket brokers into agreeing to exclusively use Ticketmaster’s secondary ticketing platform, rather than other competing secondary ticket platforms, for their resales.”
Early in the complaint, the plaintiffs state that Live Nation and Ticketmaster “drastically” altered their customer arbitration agreement in July 2021 as the court was preparing to rule on whether to send another suit against the companies to arbitration. The old arbitration agreement, called the JAMS agreement, was swapped for a new one that designated New Era ADR, essentially a subscription-based, streamlined virtual mediation and arbitration platform, as the forum for dispute resolution, the lawsuit says.
The plaintiffs allege New Era ADR “requires consumers to engage in a novel and one-sided process that is tailored to disadvantage consumers,” and “skews the odds” drastically in the defendants’ favor in the event of a dispute.
The case looks to represent all end-user purchasers in the United States who bought a primary and/or secondary ticket and paid associated fees for primary and/or secondary ticketing services for an event at a major concert venue in the U.S. from Ticketmaster or one of its affiliated entities owned, directly or indirectly, by Live Nation Entertainment, Inc. at any point since 2010.
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