What the Ticketmaster lawsuit means for ticket prices, fees and you

The U.S. government is suing to break up Live Nation, the parent company of Ticketmaster, arguing that the sheer size and market domination of the largest live-entertainment company is to blame for an era of rising concert prices, confusing fees and the stagnation of a live-music industry controlled by a monopoly.

The antitrust suit, which attorneys general from 29 states and the District of Columbia joined in filing Thursday, alleges that Live Nation exploited its position as “the gatekeeper for the delivery of nearly all live music in America today” to stifle competition and innovation, drive up prices, gouge concertgoers with fees and punish venues that don’t play by its rules.

The probe comes almost two years after a 2022 fiasco in which Ticketmaster servers melted down amid an unprecedented surge of demand for high-priced Taylor Swift tickets.

In a statement on its website, Live Nation argued that there is more competition than ever in the live-events space and dismissed the suit as “a long-term lobbying campaign from rivals and ticket brokers seeking government protection for themselves.” The company also stated that the complaint “distracts from real solutions that would decrease prices and protect fans.”

Here’s what to know about the lawsuit and how it could affect you.

Would a Live Nation breakup affect me?

Most likely, assuming you go to concerts. Live Nation is essentially a monopoly, the government argues. Its complaint notes the concert giant directly manages more than 400 musical artists, controls around 60 percent of concert promotions at major concert venues across the country, and owns or controls more than 265 concert venues in North America, including the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles and the Brooklyn Bowl in New York. Live Nation grew even more powerful after acquiring Ticketmaster in 2010, and the government says it now controls more than 70 percent of sales at major concert venues.

Even if you haven’t been to a Live Nation concert or bought a ticket off Ticketmaster, the government alleges that the company’s practices are driving up prices across the industry and punishing venues that use other ticket sale systems by refusing to book top acts there.


So a forced breakup would be a big deal for all concert lovers, but it’s not yet clear how likely the government is to win. If the case goes anything like other big antitrust suits, a long and arduous court battle will play out as the Justice Department argues for unwinding a merger that the same agency approved more than a decade ago, under the Obama administration.

Not surprisingly, the government and Live Nation have different takes on how concertgoers would be affected by a breakup, with the latter arguing they’ll actually be worse off. “The world is a better place because of that merger, not a worse one,” the company wrote.

Would a breakup make ticket prices cheaper?

The Justice Department claims so. Its complaint outlined how Live Nation allegedly structures its contracts with venues to “double-dip” on the fees paid by fans. For instance, the suit alleges that when venues increase their own fees to offset Live Nation’s concert promotion charges, they are then required to pay a “ticketing fee” to Ticketmaster.

“A venue forced to pay Live Nation a $5 promotions rebate and Ticketmaster a portion of any increased fees would need to raise fees on fans by significantly more than $5 to break even,” the suit alleges.

Live Nation challenged that assertion. The government “blames concert promoters and ticketing companies - neither of which control ticket prices - for high ticket prices,” the company’s statement says. “It ignores everything that is actually responsible for higher ticket prices, from increasing production costs to artist popularity, to 24/7 online ticket scalping that reveals the public’s willingness to pay far more than primary tickets cost.”

Is Ticketmaster charging me unfair fees?

“Any fan who has logged onto Ticketmaster’s website to buy a concert ticket knows the feeling of shock and frustration as the base cost of the ticket increases dramatically with the addition of fees,” the government wrote in its lawsuit, which claims that live-event fees in the United States far exceed those in comparable parts of the world.

The Justice Department lumps a broad range of fees into what it calls “essentially a ‘Ticketmaster Tax’” These include “service” or “convenience” fees, “Platinum” fees, “VIP” fees, “per order” fees, “payment processing” fees and “facility” fees. Some concertgoers have complained about fees that reportedly range up to 28 percent of a ticket’s face value, though the costs vary depending on the ticket being purchased.

During a congressional hearing last year, soul-pop musician Clyde Lawrence of the musical duo Lawrence testified that for a $42 ticket to one of his shows, the band receives only $6 after Live Nation takes its cut, which includes a “facility fee” and a “charge for clean towels.”

In its rebuttal statement, Live Nation argued that Ticketmaster retains only “a modest portion of those fees.” It continued: “Service charges on Ticketmaster are no higher than elsewhere, and frequently lower.”

What prompted the lawsuit?

In November 2022, an unprecedented demand for presale tickets to Swift’s Eras Tour overwhelmed Ticketmaster’s site, causing glitches, long wait times and many fans to walk away disappointed and empty-handed. The ticketing giant subsequently delayed its general sale event.

After receiving complaints from customers, Tennessee became the first state to probe whether the website violated consumers’ rights and antitrust regulations. “We are concerned about this very dominant market player, and we want to make sure that they’re treating consumers right and that people are receiving a fair opportunity to purchase the tickets that clearly matter a great deal to them,” Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti (R), who is now one of the plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit, said at a news conference at the time.

In a blog post at the time, Ticketmaster explained that it wasn’t only Swifties flooding its site. There were also a “staggering number of bot attacks,” which raised questions of who was actually getting the tickets - Swift fans or scalpers looking to profit on the resale market.

The government’s scrutiny on Live Nation and Ticketmaster goes back much further, however. When the Justice Department allowed the companies to merge in 2010, it did so on the condition that the company was prohibited from pressuring venues to use its ticketing services.

In the years that followed, venue owners and artists claimed that Live Nation frequently ignored these federal restrictions. This prompted the Justice Department in 2019 to modify and extend the merger agreement through 2025, granting officials more power to go after the company for violations.

Many have already tried to take on Ticketmaster

Ticketmaster has been a major player in the live-music scene for decades, and it’s been making enemies among musicians and fans for just as long.

In 1994, Pearl Jam accused Ticketmaster of pressuring promoters into snubbing their summer tour, which the band had organized without using Ticketmaster to sell seats. Ticketmaster denied the allegations, and the Justice Department declined Pearl Jam’s request to launch an antitrust investigation at the time.

Pearl Jam boycotted Ticketmaster for about a year but eventually relented, saying that the company’s chokehold on the industry was too strong. “It is impossible for a major rock group to put on a national tour under the current circumstances without Ticketmaster,” then-Pearl Jam manager Kelly Curtis told The Washington Post at the time. “They’ve got a monopoly.”


In 2009, fans of Bruce Springsteen expressed outrage after Ticketmaster directed people seeking tour tickets to a secondary website called TicketsNow, which allegedly upsold tickets by at least four times their value, according to reports. Springsteen condemned the practice, and Ticketmaster apologized over the matter. Ticketmaster reached a settlement with the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office over the issue, agreeing to temporarily stop working with TicketsNow.

In 2015, after the Live Nation merger, StubHub sued Ticketmaster and the Golden State Warriors for allegedly requiring fans to resell tickets through Ticketmaster, according to the Associated Press. The case was ultimately dismissed.

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Herb Scribner, Tony Romm, Perry Stein and Julian Mark contributed to this report.