The subpoena, obtained by Rolling Stone, comes eight months after the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations first launched an inquiry into Live Nation over the company’s “business practices, including the prices and fees for tickets to live events sold by Live Nation/Ticketmaster,” requesting the documents related to that inquiry on March 24th. That inquiry hadn’t been publicly reported prior to the subpoena filing, as the company faces broader regulatory scrutiny over potential antitrust concerns.
But as Subcommittee chairman Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) claimed in the subpoena last week, the company hasn’t cooperated with the request to this point. “Despite nearly eight months and extensive efforts to obtain voluntary compliance, Live Nation/Ticketmaster has failed to fully comply with PSI’s requests, including refusing to produce certain documents critical to the Subcommittee’s inquiry,” Blumenthal wrote.
Along with pricing and fees, per Blumenthal’s staff, the subpoena is also seeking documents related to “resale practices as well as the company’s relationship with artists and venues. Specifically, the subpoena requests cover annual financial data related to fees; Live Nation/Ticketmaster’s guidance or recommendations for ticket pricing; business strategy documents and analyses regarding ticket pricing, secondary ticketing, and bots; communications relating to high-profile incidents with bots in 2022 and certain venues; and customer research and surveys regarding ticket pricing and fees.”
The subpoena, addressed to Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino, also sought out records from Live Nation regarding the company’s “failure to combat artificially inflated demand fueled by bots in multiple, high profile incidents.” The subpoena calls for Rapino to appear before the Subcommittee on December 18th unless Live Nation produces the documents by then.
“Live Nation has egregiously stonewalled my Subcommittee’s inquiry into its abusive consumer practices—making the subpoena necessary,” Blumenthal further said in a statement to Rolling Stone. “This subpoena demands that the company promptly comply with our request for documents essential to understand its business practices. American consumers deserve fair ticket prices, without hidden fees or predatory charges. And the American public deserves to know how Ticketmaster’s unfair practices may be enabled by its misuse of monopoly power.“
In a statement, Live Nation said that it asked the Subcommittee for confidentiality provisions regarding certain documents related to its business, such as payment for its artists, but the Subcommittee has declined those requests. The company said it would comply if those confidentiality measures were to be included.
“Live Nation has voluntarily worked with the Subcommittee from the start, providing extensive information and holding several meetings with staff,” a rep for the company said. “In order to provide additional information requested about artist and client compensation and other similarly sensitive matters, we’ve asked for standard confidentiality measures. Thus far the Subcommittee has refused to provide such assurances, but if and when those protections are in place we will provide additional information on these issues.”
Blumenthal has been a frequent critic of Live Nation and Ticketmaster for years. In January, during a senate judiciary hearing on competition in the live music business, he called the company “the 800-pound gorilla here,” stating that Live Nation has “clear dominance, monopolistic control. This whole concert ticket system is a mess.”
Blumenthal and the Subcommittee’s inquiry isn’t the only government scrutiny Live Nation faces. The Department of Justice has been investigating the company over its dominance in the business. As the New York Times first reported last year, that investigation began prior to the infamous on-sale for Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour, which angered thousands of fans who faced long lines and site crashes while they tried getting tickets. Some Swifties filed class action lawsuits this year over the on-sale.
The investigation itself is focused on how Live Nation and Ticketmaster’s combined power in the business impacts competitors. Politico reported over the summer that the investigation could result in a lawsuit by the end of the year, though so far, no such suit has been announced.
Live Nation and Ticketmaster have drawn the ire of competing companies for years, particularly since the companies merged in 2010. In 2019, Live Nation settled with the DOJ and amended the company’s consent decree — entered upon the merger’s completion — after the Justice Department claimed that Live Nation violated that order by allegedly strong-arming venues into using Ticketmaster to secure Live Nation shows. While Live Nation settled, the company has denied that it violated the decree.
Live Nation has also consistently denied that it operates as a monopoly in the ticketing and concert business. Regarding the prices themselves, artists often set their face-value ticket prices, while concert venues work with Ticketmaster to help determine the fees that get tacked onto each ticket. Venues often rely on those ancillary fees to help cover their costs.
Those fees are frequently bemoaned by fans, particularly as they’re often hidden until the end of a purchase through a so-called “drip-pricing” strategy. Neither the fees themselves nor hiding them to the end of a purchase is unique to Ticketmaster as both primary and secondary ticketing platforms tack on fees. Alongside primary and secondary ticket seller SeatGeek, Live Nation announced with President Joe Biden over the summer that it would adopt all-in pricing on tickets at venues that it owns and operates, though that doesn’t apply to the broader swath of venues that use Ticketmaster but aren’t owned by the company.
While fans and lawmakers, in particular, have voiced frustration with Ticketmaster, Live Nation has been vocal this year, calling upon lawmakers to pass legislation to push artist-forward ticketing legislation and crack down more heavily on the resale market.
Live Nation has pushed for its “Fair Ticketing Reforms,” which includes suggested policy changes like banning “speculative tickets,” where scalpers sell tickets they don’t actually own yet, along with enforcing the previously signed BOTS Act — which made using bots to buy mass amounts of tickets illegal but has only been enforced once since it was passed seven years ago.
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