Lawsuits Against TicketMaster and Live Nation

In 2023, the New York Times reported that the Department of Justice was investigating TicketMaster over the chaotic sale of tickets to Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour, which would go on to become the highest-grossing concert tour of all time. Last week, the DOJ announced that it was suing to break up TicketMaster, which has been dominant in live events ticketing for decades.

While the complaint does not specifically mention any artist or concert series, it does allege that Live Nation (and its subsidiary TicketMaster) serves as “the gatekeeper for the delivery of nearly all live music in America today.” The complaint adds that “Live Nation possesses and routinely exercises control overwhich artists perform on what dates at which venues. Through Ticketmaster, Live Nation also possesses and exercises control over how fans are able to purchase tickets to see their favorite artists in concert and what fees those fans will pay to do so.”This lawsuit threatens to upend the live music industry by forcing Live Nation to divest TicketMaster.

Even though it controls such a massive presence in the live music industry, Live Nation and Ticketmaster have seen relatively few federal lawsuits in the last decade, and most of those lawsuits do not concern antitrust issues.

Live Nation has faced 284 lawsuits in the last decade. Trademark lawsuits are the most frequent case type, as defined by the PACER Nature of Suit system, with 41. Personal Injury, Contract, and ADA suits are the runners-up. Appellate antitrust cases are fifth, with 16 lawsuits.

In these trademark cases, Live Nation serves often as the plaintiff. A typical complaint alleges that the defendants are violating its intellectual property rights by selling unlicensed merchandise. Many of these cases are against unknown plaintiffs.

For the entire analysis period, Live Nation’s law firm of choice appears to be Latham & Watkins, who have partnered with the company on a majority of occasions. Other law firms that have represented Live Nation include Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, Proskauer Rose, and Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton. No law firm has yet to file its appearance on behalf of Live Nation in the new antitrust lawsuit. (This typically takes place in the months after a lawsuit is filed.)

Geographically, Live Nation’s lawsuits track population – the plurality of lawsuits are filed in the Central District of California. Next is the Southern District of New York, then the Northern District of California.

TicketMaster, a wholly owned subsidiary of Live Nation, has faced a smaller but similar profile of litigation. (Given the corporate structure, it is likely that at least some of TicketMaster’s lawsuits are also filed against Live Nation.) Of the 59 lawsuits against it in the last decade, 13 are for patent claims. Unlike Live Nation, TicketMaster has not filed a federal lawsuit as plaintiff in the last decade.

Like many (alleged) monopolists, TicketMaster and its parent company have drawn the ire of many American consumers. The new lawsuit is in line with the Biden administration’s more aggressive antitrust approach, although this lawsuit was filed by the Department of Justice, not the Federal Trade Commission. The litigation is bound to attract attention from news media, politicians, and potentially even musicians themselves.