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Live Nation president and CFO Joe Berchtold indirectly acknowledged that the company is undergoing an investigation by the Department of Justice.
In an interview at a Morgan Stanley investor conference Wednesday, Berchtold was asked to share any commentary about the substance or process of the DOJ investigation. The New York Times had first reported that the DOJ was conducting an antitrust investigation into Live Nation, which also owns Ticketmaster, in November 2022.
Berchtold, in Live Nation’s most substantive comments on the investigation so far, said that the company had previously reached settlements with the Department of Justice over its merger with Ticketmaster. (The first settlement, in 2010, restricted Live Nation from withholding tours from venues that did not use Ticketmaster and the second, in 2019, extended that consent decree, with new rules about retaliation.)
“We have a binding agreement with the DOJ as it relates to any perceived deeds in the past, much as you have individual settlements. So there has never been a situation where the DOJ has come and attempted to retrade a settlement,” Berchtold said.
“So A.) There are legal questions about whether or not they could retrade a settlement and B.) It would have a chilling impact on their ability to ever do settlements again,” he continued.
Berchtold continued to address the assertion, which many lawmakers made in a recent hearing, that the combination of Ticketmaster and Live Nation constitutes a monopoly.
“It seems to be, pick any random data pack you want and it’s ‘Ticketmaster’s a monopoly, therefore, Live Nation-Ticketmaster should be broken up.’ And there’s, if that were your proof in geometry, you would have failed,” he said.
“That doesn’t mean they’re not going to look and unfortunately, we don’t control the process of their timeline or when they come in loudly, or the politicians help and be loud. And then they go away quietly,” Bercthold said of the DOJ’s investigation.
He reasoned that Live Nation has increased the number of shows delivered to fans and “dramatically expanded the marketplace.” In the recent hearing, however, lawmakers repeatedly called the company a monopoly, with competitors and artists speaking to Live Nation’s outsized market share and what they saw as exclusionary ticketing practices.
As the investigation goes on, the ticketing and entertainment giant is also backing its own form of regulation, and calling on policymakers to ban speculative ticket selling and create greater enforcement of the 2016 Bots Act. These policies have been supported by Endeavor, WME, UTA, CAA and Universal Music Group, among others.
Ticketmaster was thrust back into the spotlight after the debacle this fall over the sale of Taylor Swift tickets. Asked why the recent sale of tickets to Beyoncé’s Renaissance tour went more smoothly than the Swift onsale, Berchtold said it was because there were more on-sale dates.
“The Taylor Swift thing, it was our fault and we said we could do more than ultimately we could deliver. Full stop. So that’s on us. When she increased the number of shows, in response to the number of verified fans to help somewhat counterbalance the supply demand imbalance, we said that we could pull off still doing that in one day. And the problem was when we were attacked that morning, we had no time to respond and fix that. So really, the only difference of substance with the Beyoncé onsale is we spread it out over more time,” he said.
He added that while the site did experience bot attacks during the Beyoncé onsale, they were spread out over a longer time period, allowing Ticketmaster to fix problems and impacting “a minimal number” of shows.
The other point of contention among fans has been with the site’s variable pricing, which can mean that ticket prices for events can vary wildly, depending on demand and the time they’re purchased.
Berchtold called variable pricing “misunderstood” and said it’s a tool used by artists to better capture more of the value of the ticket prices.
“We’re going to continue to look at the supply and demand. We’re going to adjust some prices. It doesn’t happen during that initial onsale. We use our analytics to help educate before the onsale, to help the artists decide what’s the right price that they want to charge for their tickets. You then go through the on sale process and at some point, the days after you step back you look at it you say, ‘How’d they sell? Do we need to adjust the price of any of the tickets that remain?'” he said.
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