ticketmasters owner reportedly under federal investigation

The Department of Justice has reportedly launched an antitrust investigation of Live Nation Entertainment, the owner of Ticketmaster, The New York Times reported.

News of the investigation, which the Times reports will center on whether the live concert company has abused its power, follows this week’s chaos over presales of tickets to Taylor Swift’s upcoming Eras Tour. Swift fans with special presale codes spent hours trying to purchase tickets beginning Tuesday and faced a crash in Ticketmaster’s systems. Fans were also upset with Ticketmaster’s dynamic pricing — a practice that results in higher prices as ticket demand grows — as well as the service fees tacked on to each ticket. Ticket prices for Swift’s tour were reported to be as high as $4,549, according to Yahoo News.

In a statement posted Thursday on Twitter, Ticketmaster announced the cancellation of Friday’s general sale for Swift’s tour tickets “due to extraordinarily high demands on ticketing systems and insufficient remaining ticket inventory to meet that demand.”

Swift addressed the situation on Instagram Friday. Though she did not mention Ticketmaster by name, she implied her team had been in contact with the concert giant about the expected popularity of her tour and sought assurances that sales would go smoothly.

“We asked them, multiple times, if they could handle this kind of demand and we were assured they could,” she wrote on her Instagram story. “There are a multitude of reasons why people had such a hard time trying to get tickets and I’m trying to figure out how this situation can be improved moving forward.”

However, the Times reported that the Justice Department investigation predates the tumult over Swift’s tour and that antitrust officials have been requesting information from venues and other stakeholders in the concert industry about Live Nation and Ticketmaster.

The Justice Department declined HuffPost’s request for comment on the investigation, and Swift’s team did not respond to a request for comment.

The entertainment behemoth is also facing scrutiny from other public officials. The office of Tennessee’s attorney general, Jonathan Skrmetti, tweeted Wednesday that, following complaints to his office, Skrmetti will look into the legality of Tickmaster’s handling of its ticket sales. Ticketmaster was also called out by multiple Democrats, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who tweeted that the merger between Live Nation and Ticketmaster in 2010 “should never have been approved.”

And on Friday, Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), who has previously critiqued the Live Nation and Ticketmaster merger, demanded a formal investigation of Ticketmaster in a letter to the DOJ that was also signed by 31 other House Democrats.

“While the harm consumers and artists have endured for over a decade cannot be reversed, ticketing and venue competitors, fans, and local music communities would breathe a collective sigh of relief if the merger were undone,” the letter said. “Therefore, we urge you to begin a process to review and reverse this anti-competitive merger that has harmed countless Americans.

More than 12,800 fans had signed a petition by Tuesday afternoon asking the Justice Department to investigate the company after a group of anti-monopoly activists, called Break Up Ticketmaster, encouraged them to do so.

“Live Nation-Ticketmaster owns more than 70 percent of the primary ticketing and live event venues market,” the petition says. “They’ve routinely abused this market power to screw over concert-goers, sports fans, artists, venues, and other ticket companies. It’s time for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate their conduct and move to break them up.”

The petition notes that since Live Nation’s and Ticketmaster’s controversial merger in 2010, consumers and industry professionals are facing increased ticket prices — among other disadvantages — despite the company’s promise that the move would benefit consumers.

“Without competition in the industry, music lovers, sports fans, and event goers are completely at the mercy of this mega-corporation,” the petition says.

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