Live Nation Squeezes Out Rival Promoters, Antitrust Action Says

     BALTIMORE (CN) – Live Nation has monopolized the market for promoting live concerts, a Maryland music promoter claims in Federal Court. “Live Nation has wielded this power to entice and coerce artists to appear only at amphitheaters and other venues it owns, operates, or at which it controls booking,” the lawsuit claims.

     Promoter It’s My Party Inc. and It’s My Amphitheatre dba Merriweather Post Pavilion say Live Nation dominates 19 of the top 25 regional markets for large venues used by artists capable of drawing more than 8,000 fans to a concert.
     The plaintiffs say the promotional business started to become highly concentrated around 1997, when a company called SFX Inc. began buying out competitive major independent promoters, including Bill Graham Presents, Fey Concerts and Pace Concerts. SFX also launched the trend of promoting all or most of an artist’s tour, rather than only the artist’s appearance in one market or region, the lawsuit claims.
     Radio giant Clear Channel Communications bought SFX in 2000 and renamed it Clear Channel Entertainment. However, a string of antitrust suits in 2005 forced Clear Channel to divest Clear Channel Entertainment by creating Live Nation as a separate, publicly owned company, the Maryland companies say.
     At that time, Live Nation cornered promotions for about 70 percent of the live music tickets sold nationwide, according to the lawsuit.
     Clear Channel used its 1,200 radio stations to advertise only Live Nation-promoted concerts, the plaintiffs claims, forcing artists to use Live Nation’s promotional services for fear that their songs wouldn’t get radio time and their concerts wouldn’t be adequately advertised.
     “Where artists had sufficient popularity to resist Clear Channel’s coercive conduct, Clear Channel used its enormous resources to outbid any competitors for the right to promote the artist,” the plaintiffs add.
     Live Nation then used its market dominance to offer super-competitive shares of concert revenues, often guaranteeing artists more than expected gross ticket sales, according to the lawsuit. These predatory tactics allowed Live Nation to net major artists such as Gwen Stefani, Nine Inch Nails, Kelly Clarkson, Coldplay, Dave Matthews Band and the Jonas Brothers, the complaint states.
     “The ultimate object of Live Nation’s scheme is to eliminate and prevent further competition, control all aspects of the music business, lower performance fees paid to artists and to charge super-competitive prices for concert tickets, remote ticket sales, concessions, parking, merchandise and other services,” the plaintiffs claim.
     The plaintiffs say Live Nation’s actions violate federal and state antitrust law. They demand an injunction, plus actual and punitive damages.
     Filing counsel is L. Barrett Boss with Cozen O’Connor in Washington, D.C.

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