Bruce Springsteen took to the streets – well, his website – in February and threatened that Ticketmaster and LiveNation combining to form one ticketing system would lead to a “near monopoly.”
Bruce’s cause earned a victory this week when the chairman of the Senate’s antitrust committee asked Christine Varney, assistant AG of the Antitrust Division, to investigate the Tickemaster/LiveNation $2.5 billion merger, saying it would “combine two entertainment powerhouses and will transform the concert business” and requires “thorough scrutiny.”
Ticketmaster is “the nation’s dominant primary ticket seller” and LiveNation is the “nation’s largest concert promoter,” the letter to Varney said.
An investigation would be another high-profile move by Varney, who made clear there would be increased antitrust scrutiny on her watch. The antitrust division has already made news with investigations into the Google books settlement and phone companies.
Varney does not appear to have free reign, however. As The New York Times reported Sunday, some Democratic lawmakers are concerned aggressive antitrust scrutiny will hurt ties they have tried to forge with the business community. Further, some in the Obama adminstration think a recession is not the time for an antitrust crackdown.
The Ticketmaster/LiveNation investigation, if opened, might be a good one to watch. It is a relatively focused area with very few main players and a not overly-complicated structure. Anyone who buys concert tickets knows that a $50 ticket (to the extent one still exists) ends up being closer to $75 once you pay the ticket company’s fees. Being a direct cause of annoyance in millions of concertgoers’ lives may make it difficult for Ticketmaster and LiveNation to find a lot of friends in this battle.
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