Abstract: As great admirers of The Boss and as fans of live entertainment, we share in the popular dismay over rising ticket prices for live performances. But we have been asked as antitrust scholars to examine the proposed merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster, and we do so with the objectivity and honesty called for by The Boss’s quotes above. The proposed merger has been the target of aggressive attacks from several industry commentators and popular figures, but the legal and policy question is whether the transaction is at odds with the nation’s antitrust laws.
One primary source of concern to critics is that Ticketmaster and Live Nation are two leading providers of ticket distribution services, and these critics argue that the merged entity would have a combined market share that is presumptively anticompetitive. We observe, however, that this transaction is taking place within a rapidly changing industry. The spread of Internet technologies has transformed the entertainment industry, and along with it the ticket distribution business such that a reliance on market shares based on historical sales is misleading. A growing number of venues, aided by a competitive bidding process that creates moments of focused competition, can now acquire the requisite capabilities to distribute tickets to their own events and can thus easily forgo reliance upon providers of outsourced distribution services. If self-distribution is an available and attractive option for venues, as it appears to be, then it is unlikely that even a monopolist provider of fully outsourced ticketing services could exercise market power. Ultimately, a proper assessment of the horizontal effects of this merger would have to weigh heavily the emerging role of Internet technologies in this dynamic business and the industry-wide trend towards self-distribution.
The second category of arguments by critics opposing the merger rests on claims that vertical aspects of the transaction would produce anticompetitive effects. Indeed, Ticketmaster’s and Live Nation’s core businesses are in successive markets, and thus the proposed transaction is primarily a vertical merger, but there is broad agreement among economists and antitrust authorities that vertical mergers rarely introduce competitive concerns and are usually driven by efficiency motivations. This wealth of academic scholarship, which is reflected in current antitrust law, has not - from our vantage point - been properly incorporated into the public dialogue concerning the proposed merger. To the contrary, critics articulate concerns, including the fears that the merger would lead to the leveraging of market power and the foreclosure of downstream competition, that are refuted by accepted scholarship. Moreover, there are a number of specific efficiencies that, consistent with economic and organizational theory, are likely to emerge from a Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger and would be unlikely but for the companies’ integration. For these reasons, we submit this analysis in an effort to inform the debate with current economic and legal scholarship.