DOJ Ankle Biters Attack Live Nation For Seeing What No One Saw

“Some monopolies are just so entrenched, and some problems so difficult to address, that they require decisive and effective solutions.” Those are the words of Jonathan Kanter, who runs the Department of Justice’s antitrust division. He was talking about Live Nation, which the Washington Post describes as “a concert promoter, artist manager, venue owner, and ticket seller and reseller,” among other things. Which requires a pause.

It’s always interesting when antitrust types bemoan what they imagine is a “monopoly.” Applied to Live Nation, what became the latter was founded in 1996. That the DOJ had no interest in it then is a statement of the obvious. The Justice Department only discovers what it deems “monopoly,” but that most sentient beings cheer as wildly successful, well after the fact.

Applied to Live Nation, assuming it’s “just so entrenched” as the ankle biters at the DOJ presume, that’s logically because the marketplace in which it operates, and thrives, was plainly in need of what Live Nation became. Better yet, those atop Live Nation did what entrepreneurs do whereby they led the marketplace to what Live Nation has become, among other things a concert promoter, artist manager, venue owner, ticket seller, and reseller.

In other words, Live Nation’s success in the here and now is a function of its executives having successfully anticipated a future of music that was wildly opaque, it having subsequently completed intrepid acquisitions based on its speculation about an uncertain future, only to be proven not just right, but resoundingly so. Evidence supporting the previous claim can be found in the DOJ’s harassment of a corporation whose only “error” seems to be that contra the competition, Live Nation saw around the musical corner in ways the competition quite simply did not. As in had Live Nation’s executives not been impressively prescient about the future of the music industry, the DOJ wouldn’t presently be trying to break it up.  

Which is hardly an insight. Really, when in the past or present have readers heard of the Justice Department attacking the losers of commerce? Tick tock, tick tock.

No, only the successes need bother looking over their shoulders. Repeat it over and over again, Live Nation’s “error” can be found in it seeing the future of a business riven by monstrous tumult much better than the competition.

Which brings to mind one of the alleged offenses of the Beverly Hills-based company: according to an account of the DOJ’s lawsuit in the Post, “Performers at times must use Live Nation’s tour promotional services, or they cannot perform at company-operated venues.” Supposedly anecdotes like this are at the heart of the DOJ’s case. Ok, but where’s the offense?

Can Kanter et al seriously believe that Live Nation would and should employ those it left behind, as in those who didn’t see the music industry’s future in the way that it so clearly did? The DOJ’s lawsuit not only implies that Live Nation should hire those it beat in the marketplace, but even worse, that it should employ the businesses it deemed unworthy of acquisition in the process of discovering the future of the industry. No thanks.

Beyond that, why would the owner of a venue pay others for promotional services when it has them in house? Looked at in technological terms, do Apple stores hand over shelf space to Samsung and Google phones? It’s shooting fish in a crowded barrel, but of course Live Nation generally requires usage of its own promotional services for concerts inside its own venues. It integrated vertically just for those reasons, and as evidenced by the DOJ’s expressed anxiety, its integration was welcomed by the marketplace.

Which is what the reasonable will keep returning to in their analysis of the latest errant antitrust suit brought by the Department of Justice. It’s not pouncing because Live Nation saw the future of the music industry incorrectly, but because it was so impressively right when others were so wrong.

Republished from RealClear Markets


  • John Tamny

    John Tamny is a popular speaker and author in the U.S. and around the world. His speech topics include "Government Barriers to Economic Growth," "Why Washington and Wall Street are Better Off Living Apart," and more.

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