this is the legal beatA weekly newsletter about music law Billboard Pro, offering you a one-stop cheat sheet of big new cases, important decisions, and all the fun things in between. This week: Live Nation faces potential legal fallout from Ticketmaster’s Taylor Swift fiasco, Journey bandmates sue each other over an American Express account, Mariah Carey loses bid to trademark ‘Queen of Christmas’, and many more.
Big Story: Taylor Swift… Trust Buster?
A week removed from Ticketmaster’s disastrous presale for Taylor Swift’s upcoming Eras Tour, criticism of parent company Live Nation isn’t calming down — and the threat of legal repercussions is growing.
Live Nation has apologized to fans and placed the blame on a “staggering number of bot attacks” and “unprecedented traffic”. And whether or not the star was actually forced to use Ticketmaster is a complicated question. Boardwrites Dave Brooks.
But the debacle, which saw widespread service delays and website crashes as millions of fans tried (and many failed) to buy tickets for Swift’s 2023 Eras Tour, still raises some uncomfortable legal questions for the all-powerful concert giant. has been resurrected.
Since they merged in 2010, Ticketmaster and Live Nation have been accused of creating a near-monopoly in the market for live concerts, potentially violating federal antitrust laws. Federal regulators at the US Department of Justice approved that deal, but only after Live Nation signed a so-called consent decree aimed at allaying fears that they might abuse their dominant position. Among other things, the settlement prohibits the company from retaliating against acts that deny access to venues or Ticketmaster. Those rules were set to expire in 2020, but were extended for five years in 2019 after the DOJ accused Live Nation of repeatedly violating the decree.
In the wake of the SWIFT fiasco, the same monopoly questions are in the spotlight again – and some lawmakers want more than just another extension of the consent decree.
Rep on Tuesday Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.) blasted Live Nation as a “monopoly” and called on regulators to “break them up.” Two days later, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), chairman of the Senate subcommittee on antitrust issues, warned that the company’s market share “insulates it from the competitive pressures that normally drive companies to innovate and improve their services.” Huh.”
Then on Friday The New York Times reported that the DOJ had already been investigating Live Nation for months over possible antitrust violations, reaching out to locations around the country to ask about the company’s conduct. Responding to that news, Klobuchar and two other Democratic senators on Monday urged the Justice Department to take tougher action if they discover more violations, including “opening up the Ticketmaster-Live Nation merger and breaking up the company”.
“It may be the only way to truly protect consumers, performers and venue operators, and restore competition to the ticketing market,” the senators wrote.
Such action would have been unthinkable just a few years ago, amid a decade-long period of relatively lax antitrust enforcement that saw airlines and mobile providers (and yes, music companies) merge into ever-larger conglomerates. But the Biden-era Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission have launched an aggressive new effort to crack down on such mega-mergers, including successfully blocking book publisher Penguin Random House from buying rival Simon & Schuster .
Beyond the Justice Department investigation, other legal threats also potentially loom for Live Nation. The attorneys general of Tennessee, North Carolina, Nevada, and Pennsylvania all have AleAn investigation was launched into whether state consumer protection and antitrust laws had been violated, including a Tennessee state law aimed at fighting the use of automated “bots” on ticketing websites.
And don’t forget about class action. Live Nation is already facing an existing case that accuses the company of “egregious, anti-consumer practices,” and the rest of the plaintiffs are barred from trying similar cases in the wake of this high-profile snafu. Might be looking forward to. At least one group of Swift-savvy lawyers is already brainstorming how to bring the cases.
In the face of it all, can Live Nation shake it off? stay tuned…
Other top news stories of the week…
Journey’s Credit Card Clash Journey guitarist Neil Schoen filed a lawsuit against bandmate Jonathan Cain for allegedly blocking access to “critical” financial records for the band’s American Express account through which “millions” of money in Journey allegedly went. Flown: “This action has been brought to light. The lights are on, so to speak, and Sean has been trying to get access to important financial information but has been denied. This case has been going on for the last two years.” marks the third legal battle between the members of Journey, but the first to split Shawn and Cain – the only core members remaining in the band from the heyday of Journey.
i feel bad –Primary Wave and the estate of James Brown faced a lawsuit last year claiming $90 million in catalog sales violated an agreement that the iconic singer struck decades ago with another company. case was filed by David Pullmanon allegations by the Pullman Group (known for creating the so-called Bowie Bond in the 1990s) that the blockbuster sale violated a contract the Pullman Company entered into with Brown in 1999, which allegedly required the company to The broker’s right to any kind of deal was guaranteed. in future.
Youth thug gang trial set for January – A Georgia judge declined to delay the closely watched criminal case against Young Thug, Gunna and others accused of participating in an Atlanta gang, meaning their trial is now set to begin on Jan. 9. is closed. Prosecutors wanted to move the trial back nearly three months because some of the defendants had not yet been appointed lawyers. But with Young Thug, Gunna and several others being held in jail until their trial, defense lawyers strongly protested the delay: “It is unjust that [Young Thug] Rotting in county jail and … waiting for attorneys to be appointed for co-accused.
dua lipa rips copyright suit – Dua Lipa’s lawyers asked a federal judge quickly to dismiss a lawsuit claiming that he stole his smash hit song “Levitating” from a little-known reggae track called “Live Your Life”. Florida band Article Sound System sued Starr for copyright infringement last year, arguing that the songs were so similar that it was “highly unlikely that ‘Levitating’ was created independently.” But in their response last week, Lipa’s lawyers said the allegations were filled with “vague, boilerplate labels and conclusions” and “devoid of factual detail.”
Maria Kenta may get ‘Christmas’ trademark – The US Patent and Trademark Office rejected Mariah Carey’s application to register “Queen of Christmas” as a federal trademark, instead siding with Elizabeth Chan, another singer who says she has used the same name for years. Reimbursed pro bono by BigLaw attorneys, Chan argued that no single singer or company should be able to lock up the title. “It is wrong for a person to own and monopolize a moniker such as the ‘Queen of Christmas’ for materialistic purposes,” Chan said in a statement after the decision.
R Kelly manager sentenced , donnell russell, R. Kelly’s friend and former manager was sentenced to 20 months in prison after pleading guilty to stalking one of Kelly’s sexual abuse victims in an attempt to silence her. Prosecutors said Russell used “reprehensible” tactics against the unnamed victim after she filed a civil lawsuit against the disgraced singer in 2018, including sending threatening messages to her mother and leaking explicit photos online.
Slacker on the Hook for Huge Royalty Judgment — A federal judge declined to undo his earlier ruling that Slacker owes Soundexchange nearly $10 million in unpaid music royalties, despite Stemmer’s warnings. Can lead to financial disaster for the company. Soundexchange urged the judge to ignore those arguments, and last week he obliged — ruling that the seven-figure judgment was simply the result of an agreement Slacker himself signed.