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U.S. lawsuit against ticket giant has Canadian music fans' attention

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Anyone looking to attend any major summer concerts knows just how pricey admission can be.

Skyrocketing ticket prices are just one of the reasons the United States Department of Justice launched a lawsuit in a Manhattan federal court on Thursday against the biggest concert promoter and ticket-seller in North America, accusing them of an ‘”illegal monopoly.”

"It's getting really hard, the costs are just getting so high and it's really just getting harder to access the tickets,” said Kate Taplin, a concert-goer from Halifax who finds it easier and often cheaper to buy concert tickets overseas and attend show there, rather than in Canada or the U.S.

The 31-year-old flew from Halifax to Germany Friday morning for a Metallica concert scheduled in Munich this weekend.

Taplin says it’s hard to even get a chance to purchase tickets in Canada, where she has to spend significant time online, trying to find access codes to secure seats, only to see all the tickets bought up and then resold for “much higher prices.”

“I have so many people helping me (purchase tickets) and then just when I think I have it figured out, they switch it up,” said Taplin.

In 2022, Taplin was travelling in Italy for a concert and said it was easier to buy tickets there for a show in Canada from there than it might have been to purchase the tickets from her home in Nova Scotia.

“I bought Harry Styles tickets when I was in Italy in 2022 and I bought them for the Toronto show, but I purchased them while I was abroad and I don't know what it was about the whole process but I went so much easier,” said Taplin. “I literally got general admission and I was in and out in two minutes."

In its lawsuit, the U.S. Department of Justice alleges the “illegal monopoly” that Live Nation and its company Ticketmaster hold has helped drive up ticket prices and has boxed out other businesses from competing in the ticket vending sector.

It’s not good for consumers or businesses, says Terry Smith, VP of operations with Locarius, an Atlantic Canada-based software company that launched a concert and event ticket selling platform in 2021. The company operates in all three Maritime provinces and it recently expanded to Ontario.

"Live Nation controls a lot of these venues and Ticketmaster is the only player that gets to sell tickets in there,” said Smith.

He and his colleagues at Locarius says their ticket-selling platform aims to be more transparent and make tickets easier to access at a fairer price, with fewer add-on fees.

Smith is in favour of the American lawsuit and hopes legislators in Canada are paying close attention.

"The ticketing business is infamously sketchy, for a lack of a better word,” said Smith. “There's a lot of practices that are frowned upon, but they get away with it because if you control the venue and the artist and the ticketing system, you can do almost anything."

Ticketmaster merged with Live Nation in 2010 - a move the U.S. government approved but now the justice department is trying to break up the company through the lawsuit, which has seen 30 states join in.

“We allege that Live Nation has illegally monopolized markets across the live concert industry in the United States for far too long,” said Marrick Garland “It is time to break it up.”

Concert-goers like Taplin will continue to pay the price, or go to great lengths to put themselves in the audience.

“I support that (lawsuit),” said Taplin. “I think that they probably play even more games behind the scenes that we don’t even know about.

According the to lawsuit, nearly 70 per cent of all tickets sold for major concerts across the United States go through Ticketmaster and the company owns or operates more than 265 concert venues across North America.

Live Nation calls the lawsuit baseless and attributes high ticket prices to the increase of production costs and artist popularity and points to ticket reselling or scalping as another driver of high costs.

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