In a civil complaint heavy on insinuation and light on details, lawyers for Masonic Temple owner Lance Beaty argue that Live Nation is now retaliating against the Cleveland venue by intentionally not bringing suitable tours and shows to the 2,300-cap venue and playing them instead at venues owned by Live Nation.
TempleLive's attorney Darren Dowd says a recent extension of the 2010 DOJ settlement governing the merger of Ticketmaster and Live Nation should be applied to his client's dispute, effectively forcing Live Nation to bring shows to the Masonic Temple.
To most people working in the concert industry, Live Nation's decision not to bring shows to a competitor is a standard business practice. Dowd, however, is so confident in his case, he's asking for an injunction forcing Live Nation to pay a $90 million judgement to Beaty before any witnesses have been called or hearings have taken place.
The consent decree was originally drafted by lawyers within the Obama administration seeking to preserve competition in the event ticketing space. Critics of the law argued the consent decree had too many loopholes to be effective. Over the next decade, Ticketmaster expanded its marketshare faster and wider than any of the company's competitors, leading to hundreds of complaints about Ticketmaster's aggressive expansion, but only generated a handful of actual violations.
Beaty is not the first attorney to point out the consent decree that followed the merger was drafted to address a very specific concern of competitors like AEG and indie promoter Jam Concerts, who worried that Live Nation would retaliate against venues that didn't sign ticketing deals with Ticketmaster by intentionally withholding concerts from the venue. It's not clear how that applies to Masonic Temple, which is a Ticketmaster client and stayed with the ticketing company after its booking agreement collapsed.
Dowd thinks the consent decree -- which was amended and extended by the Trump administration in 2019 -- applies to all of the company's business relations and forces Live Nation to continue bringing shows to markets where it has lost money or had disagreements with local promoters.
"On at least two occasions, representatives of Live Nation have stated to a representative of TempleLive's current booking agent, that Live Nation will not book any acts there based on false statements and/or conditions that would impose co-promotion requirements with the LVN parties," Dowd writes.
In one instance, Dowd said a local representative of Live Nation was approached by TempleLive's talent buyer about bringing shows to the venue. The Live Nation rep said "he would have to confer with his employer. He then reported to TempleLive's [talent buyer] that Live Nation would not book any acts with TempleLive because it 'owed money to Live Nation.'" As a result of the 2018 dispute, TempleLive has been "left to compete against Live Nation (and others) for artists, tours, and events" Dowd wrote in the complaint, noting "Live Nation controlled other tours and artists that would have been suitable acts to perform at TempleLive" but opted to play venues owned by Live Nation instead.
Beaty is suing Live Nation for tortious interference and breach of contract, arguing that the concert promoter's decision to explain its reasoning to TempleLive's talent buyer for not bringing shows to the Masonic Temple was intended "to disparage Plaintiff's goodwill and reputation in relevant markets." Dowd also argues that Live Nation's claim that TempleLive owed Live Nation money was false because Live Nation released TempleLive of any outstanding claims when the two companies reached a settlement ending their short-lived booking agreement.
Billboard reached out to Dowd and Beaty for comment and was told "the allegations in the Complaint speak for themselves." Billboard also reached out to Live Nation and was sent the following statement: "As TempleLive is well aware, following the settlement in 2019 where Live Nation released TempleLive from additional financial claims we walked away from our booking partnership and are under no obligation to continue to book events at the venue. We wish them all the best."