A lawsuit filed by Merriweather Post Pavilion operator It's My Amphitheatre Inc. (I.M.A.) claiming competitor Live Nation has a national and regional monopoly over the promotion of live music events was dismissed by a federal judge last week, prohibiting the lawsuit from going to trial.
The suit stemmed from a 2009 complaint by I.M.A. claiming Live Nation, which operates and promotes hundreds of venues nationwide, including Nissan Pavilion in Virginia, is in violation of provisions of the Sherman Antitrust Act – as well as the Maryland Antitrust Act – and that Live Nation uses its power to "coerce(s) artists to appear only at amphitheaters and other venues it owns."
The suit claims Live Nation has monopoly power within 19 of the 25 regional U.S. markets, but was spurred by activity in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia and specifically Merriweather Post Pavilion.
In a Feb. 19 decision, United States District Judge J. Frederick Motz granted Live Nation's motion for summary judgment after concluding I.M.A.'s claims did not produce enough evidence to go to trial.
The judgment ultimately ruled that Live Nation does not have a monopoly on the market, although Motz conceded that Live Nation is "indisputably large," and "utilizes its size and global reach to sign artists to exclusive contracts and steer them to perform in venues that it owns."
"So here's the deal on this whole thing… The ruling was supposed to be about whether or not there was enough of a case to go to trial. Plain and simple. And they successfully drew the judge into trying the case before that. So I have to give them that," said Seth Hurwitz, I.M.P. chairman, operator of Merriweather Post Pavilion and co-owner of the 9:30 Club.
"But that's not how it's supposed to go down, and we are appealing on that basis. We are asking for a ruling that this is supposed to go to trial.
"While I am certainly known as a dog that just will not let go of a piece of meat, the fact is that I am the last one to want to be in denial on something like this…I prefer to get over defeats and put them behind me as soon as I can.
"I don't believe that legally we have been allowed to have the fight we are entitled to, and we are going to fight to have that opportunity. If we get beat on that, then I suppose I might have to admit defeat. Maybe.
"It's our opinion that this was meant to be tried in court, and not beforehand. We are hoping the appeal process agrees with us," Hurwitz said.
Live Nation issued the following statement:
"We are very pleased with the judge's ruling, which we believe validates Live Nation's business approach and practices, and which aligns with our long-standing belief that the accusations made in this case were completely false.
"We feel vindicated that the court was able to see through the baseless allegations by a rival promoter and recognize that the claims of anti-competitive conduct had no merit. Our focus is, and will continue to be, providing a world-class live music experience for artists and their millions of fans."