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IT’S MY PARTY, INC. v. LIVE NAT., INC., NO. 15-1278

Decided: February 4, 2016

The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling.

Plaintiff It’s My Party, Inc. (IMP) brought suit on March 5, 2009, alleging that defendant Live Nation, Inc. (LN) violated § 1 and § 2 of the Sherman Antitrust Act by engaging in monopolization, tying arrangements, and exclusive dealing in the music concert industry. IMP is geographically limited as a regional player that promotes concerts and works with venues in the Washington D.C. and Baltimore areas. LN is a national promoter that provides services throughout the country. Both parties also operate outdoor amphitheaters with IMP managing the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland, and LN owning the Nissan Pavilion in Bristow, Virginia. The district court denied LN’s motion to dismiss in July 2009, and an initial motion for summary judgment without prejudice in August 2012. Following briefing and argument, the court granted summary judgment in LN’s favor in February 2015. The district court granted LN’s summary judgment motion based on it declining to adopt IMP’s definition of the promotion market and excluding IMP’s portion of its expert analysis defining the venue market. The district court found there was insufficient evidence that LN engaged in monopolization, tying, or any other anticompetitive behavior. Because the plaintiff failed to define the relevant markets or to demonstrate any anticompetitive conduct, the Fourth Circuit affirmed.

The plaintiff has the burden of defining the market that defendant is accused of monopolizing. This case has two separate but related markets: the market for concert promotion and the market for concert venues. IMP wanted to bolster its claim by arguing for a national market to make IMP’s regional outlet appear modest as compared to LN’s appearance of market power through a nationwide network of promoters and venues. The Court found the market for shows is highly localized so promoters need to target their advertising to the area surrounding a particular venue. This localized market promotion meant that the competition between IMP and LN was a battle only for the Washington-Baltimore area, thus IMP is on equal footing and on its own turf. IMP’s definition of the venue market failed because it limited the venues in a way that only included IMP and LN, distorting the actual market. The lack of a defined market, weakened IMP’s tying and monopolization claims. The tying argument failed because while LN tied performances at Nissan with other LN’s promotion services, IMP could not show LN buyers were coerced into taking the combined package. The Court gave a number of reasons why a buyer would want a combined package without coercion being present. IMP’s last claim boiled down to the argument that LN’s national size rose to the level of monopolization. The Court said this argument would not work as it would punish successful companies and result in any national based company being subject to anti-trust attacks. And even with LN large size, IMP was not put into a position where they could not be competitive as the record showed IMP was able to double its profits from 2006 to 2012.

Accordingly, the Court affirmed the judgment of the district court.

Full Opinion

Ryan Jones