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VIA: Los Angeles Times

Giving its blessing to a deal that could transform the music industry, the Justice Department on Monday approved the controversial merger of the nation’s dominant ticket seller and the world’s largest concert promoter — but only after extracting major concessions to address concerns that Ticketmaster and Live Nation would have a stranglehold on ticket sales.

The merger, which was the first major review for Obama administration antitrust regulators, will create a goliath with hands in every pocket of the music business. The newly formed Live Nation Entertainment would have the ability to book concerts, sell tickets and merchandise, and manage artists all under one roof.

But for the $889-million deal to proceed, the two companies agreed to the unusual step of creating a pair of rivals to ensure a competitive market for ticket sales, which has been one of the few bright spots for the ailing music industry.

“This goes beyond what is normally provided for in a settlement by creating two additional competitors who can go up against the behemoth,” said Matt Cantor, a law partner at Constantine Cannon who specializes in antitrust issues.

A proposed settlement filed by the Justice Department, along with 17 state attorneys general, spells out measures to resolve concerns about competition.

Under the agreement, Ticketmaster will give Anschutz Entertainment Group access to its technology so that AEG — which owns and manages nearly 100 venues including Staples Center — can create its own ticketing service.

“AEG is committed to competing in the ticketing business,” Chief Executive Timothy J. Leiweke said.

Ticketmaster would also be required to divest a subsidiary that provides software for venue operators to sell their own tickets. Comcast Corp.’s sporting events division, Comcast Spectacor, has signed a letter of intent to acquire the Irvine-based subsidiary, Paciolan.

Live Nation Entertainment also is prohibited from retaliating against venue owners that defect to competitors.

When it was announced last February, the proposed merger of two concert-industry juggernauts brought immediate protests from consumer groups, smaller competitors and artists including Bruce Springsteen, all of whom worried about Ticketmaster’s growing power and its potential to ratchet up prices.

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