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The US sues Ticketmaster for driving up live event fees

The US Justice Department has filed an antitrust lawsuit against Ticketmaster parent company Live Nation, seeking a breakup of its alleged live event ticketing monopoly.

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The US Justice Department and 30 state and district attorneys general have filed an antitrust lawsuit against Ticketmaster and its parent company, Live Nation Entertainment, alleging that it has a monopoly in the live ticketing industry that enables it to illegally suppress competition.

“It is time to break up Live Nation-Ticketmaster,” US Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement announcing the lawsuit.

The DOJ alleges that Live Nation’s dominance — which spans ticket sales, promotion, artist management, and venue ownership — has given the company unfair commercial advantages over rivals. In particular, its alleged ticketing monopoly has reduced consumer choice, resulting in higher prices, according to the government. Live Nation owns or controls over 265 concert venues in North America, according to the DOJ, which includes more than 60 of the top 100 US amphitheaters.

A ruling in the government’s favor could eventually unwind the Ticketmaster merger

The government alleges that Live Nation and Ticketmaster engaged in anticompetitive practices to protect a cycle that feeds it revenue, which the company calls its “flywheel,” according to the DOJ. In that cycle, Live Nation-Ticketmaster allegedly “captures fees and revenue from concert fans and sponsorship, uses that revenue to lock up artists to exclusive promotion deals, and then uses its powerful cache of live content to sign venues into long term exclusive ticketing deals, thereby starting the cycle all over again,” according to the DOJ press release.

Live Nation, the self-proclaimed “largest live entertainment company in the world,” drew antitrust scrutiny when it merged with ticketing giant Ticketmaster in 2010. At the time, President Barack Obama’s Justice Department was criticized for allowing the merger despite concerns that it would give the unified companies too much control over the live entertainment industry. While the DOJ hasn’t said at this stage what exactly a breakup should look like, a ruling in the government’s favor could eventually result in an effective unwinding of the Ticketmaster merger.

DOJ antitrust chief Jonathan Kanter explained why the government is calling for a breakup during a press conference. “Some monopolies are just so entrenched, and some problems so difficult to address that they require decisive and effective solutions,” he said.

In 2019, the DOJ and Live Nation agreed to update and extend the 2010 consent decree they entered when the government allowed the merger to go through without a challenge. That update clarified prohibitions on certain behaviors the government feared could harm competition, like threatening venues with withholding concerts if they chose a different ticketing platform. But senior DOJ officials told reporters from several publications on a background call Thursday that the conduct it alleges in its lawsuit is broader and more recent in scope and centers on violations of antimonopoly law rather than merger law.

Concerns over Live Nation’s dominance came to a head in November 2022 when Ticketmaster crashed due to “unprecedented demand,” preventing thousands of Taylor Swift fans from purchasing Eras Tour tickets. The DOJ’s antitrust investigation into Live Nation was reportedly opened shortly after this incident, according to The New York Times.

In the complaint, the DOJ details several methods that Live Nation-Ticketmaster allegedly used to lock up the market. For example, it alleges that the company “exploits” its relationship with “potential competitor-turned-partner” Oak View Group, which manages live events venues but has “avoided bidding against Live Nation for artist talent.” Live Nation-Ticketmaster has also “threatened financial retaliation” to keep new entrants out of the market, according to the government, and retaliated against venues that work with its rivals. The company also creates exclusionary contracts to keep venues from switching to rivals or using multiple ticketers, the government alleges.

Live Nation responded to the lawsuit in a blog post, saying that the government “ignores everything that is actually responsible for higher ticket prices, from increasing production costs to artist popularity, to 24/7 online ticket scalping that reveals the public’s willingness to pay far more than primary tickets cost.” Live Nation called it “absurd to claim that Live Nation and Ticketmaster are wielding monopoly power” since its service charges are often lower than other places and it isn’t even that profitable.

The government is demanding a jury for the trial, stemming from some of the claims under the states parties’ laws. The bipartisan group of states joining the lawsuit includes California, Colorado, Florida, and Texas.

The lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of New York, represents the third major tech anti-monopoly complaint filed under Kanter within two years. Kanter’s division also filed suit against Google and Apple under Section 2 of the Sherman Act and just wrapped up another Google trial, which kicked off during the previous administration.

Update, May 23rd: This article has been updated to include comment from Live Nation.

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The Nintendo Switch has turned into an excellent Mario RPG machine

Nintendo has released a remaster of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door on the Switch, joining other roleplaying games like Mario & Luigi and Super Mario RPG.

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When it comes to Mario’s traditional platforming adventures, the story is mostly set dressing. There’s an intro about Peach being captured or Bowser turning into a sentient castle, and then you get on with the jumping and exploring. But there’s a rich and interesting world that goes underexplored — which is where Mario’s roleplaying spinoffs come in. Since the original Super Mario RPG on the SNES, these games have not only given more stories and character to the Mario universe but they’re also somehow even weirder than the already quite weird mainline games.

And with the addition of the new remaster of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, the Nintendo Switch (and its subscription service) has slowly turned into a great starting point for getting started with the Mario RPG universe.

The obvious place to start with the franchise is Super Mario RPG. For a while, that was easier said than done. Unlike most Nintendo games, Mario RPG hasn’t been ported all that much; there’s the original SNES version, rereleases on the Wii / Wii U virtual console, and its inclusion in the SNES Classic Edition. But last year, the Switch got a full-on remake, which doesn’t change much aside from introducing proper 3D graphics and some quality-of-life tweaks.

But it didn’t need to change much: this game is a delight. Created in collaboration with Final Fantasy maker Square Enix (then SquareSoft), it’s a fairly traditional RPG — which means turn-based battles, gear upgrades, and magic — that turns the Mushroom Kingdom into a fever dream of a fantasy realm. It somehow manages to marry slapstick humor with an epic quest, stuff it with Mario references, and still feel cohesive.

From there, Mario RPGs went on two diverging paths. One of them is only lightly represented on the Switch. As part of Nintendo Switch Online’s library of Game Boy Advance titles, you can play Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, which, as the name implies, has players controlling both brothers on a goofy journey to rescue Peach’s voice from an evil bean. To give a sense of how odd Superstar Saga can get: the game opens with a scene where you see Luigi doing laundry and Mario in the shower. It only gets sillier from there. But its playful approach to combat and storytelling makes it stand up even now.

The other spinoff series is Paper Mario. It kicked off on the N64, and the original game is available as part of Switch Online. What defines this series — aside from the distinct lack of playable Luigi — is its papercraft aesthetic. Not only does it give the games a playful look but it also creates all kinds of opportunities for great jokes and fun gameplay. Depending on the game, Mario can turn into a paper airplane or travel around the world using a fax machine.

The series arguably peaked with Thousand-Year Door, which originally launched on the GameCube in 2004. It maintains the lighthearted charms and solid yet accessible gameplay of its predecessors, but it builds on them with a surprisingly deep and interesting story and an extremely odd and lovable cast of characters. The remaster on the Switch mostly adds some welcome quality-of-life-tweaks, so that personality remains intact. Unfortunately, from there, the Paper Mario series slowly drifted away from its RPG roots, with subsequent releases shifting more into action territory.

That said, I have to give a special shoutout to 2020’s The Origami King on the Switch. While it’s not as pure of an RPG as Thousand-Year Door, it is still absolutely hilarious and has some of the most memorable — and heartbreaking — character moments in the entire series. Bobby the Bob-omb has forever changed how I view Super Mario enemies.

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Richard Sherman, songwriter behind Disney hits, dies at 95

He died in Beverly Hills from age-related illness, Disney said

Published by Faisal Ali Ghumman

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Los Angeles (AFP): Richard Sherman, the writer behind songs in classic Disney movies such as "Mary Poppins" and "The Jungle Book" died Saturday at the age of 95, the film and entertainment company said.

He died in Beverly Hills from age-related illness, Disney said.

Sherman and his brother Robert, who died in 2012, worked as staff composers for Disney between 1960 and 1973, during which time they wrote more than 200 songs for 27 films and two dozen television productions.

Their work was that of another era, with Hollywood magazine Variety describing their roles as "a job that no longer exists: in-house songwriters for a studio."

"Even when they weren't working for the Mouse House, their songs carried a Disney sensibility -- bouncy and positive, without any of the cynicism so prevalent in creative works (including music) in the late 1960s and 1970s," the magazine said.

In a statement, Disney described Richard Sherman as a "key member" in founder Walt Disney's "inner circle of creative talents." The brothers' work included "Chim Chim Cher-ee," a hit from the 1964 film "Mary Poppins," which won them an Oscar for best song. They also won the Academy Award for best score for the movie.

Robert Sherman wrote the lyrics and Richard, known as Dick, composed the music, following in the footsteps of their songwriter father Al Sherman.

"We are forever grateful for the mark Richard left on the world, and we extend our deepest condolences to his family," Disney CEO Bob Iger said in a statement.

The brothers were also responsible for hits such as "It's a Small World" and "I Wan'na Be Like You" from "The Jungle Book," and composed the scores for non-Disney works such as 1968's "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang."

"The duo's work remains the quintessential lyrical voice of Walt Disney," the company said.

They continued collaborating with Disney throughout the years, with Richard Sherman writing new lyrics for the live action version of "The Jungle Book" in 2016 and composing songs for "Christopher Robin" in 2018.

He was "literally a never-ending fountain of stories, of facts, of anecdotes, and of bits and pieces of everything that had happened," actor Tom Hanks said in 2013.

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