In December 2019, it was reported that media group Liberty Media was seeking to increase its stake in radio and streaming group iHeartMedia – possibly to a level that would give it control of the latter company. Now a range of artist rights and consumer groups have written to the US Department of Justice outlining their opposition to any such deal, noting Liberty’s existing controlling stake in SiriusXM (and through that Pandora) as well as a 33% stake in Live Nation / Ticketmaster.
“With its current holdings, Liberty already has amassed monopoly control of the satellite radio market, substantial control over the concert/live performance market, and ownership of one of the top three music streaming companies,” claimed the letter, which was co-signed by organisations including the Artist Rights Alliance, Center for Digital Democracy and Open Markets Institute.
The letter goes into some detail about its concerns for artists. “Up and coming talent will face an even greater challenges cracking through shrinking nationalized playlists. This challenge will be more daunting if a new Liberty music conglomerate gives preferential airplay and venue access/promotion to its own signed artists. Such preferential treatment would disfavor everyone else and squeeze more diverse voices off digital, AM/FM, and satellite distribution,” it suggested. “This merger will also be a setback in the struggle for fair economics for music distribution, as the new conglomerate uses its massive power to demand cut-rate, below-market royalty rates at the pain of being shut out across these major platforms altogether.”