Skeptical U.S. lawmakers questioned claims by the heads of Live Nation Inc. and Ticketmaster Entertainment Inc. that the proposed merger of the two largest companies in live music won't hurt competition.

"You strain our sense of commonsense," said Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, the Democratic chairman of a Senate Judiciary antitrust subcommittee. "Why should we let you merge?" The combined company will put "a stranglehold on all segments of the concert business," Kohl said.

Ticketmaster Chief Executive Officer Irving Azoff and Live Nation's president and CEO, Michael Rapino, defended the deal Tuesday at a hearing before the panel in Washington. Combining the No. 1 ticket-selling network and leading concert promoter won't mean higher ticket prices as some have alleged, they testified.

The proposed merger has produced an outcry from lawmakers, fans and recording artist Bruce Springsteen, who said the deal would create a "near monopoly." Critics say the combined company would gain the economic power to dominate ticket sales, concert promotion and artist management.

But Rapino said Live Nation, with a market share of 35 to 38 percent, faces competition from "strong local promoters" as well as nationwide promoters and said the deal will help fill up arenas that often are almost half empty for concerts.

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