Commentary

Songkick Files Antitrust Lawsuit Against Live Nation, Ticketmaster

Songkick, the online concert-ticket startup that artists such as Adele are using to sell tickets directly to their fans, is suing Live Nation, saying that it and its Ticketmaster subsidiary have “attempted to destroy competition in the artist presale ticketing services market.” 

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles Tuesday. Live Nation, which was contacted by several reporters, had no immediate comment.

Songkick’s action “alleges that ever since Live Nation merged with Ticketmaster in 2010, the two entities have ‘exploited their monopoly power’ to stifle competition from artist presales, the tickets that artists sell first to their fans, often for lower prices than fans might find in the general sale on Ticketmaster,” writes Hannah Karp in the Wall Street Journal.

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“Songkick says Ticketmaster has used its clout in the ticketing industry to try to force the company to pay service fees for presales, and intimidated concert venues to not work with Songkick and other rival ticketing services,” writes Ryan Faughnder in the Los Angeles Times.

“Artists have also come under pressure, Songkick says. In its complaint, the company says a ‘global superstar,’ whose name was not revealed, was denied marketing from Ticketmaster because the musician used Songkick for presales,” Faughnder reports.

“The case highlights the value of the international touring market, where artists now often make the majority of their income,” points out Ben Sisario in the New York Times, who reports that Ticketmaster had sales of $23 billion in 2014.

In addition to Adele, whose upcoming tour in the U.S. sold out in a flash last week, Songkick has been working with artists such as Paul McCartney, Ellie Goulding, Jackson Browne, Miranda Lambert and Ricky Martin, Sisario reports.  

“Although best known for its data and recommendations service, Songkick has been steadily moving into the ticketing game itself, in particular via its merger earlier this year with direct-to-fan platform Crowdsurge, and more recently by overseeing the presales on Adele’s upcoming shows, with a focus on stopping those tickets going to the touts,” — aka scalpers — Chris Cooke reports for Complete Music Update (CMU).

“By selling the highest number of tickets, we were able to go through our own channels, and working with Songkick and their technology, we have done everything within our power to get as many tickets as possible in the hands of the fans who have waited for years to see [Adele] live,” Jonathan Dickins, Adele’s manager, said in a news release, Adrienne Green reported in The Atlantic

“Adele’s efforts to thwart scalpers saved her fans an estimated $6.5 million in elevated resale ticket prices, according to Chris Carey, the CEO of Media Insight, a consulting firm,” Green writes. And that was just for her 2016 concert dates in the U.K. next Spring.

“Despite recently securing another $10 million in finance from key backer Warner Music owner Access Industries, this is a bold bit of litigation for Songkick to pursue, i.e., to go to battle with a company as well funded and so dominant in the live space as Live Nation,” observes CMU’s Cooke.

And one not at all averse to arm-twisting, the lawsuit charges.

“Songkick accuses Live Nation of applying behind-the-scenes pressure on musicians not to do business with Songkick and use Live Nation’s fan-club system instead,” the NYT’s Sisario writes. “In its suit, Songkick said that it would reveal the artists’ names if a protective order is granted ‘to avoid providing defendants with a further opportunity to intimidate them.’”

Songkick did not sell tickets when it launched. With the exception of superstars, the average concert is 40% to 50% unsold, Ian Hogarth, cofounder and co-CEO of Songkick, tellsBusiness Insider’s Biz Carson in a profile of the company filed Sunday. Songkick would alert fans when their favorite bands were playing nearby.

Now that it’s also selling access to the live shows, it “actively tracks and maintains a listing of known scalpers who have used the site before. Artists also work with the company to provide their own methods of weeding out resellers,” Hogarth tells Carson.

FYI, Adele tickets on Stubhub begin in the range of $300.

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