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Concert ticket startup Songkick slaps Live Nation with antitrust lawsuit

Adele

Adele performs at Radio City Music Hall in New York on Dec. 14.

(Virginia Sherwood / Associated Press)

Online concert-ticket seller Songkick has helped major artists such as Adele sell passes directly to fans and thwart scalpers in an effort to take on market leader Ticketmaster.

Now it’s accusing Ticketmaster and its parent company, Live Nation, of engaging in anti-competitive behavior by pressuring touring artists and concert venues to not work with Songkick’s service. 

New York-based Songkick on Tuesday filed suit in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, saying that Live Nation broke federal antitrust laws, marking the latest legal challenge to the Beverly Hills-based company. 

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Artists use Songkick to offer tickets to fan-club members before they go on sale to the general public and to keep prized passes out of the hands of scalpers who want to sell them on the secondary market. The company says it has worked with artists including Kenny Chesney, Metallica and Mumford & Sons. Just last week, Songkick said it sold 230,000 tickets for the British singer Adele’s tour.

With the decline of traditional album sales, ticketing has become an increasingly important source of income for artists.

In its complaint, Songkick says Ticketmaster and Live Nation have “attempted to destroy competition in the artist presale ticketing services market.” The company is seeking unspecified damages, including punitive damages and attorneys fees.  

A representative for Live Nation declined to comment.

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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.  

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.

Ticketmaster wants to leverage Live Nation’s promotional abilities to get artists to use its own presale service, called OnTour, the suit says. 

Songkick also accuses Ticketmaster of enforcing an anachronistic policy about what counts as a fan club whose members can get access to early ticket sales. For example, Songkick claims Ticketmaster requires that true fan clubs have a message board, which it considers an out-of-date mode of communication in the social media age. 

“Defendants’ anticompetitive acts have increased and today threaten not only continued competition from Songkick, but the entirety of competition within the artist presale ticketing services market,” Songkick says in its 65-page complaint. 

Live Nation, the biggest concert promoter, bought Ticketmaster in 2010, despite complaints from rivals and consumer groups that worried about so much power concentrated in one company.

Ticketmaster has long faced criticism for the fees it charges consumers. In 2014, Ticketmaster agreed to issue $400 million in credit to ticket buyers to settle a class-action lawsuit over so-called order processing fees.

Just last week, Songkick raised $10 million in funding from Access Industries, the owner of Warner Music Group, to grow its business. Songkick merged with the ticketing startup CrowdSurge in June. 

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Follow Ryan Faughnder on Twitter for more entertainment business coverage: @rfaughnder


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