When Live Nation, the world’s biggest promoter, and Ticketmaster, the world’s biggest ticketing company, proposed a merger seven years ago, rivals feared the newly formed Live Nation Entertainment would unfairly monopolize the concert business. “If this merger is allowed to proceed, the combined entity will have the ability to suppress or eliminate competition in many segments of the music industry,” Jerry Mickelson, owner of longtime Chicago promoter Jam Productions, told Congress at the time.
That’s what’s happened since Live Nation and Ticketmaster came together in 2010, according to a lawsuit filed by a New York ticketing company in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles Tuesday (via the New York Times). Songkick, which specializes in using touring stars’ personal ticket allotments for presales through fan clubs and websites, declared that Ticketmaster acted in a “predatory, exclusionary and anticompetitive manner” to squash these types of sales. Songkick has worked with Adele, Paul McCartney, Ellie Goulding and others. (Read the full complaint.)
When an artist plays a large venue such as New York’s Madison Square Garden or Chicago’s United Center, Ticketmaster is under contract to sell most of the tickets. Artists, however, have generally received a standard 8 percent or more to sell or give away — some, such as Adele and Tom Petty, have used these allotments to attempt to maintain a fixed face-value price and keep tickets away from brokers and scalpers.
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But Songkick has accused Ticketmaster of trying to “dissuade” artists from conducting their own such sales and forcing Songkick and its clients to “agree to fix service fees for artist presale tickets at the same price Ticketmaster charged.” The result, according to the suit, is to “monopolize, attempt to monopolize, unfairly compete and interfere with Songkick’s ability to provide the artist presale ticketing services that today’s artists and their fans demand.”
The suit claims Michael Rapino, head of Live Nation, has unfairly told artists “they could not take a single ticket off of the Ticketmaster system, period.”
A Live Nation spokesperson refused to comment on the 68-page lawsuit.
Although Songkick’s suit deals primarily with artists’ ticket allotments, it expands to larger issues dealing with Live Nation’s dominance. The suit claims Live Nation used its “market power to the exclusion of competition” to pressure major artists (who are not named) to give up their allotments. Live Nation’s dominance as a promoter, the suit claims, unfairly pushes artists into using Ticketmaster, which sold $23 billion in tickets last year.
Concludes the suit: “No artist has been safe from these threats and anticompetitive acts.”