How Ticketmaster Enforces Its Fan Club Ticketing Rules And Songkick’s Battle To Change It
Following Ticketmaster's interference with their fan club business, Songkick is now suing the ticketing behemoth on the grounds that Ticketmaster, by refusing to allow artists to appropriate tickets for presales, is violating antitrust regulations.
Guest Post by Dave Brooks on Amplify
Songkick has filed a motion for a preliminary injunction against Ticketmaster, hoping to force the ticketing giant to stop interfering with Songkick’s fan club business. The filing contains dozens of emails between Ticketmaster officials, venues, managers, agents and everyday box office employees, caught in the middle of the fight over fan club tickets.
Songkick is suing Ticketmaster on antitrust charges, arguing that TM is violating the Sherman Act by refusing to appropriate 8-10 percent of the tickets to the artist for artist presales, which are often carried out using Songkick’s technology. The case depends on whether or not the judge agrees that Ticketmaster has a monopoly on its own tickets and if it’s legally obligated to set aside tickets for presales, as it has in the past.
The latest injunction filing provides a window into what the fight over fan clubs look like — and how Ticketmaster often forces its promoter and venue partners to deny fan club allocations to Songkick. The injunction references recent tours by the Alabama Shakes and Weird Al Yankovic that resulted in a dozen clashes over presale rules and the definition of a “fan club.” Much of the testimony from the injunction comes from Josh Baron, who works in Business Development at Songkick. Baron is also the co-author of the book “Ticket Masters: The Rise of the Concert Industry and How the Public Got Scalped,” a popular history of the ticketing industry and the rise of Ticketmaster.
In his testimony and using evidence from past emails, Baron showed how the Alabama Shakes were squeezed out of using Songkick for a number of venues on the tour. Songkick produced emails showing that Live Nation’s Grant Lyman had initially reached out to the band’s agent Matt Hickey and his managers Kevin Morris and Christine Stauder, communicating a directive from Ticketmaster.
According to the suit, Ticketmaster demanded that the Alabama Shakes pay Ticketmaster the service fees it would have made if TM had done the presale ticketing.
“For the three non-Live Nation promoted dates, Songkick pushed back against Defendant’s demand and refused to pay Ticketmaster the service fees it would have charged had it sold these tickets instead,” the suit alleges. “Had Songkick applied these full fees to the band’s artist presale tickets for these concerts, it would have had to charge between 276-366% of the service fees it originally planned to charge just to deliver the demanded fees to Ticketmaster (keeping nothing for itself).”
To spread out the costs and not have large disparities between tickets, Songkick raised its service fees for “all shows on the tour, not just at the shows for which (Ticketmaster) made their demands,” according to the suit. “What this practically meant is that Alabama Shakes fans who did not attend shows at Live Nation or Ticketmaster venues nevertheless had to pay higher prices for their artist presale tickets than if Songkick had not been forced to pay Ticketmaster’s fees for the two Live Nation-promoted concerts.”
When the band began to prepare for the second leg of its tour, it again found itself playing a number of Ticketmaster-controlled venues. Once more, Songkick was told they’d have to make TM whole on service fees for any shows sold via presale. Eventually the Alabama Shakes management gave up trying to use Songkick out of frustration.
“Following the second round of presales for Alabama Shakes, their manager told me that, until Songkick was able to sort out the Defendants’ continued interference, Alabama Shakes would not conduct presales through Songkick and would have to work with a different company,” Baron said in his testimony.
Weird Al Yankovic
Just eight days before Weird Al’s presale for his 2016 tour was scheduled to begin, “numerous Live Nation-controlled and Ticketmaster-contracted venues on his tour informed us at Songkick that Ticketmaster had ‘instructed’ them to withhold Weird Al’s artist presale ticket allocations.”
According to Baron’s testimony, in order to use Songkick, the site had to pay Ticketmaster the “full service fee Ticketmaster would have charged for each ticket sold by Songkick for Weird Al’s concerts in Ticketmaster and Live Nation venues,” he said. “This demand was for approximately 39 venues on Weird Al’s tour, far more than any similar demand I have seen in the past.”
Baron called the move a “pressure tactic, applied just eight days before Weird Al’s presale was scheduled to begin.” Eventually Weird Al’s management made a compromise with Ticketmaster.
“To absorb the costs of Ticketmaster’s demand for Weird Al’s tour,” Baron said, “Songkick was forced (as it was forced to do for the Alabama Shakes tour) to raise artist presale ticket service fees across all shows on his tour, not just those performances at Live Nation and Ticketmaster venues.”