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Songkick sues Live Nation over anti-trust claims

By | Published on Wednesday 23 December 2015


If you are still disappointed that the big PRS v SoundCloud case is now never going to get to court, well, this new legal battle is a fine alternative, even if it is coming from a different strand of the music industry.

Gig recommendation service Songkick is suing Live Nation over allegations that the live music giant has been exploiting its monopoly power to keep competition out of the market place, especially when it comes to the pre-sale of tickets to concerts to an artist’s online fanbase.

Live Nation, of course, is a major player concert promoter and venue owner, has a significant artist management business, and through Ticketmaster is a big deal in ticketing, including pre-release, primary and secondary ticket sales.

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 pre-sales on Adele’s upcoming shows, with a focus on stopping those tickets going to the touts.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Songkick’s lawsuit alleges that Live Nation has held at least some of the artists it works with to ransom over their allocation of tickets for pre-sale promotions, by adding service charges to those tickets and threatening to withhold the act’s entire allocation if they don’t agree to pay those extra fees.

This makes it less attractive – or viable, even – for artists to work with the likes of Songkick, rather than Ticketmaster, on pre-sale activity. The lawsuit goes onto allege that Live Nation boss Michael Rapino has specifically told artists not to work with Songkick on pre-sales.

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, ie to go to battle with a company as well funded and so dominant in the live space as Live Nation. It will need to show that the various Live Nation businesses collude to stop artists from working with rivals in the ticketing space, and that that behaviour breaches US anti-trust laws.

It will be a case watched closely by most of Ticketmaster’s rivals, and especially start-ups operating in the ticketing space. Getting access to Live Nation artists and tickets is a key challenge for any new company operating in the ticketing domain, to the extent that you often wonder if the exit strategy for most start-ups is to sell to the live music giant, which has bought up a few businesses innovating in this space.

Songkick is trying something much bolder. If it gets to court, this could be one of the legal battles to watch in 2016.