Songkick Files Antitrust Suit Against Live Nation, Ticketmaster

Songkick, the concert-discovery platform that helps artists sell tickets directly to fans, is suing concert promotion giant Live Nation Entertainment, Inc. and its Ticketmaster subsidiary for violating federal antitrust laws.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles Tuesday, 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.

A Live Nation spokeswoman declined to comment.

Tour promoters typically allow artists to sell about 8% to 10% of their own tickets for U.S. concerts, while artists get a bigger allocation in other countries.

Songkick has been helping artists sell their ticket allocations directly to its users looking for shows in their neighborhoods, and it has ramped up these sales since merging earlier this year with Crowdsurge, a white-label ticket-sales service.

The lawsuit alleges that Live Nation has tried to force Songkick and its artist clients to agree to charge certain service fees for their presale tickets, threatening on multiple occasions not to allocate the artist any presale tickets at all if the artist didn't comply. Adding these service fees makes the presale tickets cost as much or more as Ticketmaster's general-sale tickets.

The lawsuit also alleges that Live Nation Chief Executive Michael Rapino threatened several times to withhold his company's services from artists who insisted on using Songkick's presale ticketing service. No artists are named in the suit.

Songkick, founded in 2007, is also suing Live Nation for other alleged offenses including violations of California's unfair competition law. It is seeking an amount "to be determined" in damages.

Access Industries, the holding company founded and chaired by billionaire Len Blavatnik, is one of Songkick's most prominent investors. Access Industries also owns Warner Music Group.

Live Nation is the country's biggest concert promoter and controls more than 80% of the ticketing-services market for major concert venues in the U.S., thanks to "long-term exclusive dealing agreements with those concert venues," according to the lawsuit.

To win antitrust approval for their 2010 merger, Live Nation and Ticketmaster agreed to divest a unit that sells college-sports tickets and to license their ticketing software to the rival concert promoter run by Anschutz Entertainment Group. AEG now sells tickets on its own ticketing platform, AXS.

By Hannah Karp