Songkick just lost a large part of its lawsuit to Ticketmaster, and while part of the case can still move forward, it faces long-shot odds.
From its inception, the Songkick case has been premised by two arguments — first, that Ticketmaster’s refusal to work with Songkick is illegal, and second, that its refusal to unconditionally grant presale tickets is unfair. That first point, that Ticketmaster’s behavior is somehow illegal and a violation of the law, is mostly moot. In denying Songkick’s request for a preliminary injunction, Judge Dale Fischer said Songkick “has failed to show virtually any likelihood of success on the merits and has only made a weak showing, at best, as to irreparable harm.”
But the question of fairness is one that isn’t going away. After more than two decades of granting fan club ticketing requests, Ticketmaster’s insistence that artists follow a host of a complicated fan club rules is only going to continue to irritate managers, agents and artists. A source familiar with the situation said Live Nation has quietly continued talks with artists and management about making improvements to the platform and better communicating the rules governing its fan club policy.
Traci Thomas, manager for Jason Isbell, said she’s had few problems with fan club ticketing since she raised a stink over Ticketmaster’s lengthy rules in August. She’s also no longer selling Isbell’s fan club tickets through Songkick
“We moved his presales to Applauze,” she said, referencing another fan club ticketing suite that markets itself as Ticketmaster-friendly “Everything has been great since we moved him,” she said.
Randy Nichols was one of the few music managers to make a sworn declaration on behalf of Songkick, explaining how fan club ticketing works. He says he’s not for or against Live Nation/Ticketmaster, “I just want a fair, consistent and transparent conversation about artist ticketing,” said Nichols, whose fight over Underoath’s presale tickets and merchandise turned a spotlight on this issue. He said Live Nation should tell its talent-buyers “to work this out as part of the show or tour negotiations and let these decisions be made when the agent and promoter both have leverage in deciding deal structure. If an artist is unhappy with the ticketing plan, they can play for the competition. If all the key players negotiated these terms earlier it would allow the market to drive the outcome.”
While the direct to fan contact is valuable, the importance of presales is that it provides the artist and their team with valuable data about their best fans.
“Eventually, Ticketmaster is going to have to start sharing information about who’s buying tickets,” said booking agent Ali Hedrick with Billions Corp. Hedrick’s own emails were entered as evidence by Songkick, trying to establish that the company was playing within the boundaries of Ticketmaster’s fan club policy. Whether or not the company plays by the rules, Hedrick said Songkick and other platforms share consumer data that Ticketmaster refuses to turn over. Hedrick believes its time to loosen the reins.
“The artist should have their own data and they deserve to know who their fans are,” she said.
As for the lawsuit itself, the case will continue to move forward, although Songkick returns to court critically wounded. Its ability to argue that withholding presale tickets is a violation of the 2010 Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger has been stripped away. And the company’s reliance on emails and exchanges trying to establish that TM is illegally enforcing its fan club policy has been soundly rebuked by the judge in the case.
The case will proceed, for now, until a motion for summary judgement is issued and Songkick will have to put all its cards on the table. In the meantime, expect more discovery, depositions and salacious declarations from both sides. Songkick has premised much of its strategy on trying to embarrass Ticketmaster and shows no signs of letting up.