Colorado-based jam band String Cheese Incident filed suit against Ticketmaster yesterday (Aug. 6) in federal court in Denver, charging the No. 1 concert ticket retailer had tried to cut off direct tic

Colorado-based jam band String Cheese Incident filed suit against Ticketmaster yesterday (Aug. 6) in federal court in Denver, charging the No. 1 concert ticket retailer had tried to cut off direct ticket sales to fans.

At issue are the blocks of concert tickets typically held back for sales to die-hard fans, a practice successfully pioneered by the Grateful Dead and now common for many acts including Pearl Jam, Fleetwood Mac and Aerosmith.

In the lawsuit, SCI Ticketing, a company formed by a partnership between the band and Madison House, a booking agency, charge Ticketmaster had used its "monopoly power" and "a web of long-term" contracts to cut off its supply of concert tickets. The suit asks for damages and a court order barring Ticketmaster from the alleged anti-competitive practices.

Los Angeles-based Ticketmaster is a unit of media mogul Barry Diller's InterActiveCorp. A spokesperson said the company does not comment on pending lawsuits as a matter of policy.

Boulder, Colo.-based SCI Ticketing provides tickets for concerts by String Cheese Incident, King Crimson and others. The company is one of several businesses spun off by String Cheese Incident, which sells its own concert CDs and DVDs, books travel for fans and supports charity causes through its affiliates.

SCI Ticketing says in the lawsuit that Ticketmaster had targeted the artist-run agency and instructed concert venues and promoters to stop supplying it with tickets. "This concerted refusal to deal with SCI Ticketing, and Ticketmaster's monopolization of the relevant market and its abuse of that monopoly power, are causing damage to SCI Ticketing and may lead to its demise," the lawsuit says.

The company also alleges Ticketmaster had told concert promoters and venues with which it has long-term contracts in May 2002 that it would only allow direct-to-fan sales by SCI and others if the bands in question had "legitimate" fan clubs.

Those were defined in part as fan clubs that charge at least $15 per person for membership. String Cheese Incident has never charged its fans for belonging to a fan club and saw no reason to impose such a charge just to obtain tickets, according to the suit.

The band will release a new album, "Untying the Not," Sept. 23 through its own SCI Fidelity label. The hard-touring group has a slate of North American performances set through mid-October.


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