Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Md., has inked an online ticketing and marketing deal with Ticketfly. The deal marks the largest venue contract to date for the upstart ticketing company, which also handles ticketing for 9:30 Club in Washington D.C., among other venues. The 9:30 is owned and operated by independent promoter I.M.P., which also books and operates Merriweather.

The Ticketfly contract is also significant in that it’s the first large venue shift from Ticketmaster to another ticketing company since the Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger was approved by the Department of Justice last month. Merriweather’s Ticketmaster contract expired in 2008, and the venue had been working with Ticketmaster on an ‘at will’ basis since then, according to I.M.P. chairman Seth Hurwitz.

Asked if the merger’s approval had anything to do with Merriweather going with Ticketfly, Hurwitz tells Billboard.biz, “No question about it. I was happy with Ticketmaster, but I can’t have my competitor selling my tickets. It’s just not going to happen.”

Service fees to be reduced
Under the Ticketfly system at Merriweather there will no longer be a service charge to print tickets at home, and service fees will be up to 30% lower per ticket than they were previously under Ticketmaster, Hurwitz says.

The first Merriweather shows selling through Ticketfly will be the May 1 My Morning Jacket and the May 16 Sugarland shows, both of which go on sale Feb. 26. Hurwitz says when My Morning Jacket heard about the opportunity to go with Ticketfly and thus reduce service charges, “they held up their on-sale date to give us a chance to get it going in time. Our service charges are so significantly lower that I think bands are going to applaud this.”

Hurwitz adds that he has no concerns about Ticketfly’s ability to handle the volume at the Merriweather, an amphitheater with capacity of 18,500 for concerts and up to 35,000 for festivals like last year’s Virgin Mobile Music Fest. He says that the Ticketfly ticketing system has worked well at the busy 9:30 Club, which was named Top Club at the 2009 Billboard Touring Awards.