Live Nation's Michael Rapino Admits Some Ticket Fees 'Not Defendable'
Songkick officially shuts down as damaging testimony trickles out in its case with Ticketmaster.
Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino admitted in emails that some of the fees Ticketmaster charges for the sale of tickets are "not defendable" and that the company needs a "simpler more artist friendly policy/rule to meet the reality of today."
The admission follows decades of complaints about the fees Ticketmaster and other ticketing companies tack onto tickets, sometimes between 25-50 percent of face value. The comments were made public as part of an order released by a U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer, rejecting an application by Live Nation to seal or redact certain files and emails being entered into evidence in the 20-month-old lawsuit with Songkick that is set to go to court next month.
In a statement provided to Billboard, a Live Nation representative said the "documents cited indicate that Michael Rapino favored lower ticketing fees and changes to Ticketmaster’s Fan Club Policy that would benefit artists. We are at a loss to understand why that is a bad thing. The truth is that Songkick’s lawsuit has interfered with the natural evolution of these policies, harming both artists and fans."
Judge Fischer told the court that some of the redactions are necessary to protect financial secrets, but others are simply there to censor information that is "damaging -- or at least embarrassing, including quotes from high-level employees at Ticketmaster and Live Nation."
"The Court will deny without prejudice the remaining applications to seal evidence in the case," Fischer said.
The news comes on the same day that Songkick founder Matt Jones announced that his company was officially shutting down. Billboard reported in July that the company was winding down its ticketing business and selling its music-discovery app to Warner Music Group as part of an intra-company transfer.
In a letter to customers, Jones laid much of the blame for the demise of the company’s ticketing business on its rivals, saying Songkick was forced to "bow to pressure from Live Nation and Ticketmaster and complete the shutdown of all ticketing operations" after Ticketmaster "effectively blocked our US ticketing business."
Songkick is now suing Ticketmaster for unfair competition, interference and stealing trade secrets, alleging that TM’s Zeehan Zaidi and former Songkick employee Stephen Mead used old logins to access Songkick’s systems in order to misappropriate information
Songkick's concert discovery app, which was sold to Warner Music Group in July, will continue uninterrupted under the WMG umbrella.
"Our antitrust, trade secret misappropriation and hacking lawsuit against Live Nation and Ticketmaster will continue unabated," Jones wrote. "As we prepare for our day in court, and even as we shutter our business, we will remain focused on pursuing a legal victory and making the live music industry better for artists and fans."
Songkick’s investors, including WMG owner Len Blavatnik are hoping a victory in the case will help recover some of the $85-$90 million invested in Songkick.
Both sides will be back in court Monday at 2 p.m. Attorneys for Songkick are asking for sanctions against Ticketmaster’s lawyers after they handed over 4,000 pages of documents that had been flagged in an alleged FBI investigation, but had not turned over to Songkick until months after they were due. Shortly after the document dump, Zaidi and Mead quietly left the company.