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March 2018: $110 Million Antitrust and Trade Secret Victory Against Ticketmaster and Live Nation

March 2018

In the decades since it first reached prominence in the United States, Ticketmaster has been largely bulletproof when it comes to antitrust challenges. In the 1990s, for example, the rock band Pearl Jam publicly tried to fight Ticketmaster and its fees, but failed. The Department of Justice then examined Ticketmaster’s conduct and declined to pursue any claims against the company. Similarly, in 2010, the DOJ once again took a pass on suing Ticketmaster and instead blessed its merger with Live Nation, which resulted in the creation of the world’s largest live music company. With one notable exception, no private plaintiff has ever been able to proceed past summary judgment against Ticketmaster on any antitrust claim, let alone up to the eve of trial.

That sole exception is Quinn Emanuel’s client, Songkick, which not only completely defeated Ticketmaster’s and Live Nation’s recent efforts to dismiss antitrust, trade secret misappropriation, and other claims at summary judgment, but also secured a $110 million settlement payment two weeks before trial, along with the defendants’ agreement to acquire its assets for a confidential amount. Notably, Quinn Emanuel achieved this result despite a decade-old Ninth Circuit opinion upholding dismissal on virtually identical antitrust claims.

Songkick was an artist presale ticketing service provider. In the United States and abroad, artists often secure a portion of their concert tickets to sell directly to their fans and retain companies like Songkick to conduct those direct-to-fan sales, which give the artists valuable consumer data and a long-term marketing relationship. All of this is in contrast to venue ticketing service providers (the most prominent of which is Ticketmaster), which a concert venue hires to sell the remainder of the tickets to an event. Songkick quickly became what Ticketmaster executives called an “existential” threat to its broader ticketing business, because Songkick represented a model in which venues and artists could dole out ticketing work on a non-exclusive basis, and because Songkick provided its clients other technology the defendants admitted they
could not match. Songkick subsequently became the target of an all-out effort to exclude it and similar companies from the market, as well as a years-long corporate espionage campaign.

In its complaint, Songkick alleged that Ticketmaster, under Live Nation’s direction and with its aid, committed several Sherman Act antitrust violations, as well as misappropriated Songkick’s trade secrets through the help of a former Songkick executive. Due to these various acts, Songkick further alleged the defendants forced it out of business, which had been valued at $100 million in mid-2015. Among other amounts, Songkick sought its lost going concern value and the unjust enrichment the defendants obtained from their anticompetitive acts and trade secret misappropriation.

Following fact and expert discovery, the defendants moved for summary judgment on all of Songkick’s antitrust and non-trade secret claims. The Court denied that motion in its entirety on the papers. Before that decision, no antitrust plaintiff had ever withstood summary judgment against Ticketmaster, making Songkick the first. The decision also set up for trial (for the first time ever) what the defendants’ lead attorney acknowledged was a claim that put the legality of Ticketmaster’s exclusive dealing practices “squarely at issue.”

Faced with Songkick’s claim and the prospect of a looming trial against Quinn Emanuel in late January 2018, the defendants resolved the dispute by paying Songkick $110 million in settlement (nearly 100% of its lost going concern value damages) and acquiring its assets for a confidential sum.