When first getting into the music business, I quickly learned the importance to artists — that is, those who perform original material not covers — of live performances of their music. I had some fun ideas for how those shows could go and, of course, feature some of my original-yet-unplaced songs that the artists wanted to put on their album and in their sets.
Around that same time, I kept hearing angry grumbles from live music venue owners and management. Who were they complaining about?
Live Nation and Ticketmaster were bullying these independent live music venues to only sell tickets through them or else.
The or else varied with each person I talked to, but in every case the upshot was this: If the live music venue insisted on using any other service to sell tickets, or if they allowed independent touring bands to handle their own ticket sales, why Live Nation and Ticketmaster would make sure their clients never played that venue.
Some music venues caved. Others told the international mega corporations where to stick it, then went out of business.
In any case, nobody local here in Atlanta could sue the bullies: Deep pockets of their now-enemies saw to that.
But Songkick.com just put their money on the line. While mostly Songkick offers white-labelled ticketing, their services do go deeper. For live performance bands and artists, they even have something called Tourbox that seems simple, intuitive, and does not build walls between band/artist and fan.
Songkick has called foul to the bullies.
Here is part of what they are suing about (italics are billboard.com’s; bold text is mine):
Defendants threatened yet another artist (whose identity will be disclosed once a protective order is in place) that Defendants would not market the artist’s tour and would moreover not permit the artist to use Paperless Ticketing (a technology designed to inhibit scalping) on any general sale tickets for the artist’s tour if the artist opted to engage Songkick rather than Ticketmaster for artist presale ticketing services. If carried out, such threats to withhold marketing would clearly damage Defendants, because they would result in overall lower ticket sales for Ticketmaster’s concert venue ticketing business, and would result in lower revenues for Live Nation’s promotion business and Ticketmaster’s venue clients. In a competitive market, such threats would be economically irrational. Ticketmaster’s aggression therefore demonstrates the lengths to which Defendants were prepared to go in order to protect Ticketmaster’s market power, including damaging themselves and their clients in order to preserve that power. In this specific instance, the threat worked. As the artist’s management explained to Songkick: “[T]he Ticketmaster bullying is out of control and we’re not going to be able to do all tour pre-sales off-platform.They are just sticking it to us too hard.” Read billboard.com’s article here.
Why do I care about this issue? I’m not selling tickets to my shows because I don’t perform and won’t.
But I am a songwriter looking to place my songs with artists. And as that songwriter learning about the business, I’ve seen the business change to the point that more and more people and companies are making less and less money in this industry. And why is that?
Pure and simple: Bullies.
In order to meet quarterly shareholder expectations, these corporate bullies are doing what all bullies do to control their playground:
- Target those with very limited resources
- Exploit the financially fragile
- Perform vile acts willingly
What all bullies fail to recognize is this one fact: Victims can and will only take the pushing around so long. Eventually somebody steps up and bops them on the nose and kicks them swift and hard in the macadamias.
That person says, “Enough. Stop it.”
Upon that show of a strength bullies no nothing about —
that is, strength of character
— the others at the playground find their will to live, play, and perform without fear and they, too, take a stand against the bully and proceed to reinvent the playground.
So, here’s to Songkick for helping to reinvent the music business so that the business is open to all who wish to play live. Kudos.