TM Sued Over Website, VIP Issues

Ticketmaster falsely advertised only the highest-priced tickets on its website in presales for “I Love The ‘90s: The Party Continues,” causing those sales to tank and forcing cancellation of some shows, Universal Attractions Agency claims in a federal lawsuit filed in April and amended Aug. 10.

– Ticketmaster

The “I Love The ‘90s: The Party Continues” package tour includes artists such a Tone Loc, TLC, Mark McGrath, Naughty By Nature, C&C Music Factory and others. Something of a companion tour to “I Love The ‘90s,” it continues to run despite the lawsuit and some cancellations because of poor ticket sales – which Universal accuses Ticketmaster of causing.

Universal contends that Ticketmaster posted only top ticket and VIP package prices on the tour’s splash page during the presale, discouraging potential ticketbuyers who allegedly saw only ticket prices ranging from $250 to $375, in at least one case, instead of regular ticket prices scaled up from the $20-plus range.

The agency charges Ticketmaster and parent company Live Nation with false advertising and unfair competition, calling the action “knowing, and wonton and malicious,” according to UAA’s complaint.

Ticketmaster denies the claim and filed a motion to dismiss, saying Universal failed to make specific allegations of false advertising or unfair competition charged in the original complaint. However, Universal filed an amended complaint Aug. 10, including exhibits from concert promoters concerned about the prices initially being shown on Ticketmaster’s website.

An email from promoter Ross Atamian regarding a Sept. 2 show at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., was included along with a screenshot from Ticketmaster’s website showing an available ticket range from $165 to $320.

“This is exactly what I was afraid of,” Atamian wrote to venue execs, promoters and Jeff Allen at Universal Attractions. “I am worried that with all of the good work we are doing to drive consumers to the presale TM page, having ONLY the VIP ticketing pricing show is a quick deterrent. … I have also copied Jeff Allen, tour agent as he has experienced this problem with TM on other dates and I’d like him to be informed of our actions.”

Another document, filed as an exhibit, is a letter from Nederlander Concerts CEO Alex Hodges, whose company booked a date for “I Love The ‘90s: The Party Continues” that was subsequently canceled.

Dated April 13, Hodges writes “… [T]he I Love the 90s show at Vina Robles Amphitheatre in Paso Robles, Calif., currently scheduled for July 16, 2017, is CANCELLED. The show was irreparably damaged by the new Ticketmaster pre-sale and VIP problem with their new format.”

In the letter, Hodges agrees to a $60,000 cancellation fee in order to settle costs including $90,000 in artist and $25,000 in production fees.

“We have been in touch with Ticketmaster and asked the ticketing company to take responsibility for the problem created by the company’s new updated format and consumer look, and the problems with this show when the pre-sale began,” Hodges wrote. “We are also aware that this problem occurred in at least 12 different pre-sales and venues, all on the same day of pre-sales or on-sales for our shows.”

According to Hodges, the VIP tickets appeared in presales “first, foremost and only. Fans were ‘turned off.’” He said the number of fans that landed on the site but left without purchasing was “astounding” and “uniquely high” while the conversion to sales was “uniquely low.”

Hodges noted that the VIP price range was set by Future Beat, a VIP packaging service that was chosen by the artists and, according to Hodges, “arranged directly with Ticketmaster.”

Hodges said the show sold seven total VIP packages. By March 24, 71 tickets were sold; by the time the plug was pulled April 13, just 140 tickets had been sold at the 3,018-capacity venue in the Central California Wine Country. Two tickets were sold that included meet-and-greets.

Hodges was unavailable to comment further. Reps for Ticketmaster and Live Nation did not immediately respond although neither generally comments on pending litigation.

Ticketmaster and Live Nation were granted an extension until Aug. 30 to respond to UAA’s amended complaint. All parties are to attend an initial pretrial conference Sept. 12 before Judge George Daniels in New York.