Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Ticketmaster rebates and the Electric Picnic

Last week’s High Court order about information on Electric Picnic ticket sales puts the whole issue of Ticketmaster rebates in the limelight again

All eyes on the legal stage

Mon, Mar 24, 2014, 09:14

   

It was always going to be a court case which would eventually bring the issue of Ticketmaster rebates to the surface. That it’s the increasingly bitter case between POD Music Limited and Festival Republic Dublin Limited over management of the Electric Picnic which has brought this matter into the open is particularly interesting.

POD Music Ltd is the Dublin-based company which set up the Electric Picnic in 2004. Festival Republic Dublin Limited is the company which is controlled by Live Nation, who also control Ticketmaster and have done since 2010, and Gaiety Investments, which is co-owned by MCD’s Denis Desmond and Hozier manager Caroline Downey. Furthermore, Live Nation appears to be playing an increasing role in Gaiety Investments as that entity paid off €60 million in loans to Bank of Scotland (Ireland) last year.

There’s nothing new about the issue of rebates, where the ticket giant allegedly passes an amount per ticket sold back to the promoter of the show in question (this figure in Ireland, according to sources, can vary from 75 cent up to €2.50 or more, depending on who the promoter is). But it’s certainly the first time that Ticketmaster rebates have come up in open court to this extent. This occured for the first time last year in the POD v FRD case, but it also raised its head last week.

According to Mary Carolan’s report, John Reynolds for POD Music secured an order from Mr Justice Peter Charleton for “non-party discovery of volume discount information from Ticketmaster concerning Electric Picnic ticket sales over the five years between 2009 and 2013″. It’s clear from the exchanges that these “volume discount” or rebates (there was also reference in court to “secondary rebates”) and who got what from these Ticketmaster payments are a source of great contention between the parties in terms of the overall case.

Ticketmaster now have four weeks to produce the information, despite their protests that such an order would mean its staff would have to go through “endless boxes” to find the information. Counsel for POD Music said it could not be seriously suggested that Ticketmaster would not able to provide information on what was paid from Electric Picnic tickets sales for the years in question given that they must have a computer with this data.

It was pointed out in court that Ticketmaster were able to provide a printout of information relating to Electric Picnic 2006 and rebates (including a five-figure sum to former Electric Picnic shareholders Aiken Promotions) within two-and-a-half hours last November.

Meanwhile, the main case between the parties is set to begin on May 13. To recap, Reynolds contends that management decisions made by Melvin Benn of FRD relating to the 2012 and 2013 events (including booking The Killers and other talent acquisition decisions) were damaging to his company and the festival. He is also claiming that he has not been allowed to operate the festival as envisaged when FRD bought a 71 per cent stake in the festival for €4.2 million in 2009.

On the other hand, FRD allege Reynolds had been engaging in a deliberately obstructive pattern of behaviour and was seeking to have his shares bought out at grossly inflated prices. They also deny Reynolds has been excluded from managing the Picnic or that the FRD Group’s controlling companies, Live Nation and Gaiety Investments, merely want to make the Picnic part of their stable of festivals and outdoor events. Safe to say this court case is on track to be the music business event of the year.