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Merriweather drops Ticketmaster, signs with Ticketfly

Severing its final ties with the recently merged Ticketmaster/Live Nation conglomerate, Merriweather Post Pavilion operator I.M.P. has signed with independent ticket distributor and marketer Ticketfly, officials announced today.

Starting this season, Ticketfly will handle all of the Columbia amphitheater's ticket sales, according to I.M.P. chairman Seth Hurwitz. Hurwitz, an outspoken opponent of Live Nation, began using Ticketfly for shows at the 9:30 Club, which I.M.P. also runs, near the end of last year.

"This is obviously a major venue for (Ticketfly), but we've had a great time with them," Hurwitz said. "They seem to be able to handle anything."

Through Ticketfly, customers will not have to pay a fee to print tickets at home, and service charges will drop as much as 30 percent, Hurwitz said. ...

The first two shows offered through Ticketfly, My Morning Jacket's May 1 performance and the May 16 Sugarland concert, will go on sale at 10 a.m. Feb. 26. 

"I know people hate service charges, but they're a fact of life," Hurwitz said. "We wanted to get them as low as we could."

Last year, Hurwitz filed suit against Live Nation, claiming the company acquired a monopoly on the national touring market and used its leverage to "entice and coerce artists to appear only at amphitheatres and other venues it owns, operates or at which it controls the booking." The lawsuit is pending.

"We're like the Goldman family in the O.J. trial," Hurwitz said. "The government didn't help, so we're taking matters into our own hands."

Ticketfly was launched by the co-founder of pionering online ticketing company TicketWeb, and uses social media to help promote its shows. It currently sells tickets for the Knitting Factory, Bimbo's 365 Club in San Francisco, Brooklyn Bowl in New York and Troubadour in Los Angeles.

Merriweather's contract with Ticketmaster expired in 2008, and I.M.P. was using Ticketmaster at will since then, Hurwitz said. He hopes his decision will prompt other independent venue owners to sign with smaller ticket sellers such as Ticketfly.

"Hopefully this move will demonstrate to people it's possible to have a choice," he said. "We wanted to make that choice -- rather than sitting around whining about it."

(Baltimore Sun photo of Merriweather by Christopher T. Assaf)

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