New Brunswick

Company behind ticket-seller fires back at Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival

The company behind the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival's former ticketing partner says the Fredericton festival is to blame for problems people encountered when they tried to buy early-release venue passes last spring.

Canadian Live Productions denies it had technical glitches that prevented people from getting Harvest passes

A company behind the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival's former ticketing partner denies it had technical glitches that prevented people from getting passes to the 2019 festival. (CBC)

The company behind the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival's former ticketing partner says the Fredericton festival is to blame for problems people encountered when they tried to buy early-release venue passes last spring.

The festival is suing Alberta-based Canadian Live Productions Inc., which runs the ticketing platform etixnow.com, alleging the company "failed to ensure that they had a functional online platform" for ticket sales to the 2019 festival.

Harvest postponed sales for about two weeks after people encountered problems buying early-release passes on April 18, prompting a flurry of complaints on the festival's Facebook page.

The festival claimed there were "multiple end-user problems," ranging from "users being barred from purchasing tickets," to "extensive delays" and "users being logged out of the etixnow platform," according to Harvest's statement of claim, which was filed in September.

It claimed the problems and the delay in ticket sales caused the festival "significant losses."

The Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival set an attendance record during its 2019 festival, thanks to major headliners like Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters. (Joel Ryan/Associated Press)

But according to a statement of defence filed by Canadian Live Productions earlier this month, a limited ticket supply was to blame for the problems ticket-buyers encountered, not online glitches. It claims the ticketing platform never crashed or disconnected users.

"Any and all delays in processing transactions or patron disappointment arising from the failure to obtain tickets were caused solely by the limited supply of tickets allocated to Canadian Live by the plaintiff [Harvest] which was an issue entirely within the control of the plaintiff," the statement of defence says.

The festival set an attendance record this past fall with big-name acts such as Robert Plant, Lucinda Williams, Jason Isbell and Nathaniel Rateliff.

Harvest organizers declined an interview request about the statement of defence.

"We have nothing else to offer today beyond what is available in our original statement of claim," programming director Brent Staeben said.

Company alleges Harvest wanted to hike service fees

A few weeks before early-release passes for the 2019 festival went on sale, Harvest organizers "requested that patron paid service fees on event and pass tickets be increased by approximately 40%," the court documents say.

"The plaintiff's proposal was rejected by Canadian Live because of concerns regarding public perception of high service fees charged by Canadian Live and because the plaintiff's proposed increase was inconsistent with Canadian Live's brand as a moderately priced ticketing sales agency."

Canadian Live Productions claims it was limited supply, not technical glitches, that prevented people from getting early-release passes during a sale in April. Lucinda Williams was one of the headliners who boosted demand for tickets to the 2019 festival. (Patrick Semansky/Associated Press)

Ahead of the April 18 sale of early-release venue passes, Canadian Live Productions alleges it requested "website and social media analytics data" from Harvest "so that Canadian Live could prepare its systems to accommodate the anticipated demand and online traffic" that was expected.

But the company says it never received the requested data before passes went on sale.

The April 18 sale

On April 18, sales were conducted through the etixnow website and at kiosks in Fredericton.

"Because only a limited number of tickets were being offered for the April 18th sale and patron demand was unprecedented, numerous patrons who attempted to purchase tickets via etixnow were not able to do so because of limited supply of tickets available at that time," the statement of defence says.

Despite this, the company says it was "led to believe" that Harvest was happy with the way the April 18 sale went.

Just before individual show tickets were set to go on sale on April 26, Harvest opted to cancel its agreement with Canadian Live Productions and switch to a new ticketing partner.

In its statement of claim, Harvest claimed it chose to do this because Canadian Live Productions alerted the festival to a problem with the etixnow platform, warning it couldn't function adequately with "a sudden rush of transactions."

In a statement of defence, Canadian Live Productions claims Harvest organizers ended its ticketing agreement to try to deflect criticism away from itself. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

But Canadian Live Productions denies this, claiming Harvest was trying to deflect complaints away from itself.

It also alleges the festival switched ticketing partners because it wanted to "substantially increase ticket service fees."

Social media comments

Harvest switched to a new ticket-selling platform, Ticketpro, before resuming sales on May 11.

Canadian Live Productions claims those tickets included service fees that were almost 480 per cent higher than the April 18 sale and in prior years.

During those sales, Canadian Live Productions claims customers posted complaints on social media "which were either similar to or even more extreme than those posted following the April 18th sale."

But it alleges Harvest deleted those complaints from its social media channels and kept the complaints about etixnow. It claims this shows the feedback "was triggered by supply and demand issues and not system performance issues."

The statement of defence also claims that Harvest organizers defamed the company in media interviews and in a statement sent to its sponsors and partners.

None of the claims have been proven in court.

Canadian Live Productions is seeking more than $18,000 plus HST for services provided to Harvest before the agreement was terminated, plus more than $77,000 plus HST for commission and fees from ticket sales, as well as damages.

Etixnow's director of operations, Brian Campbell, declined an interview request on Friday.

"As this matter is before the courts, it would be inappropriate to make any comments whatsoever."

About the Author

Karissa Donkin is a journalist in CBC's Atlantic investigative unit. Do you have a story you want us to investigate? Send your tips to NBInvestigates@CBC.ca.

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