New Brunswick

Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival sues company behind ticket seller

Fredericton's Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival is suing a company that "failed to ensure that they had a functional online platform" for selling tickets, causing the festival to postpone ticket sales for two weeks this past spring.

Festival had to postpone ticket sales for two weeks in spring, after problems with etixnow website

Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival is suing the company behind etixnow.com, following ticket-sale glitches that prompted the festival to postpone sales for two weeks in the spring. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Fredericton's Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival is suing a company that "failed to ensure that they had a functional online platform" for selling tickets, causing the festival to postpone ticket sales for two weeks this past spring.

The legal action against Edmonton-based Canadian Live Productions Inc., which runs etixnow.com, comes just as the popular fall music festival is set to begin on Tuesday.

Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival Inc. alleges the company breached its contract, causing the festival "significant losses," according to a statement of claim filed in Fredericton's Court of Queen's Bench on Sept. 4.

The company switched to a different ticket-selling platform, Ticketpro, before resuming sales successfully on May 11.

"We wish it hadn't worked out this way," Harvest music director Brent Staeben told Information Morning Fredericton on Tuesday.

"They've been a good partner of ours for a period of time early on. Here we are now in the middle of this. I think the advice of our lawyers is not to say anything more about it. It's all in the statement of claim."

Canadian Live Productions has not filed a statement of defence with the court yet. 

"Until we have had an opportunity to consult with counsel, we have no comment," Brian Campbell, director of operations with etixnow, wrote in an email on Monday.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

'Extensive delays'

Under an agreement between Harvest and Canadian Live Productions, the company was supposed to sell Harvest tickets on etixnow.com in exchange for three per cent commission, plus GST, and a service fee on each Harvest ticket sold on the platform, according to the statement of claim.

The agreement was signed on Feb. 6, 2017, and was supposed to expire on Feb. 21, 2020.

On April 18, "a limited quantity of early-release venue passes" went up for sale, ahead of individual show ticket sales on April 26.

People who tried to buy early-release Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival passes on April 18 encountered a variety of problems, including 'extensive delays,' according to a statement of claim filed by the festival. (CBC)

But the April 18 sale didn't go as planned.

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 the statement of claim. It prompted a flurry of complaints on the festival's Facebook page.

Despite the problems, the early-release sale netted approximately $72,000, money that "is currently being held by Canadian Live," the documents say.

"Canadian Live assured Harvest that all problems experienced during the early-release sale would be corrected prior to the April 26, 2019, sale date," the statement of claim says.

Postponed ticket sales

But about 36 hours before individual show tickets were scheduled to go on sale on April 26 at 11 a.m., the company alerted the festival to "a newly identified problem in the architecture of the etixnow platform."

The problem meant that "a sudden rush of transactions would result in the etixnow platform's failure to perform adequately," the court documents say, and Canadian Live Productions couldn't provide a timeline for when it would be fixed.

With less than two days to go until sales were supposed to begin, the company recommended Harvest postpone ticket sales and instead sell them in a staggered manner, meaning tickets for each individual concert would be sold on a separate day until the company could fix the problem with its website.

But Harvest has never sold its tickets in this way and decided against doing that, the statement of claim says.

"Further, even under a staggered sales model, Canadian Live indicated that when Harvest commenced the sale of individual acts which were high volume (namely Robert Plant, Lucinda Williams, and Nathaniel Rateliff), that there was no guarantee the etixnow platform would function adequately under the high web traffic." 

Robert Plant & the Sensational Space Shifters are set to play a sold-out show at the Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival on Friday. According to a statement of claim, etixnow couldn't guarantee it could keep up with high web traffic from interested ticket-buyers of this show and other high-profile headliners.

Harvest postponed ticket sales from April 26 until May 11, which "had a negative impact on the reputation and public standing of Harvest and the festival," the court documents say.

In the meantime, the festival decided to go with another ticket seller, Ticketpro, determining that etixnow's platform was "neither suitable nor reliable, and any further issues with the sale of the tickets and venue passes would result in further irreparable reputational damage to Harvest and the festival," the documents say.

Festival begins Tuesday

Harvest alleges the company "failed to take the appropriate steps to ensure that the etixnow platform was fit for its intended purposes" and failed to properly maintain the platform, among other allegations of negligence.

It's asking for "special damages for legal fees, additional fees and charges in excess of those outlined in the Agency Agreement," but does not specify the extent of the "significant losses" the festival has allegedly suffered.

Harvest is also seeking the approximately $72,000 in early-release sales on etixnow and for the money to be placed in a trust until the legal proceedings are resolved.

The festival begins Tuesday and runs until Sunday.

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.

With files from Information Morning Fredericton

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