Judge Dismisses Coachella Antitrust Lawsuit, But Allows For Claims to Be Refiled

In ruling from the bench, Oregon judge declines to rule on other aspects of Soul’D Out’s lawsuit and grants refile deadline of Oct. 25.

A federal judge dismissed an antitrust lawsuit filed by an Oregon festival promoter against AEG and Coachella Thursday (Oct 4.), but declined to rule on several other key elements of the lawsuit, including unfair competition claims.

In a ruling made from the bench, District of Oregon Judge Michael Mosman partially granted AEG’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit brought by Soul’D Out Productions, but gave the Oregon promoter leave to refill the lawsuit if they amended their definition of relevant markets, one of the key factors in evaluating an antitrust case.

“Establishing the correct product market is something the courts require with a degree of particularity,” says Nika Aldrich, who filed the suit against Coachella in April. He tells Billboard his client had tried to book three acts also performing at the 125,000-person festival — Tank and the Bangas, SZA and Daniel Caesar — for their Portland event, but were turned down because of Coachella’s 2018 radius clause. 

Aldrich also said Tank and the Bangas had a contract to play Soul’D Out and canceled their booking at the urging of Goldenvoice and Coachella, prompting Aldrich to also include in the complaint allegations of unlawful restraint of trade, unfair competition, and tortious interference.

Judge Mosman declined to rule on those counts, and he later issued an order denying a request by Coachella organizers to strike a letter from evidence detailing the festival’s nationwide, five-month radius clause for the festival that takes places over two weekends in Indio, California and attracts 250,000 fans.

Attorneys for AEG sent Aldrich the letter during settlement talks and argued that the private communication should not be used as evidence, “which is a position we continue to maintain,” attorney Justin Bernick tells Billboard, but Moses declined to strike the letter from the complaint.

The document was the public’s first look at Coachella’s radius clause, which barred artists playing the festival from performing any festival in North American from Dec. 15 to May 1. It also barred artists from playing any hard ticket concerts in Southern California during that same time period and requires artists to wait until January’s Coachella lineup announcement before publicizing any tour stops in California, Arizona, Washington and Oregon, with an exception made for Las Vegas casinos, but not Las Vegas festivals.

Soul’d Out has until Oct. 25 to amend and refile their complaint. 

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