Former Ticketmaster Exec Pleads Guilty to Hacking Into a Major Competitor’s Platform — Rest Assured the DOJ Is Watching

Ticketmaster exec pleaded guilty to hacking competitor
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Ticketmaster exec pleaded guilty to hacking competitor
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Photo Credit: Ashley King

A former Ticketmaster executive has pleaded guilty to hacking a former employer and competitor to Ticketmaster under the charge ‘conspiracy to commit computer intrusions.’ Here’s the latest.

A lawsuit filed back in 2015 alleged that Ticketmaster hired a CrowdSurge (merged into Songkick) executive, Stephen Mead, who later hacked the former employer’s database to provide real-time information about its plans to Ticketmaster. The anti-trust lawsuit was filed by Songkick and accused Live Nation and Ticketmaster of abusing their market power to pressure artists into not working with Songkick.

During the discovery of that lawsuit, Songkick learned Stephen Mead kept 85,000 company documents on his laptop following his departure from CrowdSurge. Mead served as the General Manager of U.S. Operations, giving him access to documents that included confidential business plans, financial information, contracts, client lists, and several usernames and passwords for CrowdSurge tools.

Mead signed a separation agreement with CrowdSurge after leaving the company in 2012, agreeing not to disclose confidential information. Songkick says less than a year after signing that agreement, Mead went to work for TicketWeb, owned by Ticketmaster. From there, Mead began sharing trade secrets with his new employer, providing reports on CrowdSurge’s operations and using the information to refine Ticketmaster’s own artist platform.

“I must stress that as this is access to a live [CrowdSurge] tool I would be careful in what you click on as it would be best not to giveaway that we are snooping around,” Mead wrote in January 2014 in an email to colleagues. He also encouraged them to “feel free to screen-grab the hell out of [CrowdSurge’s] system.”

The lawsuit claims that a Ticketmaster employee prepared a presentation for Ticketmaster executives that included these screenshots of the CrowdSurge system. A few months later, Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino asked the employee to develop a plan to compete directly with CrowdSurge.

The lawsuit which brought the allegations was settled in 2018, after Songkick was sold to Warner Music and the CrowdSurge ticketing platform was sunset. In 2021, Ticketmaster agreed to pay a $10 million fine and introduce a new compliance and ethics program for its employees to avoid prosecution under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. However, Mead was still on the hook with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York for his role in the scheme.

Fast forward to 2024 and the former Ticketmaster executive has pleaded guilty to the illegal access of digital files belonging to his former employer. Mead now faces sentencing, which could include up to five years in prison. As part of his plea deal with prosecutors in this case, he has agreed not to appeal a sentence of one year or less.

The guilty plea coincides with a refreshed antitrust battle between Live Nation-owned Ticketmaster and the US Department of Justice, a multi-year process that is just getting started. A major focus of the upcoming investigation is whether Live Nation abused its dominant market position to squeeze, pressure, or eliminate competitors.