Earlier this month, I wrote about how musician Jeff Rosenstock was making waves by publicizing the absolutely ridiculous merchandise sale percentages that touring musicians are forced to hand over to performance venues. These venues typically consider this "merch cut" to be a payment in exchange for allowing the bands to use their venues to sell things. Which, sure, maybe that would be fair — if those some venues were paying the bands a percentage of their concessions sales every night, in addition to their ticket revenue.
But of course, that isn't happening. The venues have the real estate, therefore, they reserve the right to "extract value" from concertgoers and performers alike — by tacking on absurd ticketing fees, or seizing cash from the merchandise that the band is forced to sell in order to afford the ability to go on tour in the first place.
Of course, most of these venues are also beholden to the monopolistic live entertainment powers of LiveNation and Ticketmaster. And seeing the backlash from the exposure of their greed, LiveNation has taken this opportunity to spin a PR win for themselves. According to Billboard.com, LiveNation is launching a new "On the Road Again" program — inspired by Willie Nelson, who serves as a spokesperson — that will "help" struggling musicians tour by not taking a mob-style protection racket payment from their merchandise sales:
Starting today, all acts playing Live Nation owned and operated clubs, from headliners to support acts will receive a $1,500 gas and travel cash stipend per show to all headliners and support acts, on top of nightly performance compensation.
As part of the program, the company's clubs will no longer charge merchandise selling fees, allowing artists to keep 100% of merch profits.
On the Road Again also includes financial bonuses to local promoters that help execute at shows as well as tour reps and venue crew members that have worked over 500 hours in 2023. On the Road Again also includes $5 million to Crew Nation, a fund created during the pandemic to support crew across the industry facing unforeseen hardship.
LiveNation patted themselves on the back in a press release, saying:
Touring is a crucial part of an artist's livelihood, and we understand travel costs take one of the biggest bites out of artists' nightly profits. By helping with these core expenses, we aim to make it easier for artists on the road so they can keep performing to their fans in more cities across the country.
Translation: our billion dollar profits are entirely dependent on the performers and technicians who actually make the live performances happen, and we need to save some face right now so we can keep extracting value from the artists, artisans, and fans whose exploitation allows us to thrive.
To be clear, this program is indeed a win. It's also long overdue, and I don't want to credit LiveNation with doing the absolute bare minimum here. You don't get a prize for not holding people hostage, you fuckers.
Live Nation to Drop Merch Fees, Pay $1,500 Stipend to All Club Acts [Dave Brooks / Billboard]
On the Road Again [LiveNation]