Live Nation Announces Program to Offset Travel and Merch Costs for Touring Artists

Live Nation Announces Program to Offset Travel and Merch Costs for Touring Artists

Live Nation Entertainment has announced a new program called On the Road Again, which provides travel stipends for touring artists who perform at select North American club venues. The 77 participating venues will also not charge artists merchandise selling fees. The stipend, which Live Nation plans to offer for “the next few months” at least, will provide artists with $1,500 in “gas and travel cash.” The program draws its name from Willie Nelson’s song of the same name. Find a video featuring Nelson below.

Along with the benefits for artists, Live Nation is offering unspecified “financial bonuses” to local promoters, tour reps, and venue crew members who have worked over 500 hours in 2023. The company has also pledged $5 million to Crew Nation, a global relief fund for live music crews. The company says it expects to disperse “tens of millions of dollars in extra earnings to club artists and crew” through the end of 2023 via the program. Pitchfork has reached out to representatives for Live Nation Entertainment for clarification on the length of the program and other details.

It’s currently unclear how long the On the Road Again program will exist, and also whether more venues are able to participate. Live Nation Entertainment has more than 200 venues in its portfolio, and stadiums and amphitheaters are understandably excluded for now, but so are smaller clubs like the Cafe du Nord in San Francisco and Paradise Rock Club in Boston. The program is likely to provide a short-term boost to touring artists performing at participating venues. It could also add pressure to unaffiliated mid-size promoters, many of which have faced increased consolidation from Live Nation and its main competitor, AEG Presents.

On the Road Again follows an extended campaign from artists protesting the fees that venues charge artists for the privilege of selling their merchandise at their shows—fees that can reach as high as 40 percent of sales. In 2022, the Featured Artists Coalition, Union of Musicians and Allied Workers, and Canadian rapper Cadence Weapon launched the #MyMerch campaign calling for an end to merchandise selling fees.

In a statement about On the Road Again, shared with Pitchfork, the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) said:

Temporary measures may appear to help artists in the short run but actually can squeeze out independent venues which provide the lifeblood of many artists on thin margins. Independent venues and promoters are investing in and elevating up-and-coming artists every day, and NIVA is supporting those efforts nationally. The initiative announced yesterday may seem like a move to follow the lead of some independent venues. It is not that.

Instead, it appears to be a calculated attempt to use a publicly-traded conglomerate’s immeasurable resources to divert artists from independent venues and further consolidate control over the live entertainment sector. Such tactics threaten the vitality of small and medium-sized venues under 3,000 capacity, many of which still struggle to keep their doors open.

Independent stages, where the majority of artists, musicians, and comedians start their careers, are small businesses and nonprofits. They are continually facing rising costs, increased deceptive ticketing practices in the resale market, and ongoing challenges following the global pandemic. Our stages are critical to the live entertainment ecosystem and local economies, and they must survive.

The economics of touring must drastically improve for artists and independent venues. There has to be a better way. NIVA will continue to support artists and empower independent venues as we collectively find it.

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