ConcertsMusic Industry

A big deal for artists: Live Nation announces it will no longer take merch cuts at small- and medium-sized venues

It’s tough to be on the road this year because inflation has cut very, very deeply into the margins of musicians. Not only do things like gear, roadies, gas, accommodation, transportation, and food cost more, artists have been complaining about losing ground with the merch and swag they sell at shows.

In general, the best thing you can do for your favourite artist at a gig (other than buying a ticket, of course) is to visit the merch stand and pick up a t-shirt, a vinyl record, or whatever. Merch sales can be the make-or-break thing for many touring bands.

The problem has been something known as the “merch cut.” This is when the venue takes a slice of sales of all merchandise. I’ve heard of some acts having to hand over as much as 30% to the venue. That’s a pretty hefty tax. And while venues are hurting, too–merch cuts can help with their operating margins, too–musicians are hurting more.

Live Nation just announced something positive. As of right now, the promoter/venue owner will stop taking a cut of merch sales. They’ve done this  “so artists keep 100% of merch profits for each show.”

This is part of a program called On the Road Again, a Willie Nelson-led initiative that supports developing artists and their crew. This amounts to an extra US$1,500 per show to artists to cover fuel and transportation. There’s also a pledge of “financial bonuses to local promoters that help execute at shows, tour reps that live life on a bus, as well as venue crew members that have worked over 500 hours in 2023.”

At this point, the Live Nation plan is only in the US (at least as far as I’ve been able to find out; please correct this if I’m wrong) and they haven’t announced an end date for the program, but it’s great news for a lot of struggling artists.

Live Nation can afford this. Revenues are way, way up so far in 2023.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38019 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

One thought on “A big deal for artists: Live Nation announces it will no longer take merch cuts at small- and medium-sized venues

  • Awesome news for small artists!

    Reply

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