Live Nation in the US has announced a new scheme at its network of club venues that will provide additional financial support for artists as well as allowing them to keep 100% of any merch sales at shows.
The scheme has been developed with Willie Nelson and is named after his song 'On The Road Again'. He says of the initiative: “Touring is important to artists, so whatever we can do to help other artists, I think we should do it. This programme will impact thousands of artists this year and help make touring a little bit easier".
While the upper end of the live music sector is booming again having fully recovered from the COVID shutdowns - something Live Nation likes to regularly tell its investors - in the mid-tier and at the grassroots surging production costs are making it increasingly hard for artists to make a profit from touring activity, especially when they start touring further afield.
That has put the spotlight on the economics of touring, including the commissions that some venues charge of merch sales. In the UK, the Featured Artists Coalition launched its 100% Venues campaign, calling on venues to stop charging merch commissions. That was then extended into North America last year via partnerships with the Union Of Musicians And Allied Workers in the US and rapper Cadence Weapon in Canada.
Outlining the support Live Nation will offer artists via the On The Road Again scheme, it says: "All of Live Nation’s clubs are investing in developing artists by providing $1500 in gas and travel cash per show to all headliners and support acts, on top of nightly performance compensation. Additionally, these clubs will charge no merchandise selling fees, so artists keep 100% of merch profits".
The UMAW welcomed the initiative yesterday, saying on Twitter: "There are 85+ venues participating [and] we hope that more LN venues (especially small ones) will join. [This programme] begs the question - if Live Nation can stop taking merch cuts, why can’t everyone else? Venues, join the #MyMerch campaign and pledge not to take a merch cut!"
In addition to the supporting artists, Live Nation says that it "also wants to recognise all the unsung heroes working behind the scenes night after night to help make these shows happen, with more grind and less glory than most of the business".
To that end, "On The Road Again is providing 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".
Commenting on the initiative, which will initially run to the end of the year, Live Nation boss Michael Rapino - who in 2022 made $139m as CEO of Live Nation - says: “The live music industry is continuing to grow and, as it does, we want to do everything we can to support artists at all levels on their touring journey, especially the developing artists in clubs".
"Like Willie says", he adds, "this is all about making it a little easier for thousands of artists to continue doing what they love: going out and playing for their fans".