​Live Nation to “cut merch and travel costs” for touring artists — but the move faces criticism

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Live Nation has announced a new scheme titled On The Road Again, promising to “cut merch and travel costs” for touring artists, in partnership with Willie Nelson.

The entertainment conglomerate is offering artists $1,500 stipends per show towards gas and travel cash for those playing any of its 77 participating Live Nation venues, and will also not take any cut of merchandise fees from touring artists.

“Touring is important to artists, so whatever we can do to help other artists, I think we should do it. This program will impact thousands of artists this year and help make touring a little bit easier,” Nelson said.

Read this next: Live Nation has acquired a stake in Boomtown, according to new documents

While the program does offer certain benefits to artists, the move has faced some criticism for its relatively short time frame and the impact it will have on independent venues and promoters, effectively tightening the grip of large-scale events companies like Live Nation have on the industry.

The scheme will only be available for the next 90 days – or until the end of the year – before returning to its usual fees. The entertainment company also promises to provide “financial bonuses” to promoters working on its shows across the next three months – a move that some believe to be negaivetly impacting independent promoters.

The program has also been criticised for snubbing out smaller independent competitors such as clubs and venues, which could have the effect of monopolising the industry.

Read this next: Live Nation face wage theft lawsuit from former security team

The National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) criticised the scheme in a statement on Wednesday, explaining: “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.

“[The scheme] 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 3000 capacity, many of which still struggle to keep their doors open.”

Music & Marketing Entrepreneur Mike Ziemer also criticsed the move on Twitter, writing: “Live Nation just officially launched a campaign to knock out all their independent competitors under the guise of helping and supporting the smaller touring industry.”

Philip Montoro, a journalist at the Chicago Reader, added: “Live Nation is not your friend, and I’d think twice before taking an apparently better deal that cuts out a smaller independent promoter. If LN manages to eliminate all meaningful competition, the touring landscape will get REALLY bleak.”

Not all venues Live Nation is involved in are signed up to the scheme.

Country artist Drayton Farley revealed a merch cut was taking from his show in DC on Wednesday, September 27, writing on Twitter: “Live Nation wanted “their” 20% cut of Merch tonight at The Hamilton in DC, even asked for it specifically in cash. Too bad so sad. We made the Merch, we set the Merch up, and we sold the Merch. To hell with this mafia business.”

Another promised addition to the scheme will provide “financial bonus” to crew members who have worked more than 500 hours in 2023. In September Live Nation underwent a wage theft lawsuit from a former security team who claimed the events company failed to pay minimum wages and provide lunch breaks to staff. Live Nation denied all claims.

Gemma Ross is Mixmag’s Assistant Editor, follow her on Twitter

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Written by: Tim Hopkins

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