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Live Nation distributes stipends to get artists On the Road Again

Zach Cierzan | Wikimedia Commons

In honor of country music star Willie Nelson, ticket distributor Live Nation Entertainment has launched its On the Road Again program that will provide economic relief for the live entertainment sector on Sept. 26.

Although the exact details remain unclear, the program is intended to run “for the next few months.” It will work with 77 participating venues to deliver $1,500 stipends to eligible artists as well as “financial bonuses” for venue employees who have worked over 500 hours in the year.

The program follows increased attention around Ticketmaster’s recent history of high service fees and ticket scalpers.

“Seems like the f***ing’ rule now: if you work in a creative field, you’re supposed to feel lucky and happy enough to be there to get raked over the coals by millionaires and billionaires who will give you as small as a slice of the pie as they can to perpetually show growth in profits,” punk rock musician Jeff Rosenstock said in an Instagram post.

Since the 2010 Ticketmaster and Live Nation merger, some musicians argue that limited competition has sent costs flying while artists progressively see less and less of their profits.

“For pretty much every artist selling less tickets than I am, touring has become a demented struggle to break even or face debt,” New Zealand singer-songwriter Lorde said.

Commercially successful artists like Taylor Swift don’t have a problem making ends meet, but smaller artists feel the economic burden. After independent Canadian rapper Cadence Weapon toured last year, he lost $2,000 because of travel expenses. In 2022, Live Nation reported its increasing revenue saw record sales of $6.2 billion.

The indie rapper, born Roland Pemberton, attributed his loss to corporate cuts, stagnant wages and inflated costs. Pemberton said artists are lucky to keep all of their earnings after selling a ticket. Instead, the profits are often divided between tour costs and promoters.

According to the Government Accountability Office, corporate ticket fees now average 27% of the ticket cost. If an artist sells a ticket for $100, they would lose over a quarter of the profits–seeing $73 or less. Merchandise fees work similarly, reaching up to 40% in promoter cuts.

To mitigate the issue, On the Road Again plans to temporarily get rid of all merchandise cuts for artists at club-level venues.

The National Independent Venue Association criticized Live Nation’s program, citing concerns over it potentially harming small venues. “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,” it said.

As the On the Road Again program will only work with Live Nation participants, there’s concern that artists won’t play at independent venues, causing them to lose business and potentially close.

On the Road Again has pledged $5 million to Crew Nation, a global relief fund for live music crews, but it’s unclear how the fund will help venues stay afloat.

Regardless, the program will likely boost developing artists’ profits and make live entertainment more accessible–a direction many musicians hope to move in.

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