“You are purely for exposure“: Why many musicians can’t afford touring | DayDayNews Music

TonHis wisdom from musicians is simple: Streaming means you don’t make money from recording anymore? Make it on the way! Go out and tour like the old musicians, and you’ll be fine! This has proven to be a myth. In recent months, more and more performers have announced they are canceling tours or scaling back their live shows because they simply can’t afford to perform.

Animal Collective recently put kibosh on a UK and European tour in November. “From inflation to currency devaluation to bloated shipping and shipping costs… We simply couldn’t budget for this tour, and even if all went well, it wouldn’t lose money,” they told fans. Santigold also canceled her fall U.S. tour, saying, “I’m not going to continue sacrificing myself for an industry that has become unsustainable and uninterested in the welfare of artists.” Okkervil River’s Will Sheff estimates that if He has completed his tour of the US and Europe and he will lose about $20,000. Metronomy canceled the U.S. tour, citing cost, and earlier this year Little Simz said it made no financial sense for her to perform in the U.S.

There wasn’t any final straw for Santigold to pull the date behind her new album Spirituals. “It’s a cumulative factor over the past 10 years,” she said. The rise of streaming is a key issue: a stressor forcing musicians to find other ways to make money. “Suddenly you have to constantly use social media to continue marketing yourself, to figure out what you can sell, to get brand deals, to do private gigs,” she said. “It’s almost irrevocable.”

Then came the pandemic, which halted shows and heightened the need for artists to promote themselves. After the restrictions were lifted, musicians began touring like crazy. “You rush out and everyone rushes out,” Santigold said. “So my tour wasn’t profitable — maybe even a loss — and the only motivation was to stay in the public eye. That’s any musician’s biggest fear: if you’re not in front of people often, you’re not going to last. “

Anchorwoman at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton. She said performance fees are being cut. Photo: Harry Herd/Redferns

Over the years, there has been a clear need to address the pressures of the live music industry. The constant complaints about ticket prices suggest that finances don’t work for anyone: from fans feeling like they’re being taken advantage of, especially with the introduction of dynamic pricing, to artists seeing tickets being spent in the pockets of touts and dealers. During the pandemic, some of the promoters I spoke with hoped the suspension of live performances might spark conversations about lowering artist fees. Nobody wins.

The situation is even more dire now given the lifting of restrictions and the current economic crisis. British entertainers face the cost of Brexit on European tours, and Britain, which has been a lifesaver on international touring, with its low fees and mediocre artist support, is less attractive than ever for visiting entertainers. Viewers are feeling the pinch, and the cost of visiting utilities and infrastructure has risen.

“Supply is more limited because a lot of people are out of business during the pandemic,” said Sumit Bothra, managing director of ATC Management Europe, which has PJ Harvey and Katie Melua on its roster. “On top of that, a lot of venues have closed, a lot of promoters have gone out of business, so there’s an increased demand there. A 20-day tour might now have to be a 10-day tour. And you need talented staff to organize One show, and a lot of the crew has left the industry during the pandemic.” (It’s hard to overstate the impact of the pandemic: Earlier this year, the head of a stage production company told me to find the right size. The bolts to set the stage are a real problem.)

The bottleneck of artists returning to the road also makes it challenging to rationalize tours, which is one of the key ways to keep tours viable. It’s not just a matter of geography – driving from London via Manchester rather than Southampton to Glasgow – but ensuring that rest days are minimal, as staff still need to be paid and artists still need a per diem. Wasserman Music agent Mike Malak, who booked the likes of Billie Eilish, Kelis and Pusha T, said it was much more difficult now with venues booked. “If you want to organize a trip to Europe, you can’t get the beautiful route you want if you don’t plan a year in advance. A lot of artists are accepting now that they may have to take a few days off or walk more between shows Long distances, which can mean two drivers – another cost.”

Meanwhile, artist fees remain the same, or worse. Catherine Anne Davies, who tours and records as an anchor, says that despite her 2021 album “The Lost Art” being critically acclaimed, she has received offers at half the level of pre-pandemic levels . “When I was touring my first album, every gig was a failure,” she said, “but you’re building something, and you think, we might do better next year. We’re not even there yet, though. We start at zero. We start at minus 20.” Perhaps she could make up for that by working harder on her merchandise desk, she said, but then she exposed herself to the risk of Covid — which meant canceling more Lots of shows and no insurance to make up the shortfall.

Animal Collective at the 2021 Chicago Pitchfork Music Festival. Their upcoming tour in the UK and Europe has been cancelled.
Animal Collective at the 2021 Chicago Pitchfork Music Festival. Their upcoming tour in the UK and Europe has been cancelled. Photo: Annie Lesser/SPACE/REX/Shutterstock

The coronavirus remains an ever-present threat. It can derail a tour in a heartbeat, and it doesn’t just affect the artist. “Short-notice cancellations often leave grassroots music venues bearing the full cost of the event, with no revenue and no compensation,” said Mark David of grassroots venue events group Music Venue Trust. “The basic financial model of hosting small shows means there is simply no way a venue can cover these costs. There has to be some cost, and we fear the immediate consequence will be the closure of the venue.”

But venues beyond the grassroots also need to do their part. Bothra reports that some prestigious venues have significantly increased rents since the pandemic, while many respondents complained about new fees levied by venues – merchandise tables, microphone stands and show recordings. Lancaster indie duo Lovely Eggs went viral over the weekend after calling for Manchester’s O2 Apollo to charge 30% of merchandise, the norm at O2 venues. Earlier this year, the dry-cleaning company defied the policy and opened its own pop-up store outside the O2 Forum Kentish Town.

After the charity launched a £250,000 fund to help touring artists, Davies was eventually awarded a grant to help musicians to help her on the road. “It has been oversubscribed by more than £300,000,” said the group’s chief executive James Ainscough. He said their research showed that touring in and out of the EU had become the biggest concern for UK musicians, with the administrative and financial costs of Brexit adding to the financial and emotional burden. He points out that touring further afield is not just about money: “There’s a tour in Europe where you can build a fan base and spread the word, and if you can’t do that, you can’t do that for a long time. Build sustainable careers within the semester. The result will be that many musicians will give up and a lot of amazing music will never be heard.”

Even so, Katy J Pearson, who recently completed a sold-out UK tour, said: “You know you’re on tour purely for exposure.”

Many in the industry suspect that the crisis will hit mid-level artists the hardest—those who perform in big clubs and smaller theaters, or who may be late in their careers. But that’s not the whole story, said David Martin, chief executive of the artist trade group Featured Artists Coalition. “Some of the greatest artists are trying to make the show work for them — they’ve maintained a lot of careers in the industry. The idea that the top 5% to 10% of artists are okay is also under threat.” Martin suggested that we’ll be in five to five To really see the impact of what’s happening now in seven years’ time, that’s when the supposedly nascent artist will be expected to succeed.

One solution, Martin suggested, is to eliminate VAT on ticket sales, which would put money directly into the live-streaming ecosystem. Others talked about transferring various “service fees” on tickets from sellers to artists.

For Santigold, what’s happening in music mirrors what’s happening in society — big corporations are depriving music of its economic value, impoverishing creators, and convincing fans of complicity. She wonders what happens when kids who are used to free streaming from family accounts grow up — will they switch to paid accounts?

Whatever the answer, no one thinks we can go on like this. “Systemic and structural changes are needed,” Santigold said. “But I also think you have to change the idea that art should be free. Someone has to say: ‘We value art.'”

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