Live Nation Drops Merch Fees in Willie Nelson-Inspired Program
Live Nation, the world’s largest concert promoter, has announced a new program to help support touring musicians. The initiative is called On the Road Again, inspired by Willie Nelson’s classic 1980 single of the same name.
Beginning immediately, all artists playing at Live Nation-owned and -operated clubs – opening acts and headliners – will receive a $1,500 gas and travel cash stipend per show, on top of their already negotiated performance payment. Additionally, Live Nation’s venues will no longer charge artists fees for merchandise sales, a change which will likely put even more cash into performers' pockets.
“Touring is important to artists so whatever we can do to help other artists, I think we should do it,” Nelson noted (via Billboard). “This program will impact thousands of artists this year and help make touring a little bit easier.”
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Nelson also provided “On the Road Again” as the official anthem for the program.
Who Benefits From the ‘On the Road Again’ Program?
Artists are the most immediate beneficiaries of the On the Road Again effort. While the $1,500 per show stipend will grab a lot of attention, the removal of merchandise sales fees may end up being the bigger upgrade. Venues have routinely pocketed anywhere from 10% to 40% of an act’s merchandise sales profits, crippling one of the few direct sources of income for artists.
In recent months, calls to eliminate merch fees have grown louder. In January, the Senate judiciary committee heard testimony regarding the practice and its detrimental effects on artists' livelihoods. Separately, the Union of Musicians and Allied Workers pushed the #MyMerch movement, calling the sales fees “an exploitative practice that interferes with one of the few ways fans can directly support artists in this challenging economic climate.”
Live Nation’s On the Road Again program is a big win for touring acts, but the benefits stretch beyond the artists themselves.
According to Billboard, “On the Road Again includes financial bonuses to local promoters that help execute at shows as well as tour reps and venue crew members that have worked over 500 hours in 2023.”
“Touring is a crucial part of an artist’s livelihood, and we understand travel costs take one of the biggest bites out of artists’ nightly profits,” noted a press release from Live Nation. “By helping with these core expenses, we aim to make it easier for artists on the road so they can keep performing to their fans in more cities across the country.”