One of the things that artists hate, I mean really hate, is when the venue charges a fee for the merch they sell. These merch fees could range anywhere from a flat fee to a percentage of the revenue as high as 35%. For many artists and bands, 35% may be more than they’re making from their products after they pay for someone to manage the merch table. To everyone’s surprise, Live Nation is not only stopping the practice in its venues but even giving artists money back.
Live Nation announced that it will no longer ask artists to share their merch revenue in the company’s clubs and will even be giving back $1,500 to headliners and openers to cover touring costs.
You’re probably thinking that the LN suits have big hearts to do such a thing, but think again. First of all, the move is a piece of a larger program with Willie Nelson called “On the Road Again”, which is currently being rolled out in an effort to support developing artists and crew at the club level.
But it also may have something to do with the fact that Congress was about to put pressure and scrutiny on the company for the practice after 10 venues gave testimony before the Senate judiciary committee at the beginning of the year. With all the talk over regulating ticket prices and purchases, which is potentially a much bigger issue, it’s likely that Live Nation came to the conclusion that this was a battle not worth fighting.
The fact of the matter is that Live Nation sales have been booming since the pandemic, and the money it was making from its merch fees in its clubs is a drop in a bucket compared to everything else. Again, you have to know when to pick your fights and there was no upside to winning this one.
On the other hand, that extra 20% (which is what LN charged) can make all the difference for a struggling band or artist, and any help they get from any source is always welcome.