Jack Antonoff Says Venues “Fuck Artists so Hard” by “Taxing Merch”

  1. Everything about concerts costs more money for fans, yet the artists, the entire reason those events exist, are making less and less money off the endeavor.

  2. This has been bubbling up for a while. When I saw Porridge Radio recently at the AMG-owned shepherds bush empire they sold their merch from the pub next door after the show to avoid the venue taking a 25% cut. i know the big moon did the same earlier this year.

  3. Lmao you're right about that list being a pain to go through, but it's still great to see so many of my favourite venues on there. Based on the comments on here, I wonder if this is a much bigger problem in the States

  4. Merch is almost all that's left for small artists to make any money on. God knows you can't make money off records. The venues are digging their own graves with this shit. Soon, smaller touring bands won't bother going out on tour.

  5. Maybe this is naive idealism on my end, but it could be kind of cool if maybe smaller bands started going “fuck it” and just booked VFW halls and toured that way instead, kind of like in the 80’s. Perhaps that could be a viable means of protest if things only get worse?

  6. Me friends are either doing festivals and making a living or touring non stop and barely breaking even. This is after cutting as much cost as possible. I know bands that ultimately end up taking less members on or putting on a smaller show (at a dip in quality) in order to try and make it. It’s just unfair rn

  7. I think small bands in big cities like LA might just stick to their own city for shows, its just so expensive otherwise.

  8. Small touring bands play clubs, and clubs don't take merch cuts. We're talking about Lorde, Animal Collective, Arlo Parks; theatre acts. These are people playing corporate owned venues who of course take a cut.

  9. It's so true. Venues have their share of tickets. they have bar revenue. A lot even have a cafe, restaurant! You shouldn't have to rent space like a pop up shop or give away a percentage of your business - when you are playing the venue and helping to bring in a crowd!

  10. When I used to tour in a band, one of the very first things some of the venues (not all venues do this) would do when we got done loading in was have one of their people count how many t-shirts, CDs, etc. we brought in to sell. Then they'd count them again at the end of the night, before giving us our pay. It struck me as a really sleazy shakedown.

  11. How much oversight was there on this? Would there be any way to sneak in more merch after the official count?

  12. I'm glad more high profile peeps are speaking out about this. I'm a merch guy and most venues now take a 20 - 25% cut of the gross total made by merch. Total nonsense when you consider the band is paying about half the gross cost of merch to make it, ship it, and pay somebody to sell it. If you want to support a smaller band, Buying from their website is probably the best way to ensure they get the biggest cut (If they run it themselves that is).

  13. So you, as a merch guy, must be a pro at creatively fudging the count in right? I remember that's what our merch guy ended up doing "look at the count, we only ended up selling 2 shirts and 3 CDs! Here's your $15."

  14. Artists are getting fucked in many ways. But I didn't realize merch taxes were so high based on some of the percentages I have researched. Sounds wild how high the rates are. If they're going to charge anything for merch, it should be a flat fee.

  15. actually a lot of restaurants and businesses have a percentage of their sales as part of their lease. sometimes its helpful because it allows the rent to slide down during slow periods.

  16. Truth. I use to run merch for some touring bands. Most merch venders are put in a position to either A: lie about the amount of merch sold and risk being blacklisted from the venue in the future, or B: have the band BARELY break even or loose money for the day.

  17. I didn't even know this was happening. The venue fees are also extreme at this point. The Fever Ray tour was $40 for tickets and additional $20 in venue fees/ticketmaster fees. How?

  18. A metalcore band, Alpha Wolf, called out a venue for doing this during their performance and their sound was coincidentally cut off right after.

  19. I confirmed with a small musician Merch manager that the best way to support is to purchase directly on their website or through their social media. It’s really unfair how little musicians make for touring. My fav indie band recently did a tour and the lead singer got COVID and a bunch of compounded health issues; I couldn’t imagine how exhausting that has to be for very little money.

  20. A few years ago I was a booking agent at a small (now closed) mom and pop venue, and most talent agents didn't even offer shows to us unless the bigger promoters/venues in town had passed. We were expected to fork over big guarantees for unproven acts. Even as we were barely getting by as a venue, we never once took a cut of any band's merch.

  21. While this is certainly fucked, people are acting like their roommate's girlfriend's band is getting money stole from their pockets. He's not talking about your neighborhood hipster rock club taking merch cuts from Rocket Pussy. He's talking about theatre venues- which are all corporately owned- taking a cut from bankable artists like Lorde, Arlo Parks, Animal Collective. These venues are taking kickback while selling food and drink at 500% mark up, and selling tickets through an exclusive vendor that charges 25% of the ticket price for a meaningless and unregulated "service" fee. but yeah don't go burning down the Rigatoni Room

  22. It seems at this point that "Indie" is basically dead. Touring is basically a loss, albums are a loss, the only thing left might be soundtracks or commercials, which isn't really indie because you have to be established to get those gigs.

  23. The venues that the artist on his level book,are either owned or managed by Live Nation and Ticketmaster. So it's them reaching in to grab more of the artist share. They need to be investigated and broken up but they will hire some lobbyist and our corrupt government officials will cry overkill and try and shut down the reason that this started or water down what changes that could possibly be made. Or just stall for years until everyone gives up. American's need to prepare for this and demand no shady tricks on a United front.

  24. Frankenstein’s dick is right about this. There should be no reason venues take a cut of merch. If they do this, artists should get a cut of bar sales. Or just sell shit outside the venue. It’s scummy practice.

  25. It's not like small-mid size venues are rolling in money either, though. It's a tough business for everyone.

  26. Ehh I know a lot of small-medium venues cut deals for hospitality and merch based on ticket sales. Bands that sell well get a big hospitality budget and the merch fee waived. If a show is low selling/ losing money they are going to try a recoup some of their costs in those areas. I understand we all want to support the artists but the venue employees need to be paid too. Regardless a merch fee is genarally an 85/15 split in favor of the artist and are not a new thing. I think this is being blown out of proportion.

  27. I don’t think that is unheard of. I know when Garth Brooks (formerly Chris Gaines) played the University of Nebraska stadium he got a huge portion of the beer sales.

  28. Merch cuts are fuckin demonic and venues that do it can’t be trusted. If they get a cut of the merch the performers should get a cut of the drinks, right?

  29. I was in a club in college that booked shows. I remember how shocked we were when an artist sent us their standard contract and saw that we even had the option to take a cut of their merch.

  30. If the venue provides a service, ie a dedicated space and employees to manage merch, then a fee makes sense. But artists should be able to staff it themselves, and have the option of a flat fee or a cut.

  31. This just simply isn't true. I say this as someone who has spent my entire adult life as a touring musician (25 years and counting, lord help me). There are a TON of venues who won't budge on this, and unless you're the kind of artist who has the power to make them do it, you're screwed. The smaller touring bands are the ones who don't have the power to do this, and are also the ones who rely most heavily on their merch sales. Running a venue is costly? So is being in a touring band, except we don't screw over the people that we're doing business with to try to turn a profit.

  32. This may be ignorant and I apologize if it is but - can musicians unionize? Actors and writers have unions, why not musicians? IIRC SAG and WAG have requirements to stay in the union and receive benefits eg you have to have a certain number of credits / year, seems like it would translate to bands fairy well. What am I missing?

  33. not ignorant at all, a few small or specialized guilds exist but i don't think any of them have significant pull to collectively bargain. if someone like jack were able to organize something and get his connected artists on board that would be a massive negotiating tool. i'd join a WGA style guild for touring musicians in a heartbeat. and honestly for this they don't even need a huge guild, a group effort from big enough artists saying "hey, these our are demands" to venues, ticketing services, streaming services etc would do wonders.

  34. If focusing on the consumer, I guess the problem is worse with Ticketmaster. But on the side of artists, it’s fucked up almost on every level. Ticketmaster / Live Nation controls most of the larger artists and venues, but smaller venues which sometimes sell via Eventbrite or the venue’s own platform are also part of the problem, specially if merch sales on the road are the main source of income for a small artist. Earlier this year there was

  35. Man my band played this festival and they said they had an employee who can man the merch table for all the bands. Yippie we don’t need a gf or buddy to do it. O wait, after it’s over they claim they get 10% of the sales for manning the table. Fuck that.

  36. I mean, not defending the absurd cuts they take off the merch , but what did you expect in that case? They’re putting someone to work on the table there, they have to get paid.

  37. If I wasn't making any money touring my band around I would absolutely choose gouging fans over not paying rent / eating.

  38. The artists getting screwed most by merchandise fees are not the ones who’d even have “dynamic pricing” as an option.

  39. Why don’t the venues just demand they get a certain percentage of the merch booth for venue-specific merch? If your venue is cool, like Red Rocks, that merch will sell itself. That way the venue can sell their merch without taxing these artists

  40. They're not trying to do something fair, they're trying to extract as much money from as many places as possible. Because that is pretty much just who we are as a society now.

  41. Who was it…Pearl Jam who took Ticketmaster to court for this bullshit? Despite what you may think about him, Louis ck at least made an attempt to circumvent the system and create his own path on his way up (his own website, for a time, ticket agency).

  42. I feel like merch should just be left to the artist ... the venue gets to sell DRINKS and a cut of ticket sales. My band played Riot Fest and we sold a shit ton of merch that day and holy shit did they take a cut -- this after getting paid peanuts to perform (though it was worth it for us as a smaller band getting to play for thousands of ppl) but still .. it always felt like theft to me.

  43. Wow. When I first saw the tweet, I assumed it was just a big venue thing and probably made sense since the venue having/setting up tables and staffing them. Makes sense then acts need to travel/lodge less people on tour and the band and venues both win.

  44. I have noticed more smaller to mid sized bands direct selling their merch to their fans from the artists website now. They often have friends or family members helping them process the orders. I guess they want to cut out these venues taxing their merch sales which is a good idea.

  45. Artists should stop selling their touring to promoters. They have a direct line to fans now and they give up most of their door/s for what amounts to a mailing list and some social media ads.

  46. Everyone wants a bigger share of the pie and its the artists that get squeezed. The problem is, they will just stop doing it when they can't afford it and then everyone loses out. That said, venues are in competition with each other so when I hear stuff like this, I wonder what the promoter or manager is getting or thinking when they agree to it. Yes, some cities/towns are limited in terms of venue options but, at least broadly, I am aware of many that don't take a piece of merch or tax it.

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