Live Nation demanding artist pay cuts, cancellation burdens in 2021

Memo puts burden on artists and not promoter

Rolling Stone has obtained an internal memo from Live Nation that demands some major changes for artists it promotes in 2021 and beyond. The memo outlines the changes to concerts and festivals it’s implementing next year when live music resumes in the wake of COVID-19, mostly putting the burden on the artists themselves and not the promoter.

The memo claims the pandemic has “changed the world in recent months and with it the dynamics of the music industry.” It says the world is in “unprecedented times” and the company and its artists must “adequately account for the shift in market demand, the exponential rise of certain costs and the overall increase of uncertainty that materially affects our mission.”

Live Nation, the world’s largest concert promoter, says many new principles must be in place in order “for us to move forward.”

“We are fully aware of the significance of these changes, and we did not make these changes without serious consideration,” Live Nation says in the memo sent out to its artists and representatives. “We appreciate you – and all artists – understanding the need for us to make these changes in order to allow the festival business to continue not only for the artists and the producers, but also for the fans.”

The memo says artist guarantees — money paid to artists before performing — will be cut by 20% across the board. Artists will receive a deposit of 10% one month before the concert/festival, contingent on an executed agreement and fulfillment of marketing responsibilities. The balance, minus standard deductions for taxes and production costs, will be paid after the performance.

Ticket prices are set by the promoter, at the promoter’s sole discretion, and are subject to change.

All artists will be required to assist in marketing of performances through minimum social media posting requirements outlined in artist offer.

All artists will be required to allow their performance to be filmed by the festival for use in a live television broadcast, a live webcast, on-demand streaming, and/or live satellite radio broadcast.

All decisions regarding “festival billing” are at the sole discretion of the promoter.

Purchaser will retain 30% of Artist merchandise sales and send 70% to the artist within two weeks following the performance.

Artists have sole responsibility for all expenses including airfare and accommodations.

The promoter controls all sponsorship at the festival without any restrictions, and artists may not promote brands onstage or in its productions.

Live Nation has strict radius clause that, if violated without prior authorization in writing, will result in either a reduction of the artist fee or the removal of the artist from the event, with any pre-event deposits returned to the festival immediately, at festival’s sole discretion.

Previously, the promoter would take the burden of any cancellations via insurance. However, post COVID-19, the artist is required to maintain its own cancellation insurance as “the promoter is not responsible for the artist fee in the event of a cancellation of the festival due to weather or a force majeure,” including future pandemics.

If an artist cancels its performance in breach of the agreement, the artist will pay the promoter two times the artist’s fee, and only be paid 25% of the guarantee if a show is canceled due to poor ticket sales.

If the promoter – either because of orders of the venue or any governmental entity – is not permitted to use the full capacity of the venue, then the promoter may terminate the agreement, and artist will refund any money previously paid.

Rolling Stone notes that a source close to the matter confirms some of the terms detailed are standard in pre-COVID-19 contracts, and the new aspects are part of broader negotiations with the industry to “navigate the post-COVID future when shows get back up and running.” However, outside of the insurance clause, it’s not defined what’s existing and what’s new.

Live Nation is getting a lot of flack from the industry on social media because of the memo. Many are speaking out against the corporation and its lack of support for artists.

The Winery Dogs drummer Mike Portnoy speaks of corporate greed across the board on Instagram. “Sickening! This is corporate greed at its worst…it’s bad enough that streaming services have already taken away almost all revenue for artist’s music, leaving the only way artists can make a living to go out and tour…then the coronavirus has taken away that income from us all for an indefinite amount of time this and into next year (& beyond?)…and now the greedy machine of Live Nation is changing their policies for when touring eventually does resume to remodel live shows to where the artists will have to struggle to make ANYTHING and at the same time be liable for THEIR losses!!!! This is absolutely unacceptable.”

Brendan Murphy from the Canadian hardcore band Counterparts says the financial security of performing isn’t there.

“Don’t be surprised if u start seein less and less from ur fav bands bc there’s apparently more financial security in running a lemonade stand on a hot summer day than there is being a touring musician,” he sarcastically writes on Twitter.

Author: Buddy Iahn

Buddy Iahn founded The Music Universe when he decided to juxtapose his love of web design and music. As a lifelong drummer, he decided to take a hiatus from playing music to report it. The website began as a fun project in 2013 to one of the top independent news sites.