Calls to end fees that venues charge artists to sell merch grow louder
Testimony before the Senate judiciary committee and the operator of more than 10 live venues have added momentum to a movement demanding that music venues and promoters eliminate the fees they charge artists to sell merch at shows.
“we’re providing all of the customers and yet receive no cut from their many ancillary revenue streams.”
Venues and promoters typically charge 15% to 35% of sales for the “privilege” of selling merch at their own shows, even though it’s the artist that’s drawn the fans doing the buying. In most instances, the artist must also pay to staff the merch table.
“The argument is that the venue is providing us the retail space for us to sell our merch,” Clyde Lawrence of the indie band Lawrence told the Senate Judiciary Committee this week. “But we’re providing all of the customers and yet receive no cut from their many ancillary revenue streams.“
“Live Nation getting around 20% of our gross merch sales while we get nothing on ticketing fees, bar tabs, coat checks, and parking passes doesn’t make a lot of sense to me,” Lawrence stated.
“This industry only works if artists of all levels
are able to afford to tour.”
His testimony inspired the operator of 10 music venues and several significant festivals to take action. In a move that he says will cost the company several hundred thousand dollars a year, Ineffable Music Group CEO Thomas Cussins announced they would no longer charge artists 20% for selling merch.
“We are on the ground and hearing from artists every day,” Cussins, whose portfolio also includes a management company and record label, told Billboard’s Dave Brooks. “We are seeing how much the costs of everything have gone up – from buses to hotels to flights. So even though the club business is a marginal business, any action we can take to help to insure a healthy, vibrant concert ecosystem is important. This industry only works if artists of all levels are able to afford to tour.”
In short, Cussins hopes to make up the shortfall by doing his part to build a healthier touring ecosystem.
Global “MyMerch campaign
This week’s spotlight on the merch fees adds momentum to a growing #MyMerch movement. Late last year, the US-based Union of Musicians and Allied Workers (UMAW) joined the UK’s Featured Artists Coalition (FAC) in calling for an end to all merch fees.
The #MyMerch campaign calls on venues, festivals, and promoters to sign up as ‘100% Venues‘ that take no cut of sales. Adding Ineffable’s dozen or so properties, more than 125 North American venues have taken the pledge so far.
See the list here.