Skip to content

Live Nation waives merch cut, offers travel stipend to boost musicians

Venues including Vancouver’s Commodore make move in face of artist criticism

Live Nation is making policy changes at some of its concert venues to give musicians a hand as they grapple with the rising costs of touring.

The world’s largest concert promoter says it has launched a new program that pledges to no longer take a cut of a musician’s merchandise sales at some of its club venues across North America.

The company says it’s also giving US$1,500 stipends for each show to cover travel expenses, a payment that comes in addition to the act’s nightly performance compensation.

Seven club venues operated by Live Nation in Canada have signed onto the initiative, with four of them in Toronto.

They include the Danforth Music Hall, History, Opera House and Velvet Underground, as well as Midway Music Hall in Edmonton, the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver and the Kee to Bala in Bala, Ont.

Live Nation says the On the Road Again program, named after Willie Nelson’s classic song, will save musicians “tens of millions of dollars annually.”

A representative for Live Nation Canada did not immediately respond to questions about how long the program would last.

Live Nation has faced widespread criticism from musicians over how it takes a share of merch sales from artists, despite its concert business seeing a massive jump in revenue and record attendance figures as venues returned to business after pandemic closures.

Among the critics were punk musician Jeff Rosenstock, musician-producer Jack Antonoff and Canadian rapper Cadence Weapon, the latter who cited figures that showed venues often pocket 15 to 35 per cent of merch revenues.

“This is a great start,” the rapper posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, after the announcement.

“Now that these Live Nation venues have stopped taking merch cuts, I hope that more independent venues follow their lead,” he added.

Other unspecified financial bonuses will be provided to tour promoters, crew and venue staff, Live Nation added on its website.

It will also donate $5 million to the Crew Nation charitable fund established during the pandemic to assist crew members in need.