Live Nation’s “On The Road Again” Faces Backlash from Independent Venues

The National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) has openly criticized Live Nation’s newly announced “On the Road Again” program, designed to provide financial support to touring artists, alleging that it would be detrimental to independent venues in the long term.

Live Nation’s newly announced program, in collaboration with Willie Nelson, promises no cuts on artist merchandise sold at 77 of the club-sized venues they operate. Additionally, the program pledges to offer $1,500 stipends per show to all headlining and supporting acts at their venues to cover tour-related expenses, like gas and lodging. However, NIVA counters that these benefits, although supportive in the short term, are a “calculated attempt” to channel artists away from smaller, independent venues, thereby consolidating control over the live entertainment sector.

In a detailed statement released on September 26th, NIVA declared Live Nation’s initiative seems like an effort to overshadow independent venues rather than follow their lead.

“Instead, it appears to be a calculated attempt to use a publicly-traded conglomerate’s immeasurable resources to divert artists from independent venues and further consolidate control over the live entertainment sector.”

NIVA highlighted the significance of independent stages in nurturing the majority of artists, musicians, and comedians at the dawn of their careers, emphasizing that such venues are often small businesses and nonprofits grappling with rising costs, deceptive ticketing practices, and challenges exacerbated by the global pandemic. They argue that these independent venues are crucial for the live entertainment ecosystem and local economies.

“Our stages are critical to the live entertainment ecosystem and local economies, and they must survive. The economics of touring must drastically improve for artists and independent venues.”

NIVA argues that this initiative can squeeze out independent venues which operate on thin margins and have been continually investing in and elevating emerging artists. They are concerned about the vitality of smaller venues with under 3000 capacity, as they struggle to remain operational amid an array of challenges.

Concerns also arise from the lack of clarity on the program’s operational timeline and the explicit detailing of the participating venues. Critics argue that the program might be temporary, reverting to previous practices of taking 15%-30% of an artist’s merch revenue by the end of 2023.

NIVA’s stern stance was articulated in their statement, pointing out the impact on independent venues: “Temporary measures may appear to help artists in the short run but actually can squeeze out independent venues which provide the lifeblood of many artists on thin margins.”

They concluded with a resolution to continue supporting artists and independent venues, emphasizing: “There has to be a better way. NIVA will continue to support artists and empower independent venues as we collectively find it.”

For more information on NIVA or to read their full statement, visit their website here.

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