Independent Music Scene Struggles As Live Nation Thrives


Independent Music Scene Struggles As Live Nation Thrives

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Independent Music Scene Struggles As Live Nation Thrives
Independent Music Scene Struggles As Live Nation Thrives

On the surface, it looks like there’s a lot of money to be made in the live music industry as it reinvents itself amid the easing of pandemic-related restrictions. Artists took to the streets again, and concert halls reopened to crowds of fans.

For some, the past year has been a resounding success. After a two-year hiatus, listeners can’t wait to enjoy live performances with big names like Harry Styles and the Red Hot Chili Peppers filling stadiums across the United States.


Earlier in November, Live Nation Entertainment, the music giant that owns, hosts and organizes events , reported a record quarter with concert revenue exceeding $5 billion. This is almost 70% more than the same period in 2019 with 44 million visitors. Meanwhile, Ticketmaster reported a record $7.3 billion in transactions.

However, it’s a different story for smaller industry players who struggled the most during the COVID-19 lockdown and are now trying to bounce back after numerous setbacks.

“This has been a difficult time for independent music and comedy venues, promoters and festivals for a variety of reasons,” Audrey Fix Schaefer, vice chairman and director of communications for the National Association of Independent Venues, said in a press release. in the Washington Examiner .

“This includes the sheer number of tournaments competing for customer time and money, the cost of tournaments, and the buying behavior of fans that has changed due to the pandemic,” said Schaefer, who is also director of communications, owner and owner of IMP. Operator of several establishments in Washington, including the legendary 9:30 Club. “Halls are still dealing with canceled shows, but not to the same extent as at the beginning of the year.”

For small venues and artists, even those with large followings and impressive prize pools, the live music industry is always demanding and sometimes ruthless. But now that the pandemic is exacerbating the problems in the touring industry, some say it could have a devastating effect on the music industry worldwide.

“Everyone is vying for multiple tickets to earn money to get into the next show, most of which go without dollar insurance,” alt rock band Garbage wrote on Instagram in October.

“Companies make billions of dollars from their work and don’t share the profits,” continued the band, known for ’90s hits like “Only Happy When It Rains.” “I can’t take it. If we lose him, we will lose a whole generation of young artists.”

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The disruptions highlight the many ways in which the pandemic has disrupted a range of businesses, with disruption to supply chains, job closures and labor shortages contributing to the economic upheaval. At the same time, these failures helped expose bad habits and failed systems.

While smaller businesses have struggled during the pandemic, the recent Ticketmaster fiasco, which left dozens of Taylor Swift fans without tickets to her long-awaited tour, has re-evaluated the wider live music industry. .

“It’s no secret that Live Nation-Ticketmaster is an unaudited monopoly,” a spokesperson said. David Cichillin (D-RI) on Twitter after Swift’s failed ticket sale.

While lawmakers and angry fans are calling on authorities to disband Live Nation Entertainment, the federal government is reportedly investigating the company for possible antitrust violations. According to The New York Times , Justice Department investigators spoke to other market players about industry dynamics.

The Swift ticketing fiasco also raised bilateral questions on Capitol Hill, with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee scheduling hearings to “examine the lack of competition in the ticketing industry” and other lawmakers called on the Justice Department to “bring it directly to Ticketmaster.” . National Entertainment Inc. responsible for anti-competitive behavior.

“If the investigation finds that Live Nation continues to abuse its dominant position despite two prior consent orders, we encourage the department to consider merging Ticketmaster and Live Nation and dissolving the company,” said Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal (CT). In a November 21 letter to the Attorney General, Amy Klobuchar (MN) and Ed Markey (MA) wrote : “This may be the only way to truly protect consumers, artists, and venue operators and restore ticket competition. Market”. .

A coalition of music industry unions and progressive groups has launched a letter -writing campaign calling on the Department of Justice to crack down on Live Nation Entertainment, alleging that it “controls over 70% of the main ticketing and live venues market” and “regularly abuses this market authority to deceive spectators, sports fans, performers, venues and other ticketing companies.”

The groups, which include the Music Workers Alliance, the Musicians and United Workers Union, and the Better Alliance, say the Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger has resulted in higher ticket prices, “unnecessarily high fees” and “[un]competitive behavior.” “led to intimidation of venues and independent artists.”

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Live Nation categorically denies engaging in anti-competitive business practices. “Ticketmaster holds a significant share of the primary ticketing market because there is a significant gap between the quality of the Ticketmaster system and the next best ticketing system,” the company said in a November 19 statement. “However, the market is becoming more and more competitive, and competitors are actively fighting for places. Ticketmaster’s continued leadership in this environment is a testament to the platform and those who work on it, not anti-competitive business practices.”

The company also said it “strongly defends universal pricing so that fans don’t have to wonder how much tickets actually cost,” weeks after President Joe Biden said he ordered his administration to crack down on “hidden unwanted payments such as like editing. “… A ticket to a concert.”

While Ticketmaster has come under fire in the past for its marketing practices and fees; Pearl Jam rose to prominence in the mid-90s and some say the current landscape of live music threatens to destroy the industry.

“Live music is under tremendous pressure,” Garbage wrote in an Instagram post. “The average musician can no longer survive, let alone thrive, in today’s environment. We see a lot of valuable talent wither away because of the economic injustice of a system that doesn’t pay creators for their artistic output.”

The group added, “Let me put it another way. So many artists that we respect and appreciate throughout history would have been completely wiped out by this system.”

Axios reports that another ongoing challenge that performers face is finding the necessary stage equipment and supplies due to supply chain issues and delivery delays. Referring to the current situation, Jack White named his 2022 tour “The Supply Chain Tour”.

The same problems in the supply chain have increased demand and therefore cost and other related supplies such as B. bus fuel have become more expensive.

“As a touring musician, no one foresaw the new reality we were facing,” artist Santigold said when he announced the cancellation of his tour in September. “Having been on our hands (not being able to do shows) for the past few years, most of us, like everyone else, jumped in during this time of zero or low income as soon as we felt safe. put on a show.”

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“We are facing a peak in inflation. Gasoline, bus, hotel and airfare costs have increased. Many of the places we tried were not available due to the market being flooded with artists trying to book gigs in the same cities, which was positive test scores are constantly derailing charts with devastating financial consequences,” he wrote on Instagram.

“All this is on top of the mental, spiritual, physical and emotional resources that have already been depleted over the past few years,” he added. “Some of us find that we just can’t make it work.”

The independent states were relieved last summer when the federal government provided billions of dollars in grants approved by Congress after lobbying from the National Association of Independent States, which was formed at the start of the pandemic. But technical problems with the Small Business Administration delayed funding by months, leaving some distressed states even deeper in debt, Rolling Stone reports .

However, the financing segment showed how the small voices of the industry can come together to be heard. Recently, independent venues and promoters in several states formed the D Tour Network, which aims to “provide national artists with a unique multi-market experience owned by local artists.”


“Our independent venues have always been fertile ground for the next generation of professional artists,” Toby Parks, D Tour member and owner of xBk Live in Des Moines, Iowa, told Rolling Stone . “Working together, we can infiltrate artists through our network of independent spaces and help artists in our communities build a national platform and launch artist touring careers. We can break down traditional power structures and create a support network to develop new talent. »

Even the boss is optimistic. “Predicting the future is more difficult than ever,” he told the Washington Examiner . “But when you see a room full of fans sharing this exciting moment, you know we’re ready to do whatever it takes to keep concerts and live comedy alive for generations to come.”

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