The past few years have been hard on everyone and every aspect of life, and that certainly includes music. It was impossible for bands to tour in 2020 and even in 2021 tours were on a much more limited basis, both in availability and capacity. 2022 saw touring come back in full force, though venue closures and other factors have altered the landscape.
And yes, ticket prices are more expensive now than they were before the pandemic. I don’t have a data-driven point to make here, but I’m pretty sure anyone who attended shows before 2020 and after 2020 can attest to the steep increase in ticket prices.
But today’s post doesn’t concern the fans’ side of the equation. It isn’t just more expensive to go see a show – it’s more expensive to put one on. And that has been throwing a wrench in the works of a lot of acts as they try to recover from the lost year of 2020.
A quick check of music news from any genre will find a now common headline – “Tour canceled due to logistical issues.” I recall that both Anthrax and Stryper called off European tours last year, citing the costs associated with gigging. And those are just two names common to my site – this has gone on across music as a whole, affecting absolutely everyone. While tours are still happening, it’s concerning to see veteran names like Anthrax and Stryper on a list of bands calling it off due to cost.
Putting on a tour involves a lot of expenses, and those prices were huge in 2021, just like everywhere else. Fuel costs were a massive concern and possibly high enough to derail a tour all on their own. A band’s crew has to be paid, and there are less available crew after the pandemic, a lot of folks had to switch careers to get by. That leaves the remaining ones at a premium.
And just like for us at home, everything else was more expensive – food, basic consumables, what have you. All those expenses snowballed to a point that made bands throw in the towel on heading out to tour.
In the pandemic climate of counting every dollar, venues have added a brutal twist – some venues are now demanding a cut of bands’ merch sales. Not only does a band have to absorb the higher costs of touring, they also have to part with a cut of the one thing that actually brings them some decent money. And with the idea now out there, this insidious idea probably won’t go away.
It all becomes a grind perhaps too much to bear for a musical act. As we’ve all known for quite some time now, the way for an act to make money is through touring. Album sales haven’t been much in years and record label deals keep bands from the money anyway. Streaming famously pays squat to anyone but those who get billions of plays. Being on the road is where the money is, or at least was.
In some respects, the issues of high-cost touring may wind down some. Prices are on a general decline and the economic forecast is at least decent in that regard. Shifting employment trends may lead more people into the road crew, helping that shortage. And more money in consumer pockets is more opportunity for acts to tour in front of them.
2020 and the pandemic obviously hit the live music scene very hard, in fact halting it for awhile. And the return to touring has been full of obstacles, some insurmountable at times. Sure, ticket prices are higher and there entities to blame for that, we all know who they are. But the musicians can’t catch a break either, and being unable to earn money on the road threatens the very ecosystem of music. I don’t know if a doomsday scenario is imminent in this case, but the struggles of the touring musician at all levels of success are a cause for concern.