Insert Foot: Live Nation fooling itself into believing it’s an essential business

Insert Foot, Live Nation

Insert Foot vs. Live Nation.

A Live Nation memo leaked earlier this month indicating that North America’s largest promoter of live events will shake down performers even more, while shoving more monetary responsibility onto those same performers, if and when venues re-open in 2021.

Apparently only Live Nation is losing money in 2020. Poor devils. So we should be understanding and sympathetic when they respond by:

1. Cutting artist guarantees 20 percent across the board.

2. Only delivering 25 percent of that guarantee, down from 100 percent, for cancelations due to poor ticket sales.

3. Requiring artists to pay Live Nation twice the act’s fee in the event that act has to cancel. Which Billboard says is “unheard of.”

There’s a lot of that “unheard of” going around this year.

Well, of course they are. Revenue has shrunk to almost nothing. Everyone’s has,  including those fancy schmancy “artists” who have the nerve to actually write, record, and perform all that music too-big-to-fail promotors don’t create. So it’s pretty obvious for whom we should feel sorry.

Let’s call it what it is: COVID Carpetbagging.

COVIDBagging? (trademark pending).

Live Nation is also changing a few other things, such as not paying for artists to travel to the venues, shifting some marketing responsibility, streaming rights, and who gets to market what at their festivals.

That’s right, Aerosmith. No more driving American-made trucks onto the stage and changing the opening lyrics to “I’m Baaack in a CHEVY again!”

They didn’t really do that. Though it was close.

Much of this was happening anyway. It’s just the absolute absence of even pretending there’s any give-and-take that’s so annoying. That shouldn’t fly right now.

Live Nation didn’t become richer than God by not having the business sense to kick someone when they’re down, steal their wallet while no one was looking, and start screaming for help when someone did. In some ways, that’s just America.

But doesn’t it seem like, suddenly, the old, thoughtless, bully-benefitting ways of doing things aren’t looking so superior these days?

The last time something with this kind of potential to shift the music industry happened because of foreseeable changes in technology, not a virus. And–just like when the Internet stripped record labels with much of their corporate clout–2020 will award the spoils to those who can adapt best.

Wouldn’t it be nice if that was the people making the music?

People who come up the ranks sharing one-bedroom apartments with four bandmates, living on Top Ramen and microwaving one bag of potatoes each night for a month at a time (yeah … me) are pretty adaptable.

They’ve done it before.

Labels have been progressively muscling in on touring money more and more, thanks to Al Gore’s Worldwide Internet Web making it easier for artists to directly connect with consumers without the pimps in the middle.

It wasn’t coincidental that when it happened a couple decades back, massive consolidation of record labels ensued. Non-corporate labels emerged, with music makers (and lovers) at the helm. It scared the hell out of everyone … except those ready and willing to adapt.

Not unlike Pearl Jam asking why the hell anyone needed Ticketmaster, and musicians asking why the hell anyone still needed massive distribution companies … why does anyone need Live Nation?

Well … good point. The company has connections and infrastructure. They have expertise. They have money. The allow us journalists to cover their shows.

But without musicians … do they have concerts?

Does Live Nation deserve to make a profit for all that know-how and investment? Sure. But do all those musicians, who we’ve already seen are some of the most adaptable people on the planet, deserve less?

Not even close.

I don’t have specifics, which is the advantage of being a failed musician turned writer. I can sit at home and take my shots and spew my suggestions. But in the end, nobody pays good money to see a promoter. Some people probably should remember that.

Follow music critic Tony Hicks at

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