A coalition of musicians is calling for music venues to drop the commission they charge for selling merchandise, saying it will create a fairer and more sustainable touring circuit.
The Featured Artists Coalition (FAC) warns some venues charge around 25% which it says leaves too little for bands and artists, adding that it can represent the difference between a gig breaking even or losing money.
Ben Lovett from the Grammy-award-winning band Mumford & Sons told Sky News it is an issue they would “kick and scream” about in his touring days.
“Unfortunately, you don’t get very far making a stand against this stuff,” he said.
“You can lobby and especially as you get more successful you can have a platform for it. But it’s just a request, right? – if you’re saying you’re not happy with the way something is.”
Lovett, whose band released four studio albums and three live albums, said venues must treat artists as guests and take on a responsibility to nurture talent.
The 35-year-old owns two venues in London and is due to open an 8,000-seater amphitheatre in Alabama this year. He told Sky News venues are nothing without artists.
“We consider ourselves as hosts. We’re not here to make more money. We make enough from bar sales and things like that because we operate the bars, but we don’t make the merch so why would we tax it?”
Music merchandise is big business in the UK with t-shirts and hoodies often selling for upwards of £30 at concerts as fans take away souvenirs of their favourite musicians.
“I remember going to Blink 182 and No Doubt,” Lovett says, recalling the gigs he loved as a youngster.
“So I’d go to a gig and buy a t-shirt. It often was after the gig and you were so emboldened and impassioned about being a fan that you wanted to show your stripes. It’s a bit like sport in that way.”
The FAC warns that venues charging commission are ruining careers for musicians already struggling to survive.
CEO David Martin told Sky News: “It’s been a complete perfect storm over the past two years. European touring is very difficult and has become much more expensive post-Brexit. Lockdown has seen most artists suffer from the drying up of their touring income and we’re also facing a cost of living crisis, and that has a real impact on consumer confidence which impacts ticket sales as well.”
The FAC has launched a directory of UK venues that charge zero commission on artists’ merchandise sales.
“It’s really simple,” Mr Martin explained. “‘100% Venues’ is about removing punitive commission fees which are charged for the sales of artists’ merchandise at venues. Lots of fans don’t realise when they pay for a t-shirt or a CD or a record at a gig, often the venue will take a cut of that, and that can be up to 25% plus VAT of the gross.
“There’s an idea that artists are famous and they’re on stage and they’re very rich. But even at quite a large level there’s a great deal of costs involved in touring.”