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Music monopoly lays out new rules - Artistes to pay promoters twice their fees for cancellations

Published:Friday | July 3, 2020 | 12:00 AMYasmine Peru/Senior Gleaner Writer
Mr Big Ship, Freddie McGregor on stage.

With the coronavirus outbreak totally decimating the touring ecosystem for artistes of every genre and entertainment venues still padlocked, it seemed as if things couldn’t get worse for artistes and musicians in this COVID-19 era. But it appears as if they have, and it comes wrapped up in two words – Live Nation. North America’s biggest live entertainment company, founded in 2010, following the merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster, Live Nation promotes, operates, and manages ticket sales for live entertainment in the United States and internationally. The company also owns hundreds of venues and is in charge of thousands of festivals – including reggae – worldwide.

It is a fact that the entertainment industry is on life support, as Fab 5 band leader Frankie Campbell, puts it, and in the midst of this harsh reality, Live Nation sent out a memo to their partners detailing how they are going to negotiate deals in 2021. The terms and conditions have left many artistes struggling to breathe. Rolling Stone magazine, which wrote an article titled ‘Live Nation Wants Artists to Take Pay Cuts and Cancellation Burdens for Shows in 2021’, revealed that they got hold of a copy of the letter sent to talent agencies. It details a raft of new measures which will see artistes, instead of promoters, bearing the financial risks associated with the staging of concerts and festivals in 2021. Reggae artiste Freddie McGregor calls this “some serious information”.


Live Nation intends to cut by 20 per cent across the board the payment promised to artistes before an event. That in itself may be an expected compromise, which could be viewed as trying to put the industry back on its feet. Airfare and hotel accommodation expenses will now be the sole responsibility of the artiste, and this is not completely new either. The letter also says that if a concert is cancelled due to poor ticket sales, Live Nation will give artistes 25 per cent of the guarantee, rather than the 100 per cent which promoters now pay.

In a move that Billboard points out is unheard of in the live music industry, Live Nation introduces a choking penalty. If an artiste cancels a performance in breach of the agreement, the artiste will be required to pay the promoter two times the artiste’s fee.

Therefore, if an artiste was being paid US$50,000 for a Live Nation concert and is unable to make it to the event, the artiste will be required to pay the promoter US$100,000.

With regard to merchandise, the letter states, “Purchaser will retain 30 per cent of artiste merchandise sales and send 70 per cent to the artiste within two weeks following the festival.”

In the letter, Live Nation states, “The global pandemic has changed the world in recent months and with it the dynamics of the music industry. We are in unprecedented times and must adequately account for the shift in market demand, the exponential rise of certain costs and the overall increase of uncertainty that materially affects our mission. In order for us to move forward, we must make certain changes to our agreements with the artistes.”