Musicians are canceling concerts and entire tours because rising staff and equipment costs, coupled with falling ticket sales, are making them too expensive to manage.
Earlier this month, an American group animal collective canceled upcoming European dates as “unsustainable”. Within days, British downtempo producer Bonobo shut down future live shows in America, describing them as “exponentially expensive”. Next, electronic musician Tourist rescheduled a US stint, saying “sometimes tickets just don’t sell out.”
These announcements follow cancellations from acts such as Santigold, Demi Levato, Poppy Ajudha and Mercury Prize winner Little Simz. While some, like Caroline Polachek, rescheduled to spend more time in the studio, others, including Justin Bieber and Arlo Parks, cited mental health.
“Every week we see another act cancel a tour. It’s not a decision people take lightly,” says Sybil Bell, Founder of Independent Venue Week. “It’s such a difficult time and the world of production is being decimated.” Kelly Wood, national live performance organizer at the Musicians’ Union, agrees. “Artists are painfully canceling shows. there is no other option.
The main problem is soaring costs. It’s easier for artists to squeeze in dates rather than exposing themselves to empty, expensive gigs. For Annabella Coldrick, general manager of the Music Managers Forum, it’s a real storm. “Ticket sales are slow, people are worried about money, there is a huge labor shortage and the cost of renting vans and trucks has increased dramatically. On top of that there is a currency devaluation and a fuel crisis. It’s absolutely awful.
It’s getting harder and harder to predict which acts will sell tickets. Many promoters use streaming numbers and social media numbers to gauge interest. But does a million streams on Spotify mean people want to see an artist live? “Not necessarily,” says Elijah, artist manager at Make The Ting. “Some tracks are bigger than the artists themselves and don’t convert well into tickets.”
Marina Blake, artistic director of Festival of original ideas, says that the concerts are very random. “Everything seems calmer, and even when the tickets are given away for free, people still don’t bite.”
Shows have always been subject to cancellations, but some acts are now putting dates in place, seeing no one buy them and pulling them out a few days later.
Whereas Glastonbury have raised ticket prices to cover the “enormous costs”, small promoters say local bookings are their only option. “It’s a shame but we need to stop booking people from Europe for a while,” says Edinburgh-based Nick Checketts. “With the rising cost of flights and visas, that’s not sustainable.”