Musicians are cancelling concerts and entire tours because the rising costs of staff and materials coupled with a drop off in ticket sales is making them too expensive to run.
Earlier this month, US band Animal Collective cancelled forthcoming European dates as“not sustainable”. Within days, the UK downtempo producer Bonobo called time on future live shows in America, describing them as “exponentially expensive”. Then electronic musician Tourist rescheduled a US stint, saying “sometimes tickets just don’t get sold”.
These announcements follow cancellations from acts including Santigold, Demi Levato, Poppy Ajudha and Mercury prize winner Little Simz. While some, such as Caroline Polachek, have rescheduled to spend more time in the studio, others, including Justin Bieber and Arlo Parks, have cited mental health.
“Every week we see another act cancelling a tour. It’s not a decision people take lightly,” says Sybil Bell, founder of Independent Venue Week. “It’s such a tough time and the production world is being decimated.” Kelly Wood, national organiser for live performance at the Musicians’ Union, agrees. “Artists are painfully cancelling shows. It’s a really big thing to do and there is no other option.”
The main issue is skyrocketing costs. It is easier for artists to pull dates rather than exposing themselves to expensive, empty gigs. For Annabella Coldrick, chief executive of the Music Managers Forum, it is a perfect storm. “Ticket sales are slow, people are worried about money, there is a massive labour shortage and the cost of hiring vans and trucks has gone up dramatically. On top of that, there is a currency devaluation and a fuel crisis. It’s absolutely horrible.”
It is getting harder to predict which acts will sell tickets. Many promoters use streaming figures 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, creative director of Brainchild festival, says gigs are very hit and miss. “Everything feels quieter, and even when tickets are given out for free, people still don’t bite.”
Shows have always been subject to cancellation but some acts are now putting dates up, seeing that no one is buying and pulling them a few days later.
While Glastonbury has increased ticket prices to cover the “enormous costs”, smaller promoters say local bookings are their only option. “It’s a shame, but we have to stop booking people from Europe for a while,” says Edinburgh-based Nick Checketts. “With rising costs of flights and visas, it is not viable.”