STAIND guitarist Mike Mushok has weighed in on Live Nation's new program called "On The Road Again", which aims to financially support developing artists and their teams facing growing costs of touring expenses.
It was announced in late September that Live Nation-owned and operated clubs would provide $1,500 in gas and travel cash per show to all headliners and support acts, on top of nightly performance compensation. Additionally, these clubs would charge no merchandise selling fees, so artists keep 100% of merchandise profits.
Mushok spoke about Live Nation's announcement in a recent interview with V13. Asked what his thoughts were on the program, as a touring band, Mike said: "I have two thoughts about this because I actually am part owner in a venue. It's a 1300-seat venue in Foxborough [Massachusetts] outside of Gillette Stadium. We do live music on the weekends and national acts and we generally have never taken a merch fee from bands at our venue.
"I got home late last night and I saw this article and I need to go back and really pay attention to it. It sounds like it's going to make venues like mine very difficult because, aren't they paying into a fund for the crew, for the bands, to tour? I can't do that as a venue. They already drive the margins up and, as a promoter, it's just very, very hard to compete with that for the bands."
Mike continued: "Now, me coming a musician, it's great, right? I mean, however, it's Live Nation. They're gonna make the money back somewhere. If you think that they're not going to charge you, well… Surcharges are gonna go up, ticket prices. They're gonna make it up somewhere. They're a multi-billion-dollar business. They're not going to just give away money. They're gonna make it up somewhere and then that is a whole different problem.
"I'll tell you, you know, we just spent a summer out on the road and, now that you don't make any money on record sales, merch is a big thing for bands. It's fantastic there are fans who want to support the bands and wear a shirt or buy a bandana or whatever you're selling. It's great, but the venue takes 25% of it.
"I remember '95, we played some like amusement park out our way and I had never heard of this," Mushok added. "We used to sell shirts at shows for about 20 bucks or whatever, and that was the first time, like, 'You're taking a percentage. What do you mean?' It's surreal, a real eye opener, because a lot of fans don't see that side of it, but it seems like this has really come to everybody's attention, so I think it's nice that it's been addressed. I think it has come up because it's just so expensive to tour. It's just expensive to go out on the road. It's really expensive to tour, so I think, for a band playing clubs, maybe not even in a bus because you can't afford it because it's a fortune, when you're selling 1,000 bucks' [worth of merchandise], 500 has gotta go back to the venue or whatever. It's a lot. Consider that over 30 shows. The next thing you know, [it's like], 'Wait a second, I gave you how much?'"
Many venues require bands to pay them a percentage of their merchandise sales. Commonly that split is 20/80, meaning for every dollar a band makes selling a t-shirt, the venue gets 20 cents. It's an accepted industry standard that understandably riles touring bands, especially those acts for whom merch income is still crucial for ensuring that a tour is profitable.
In larger venues, it is often mandatory for a merchandise staff to be employed directly by the venue, meaning a percentage cut can be standard.
STAIND's latest album, "Confessions Of The Fallen", arrived on September 15 via Alchemy Recordings/BMG. STAIND's first new LP album since 2011 was produced by Erik Ron (GODSMACK, PANIC! AT THE DISCO, BLACK VEIL BRIDES).
STAIND has released eight albums since 1995, including 2011's self-titled effort. The band has had a number of hit songs during its first two decades, including the Top 10 smash "It's Been Awhile" from the No. 1 album "Break The Cycle". Follow-up LPs "14 Shades Of Grey" and "Chapter V" also topped the Billboard chart.