Live Nation’s new On the Road Again program aims to pay headliners and support acts $1500 per show for gas and travel expenses.

The company promises to disperse “tens of millions of dollars in extra earnings to club artists and crew” over the next few months. This comes at a time when inflation and unpredictable attendance have made touring a more challenging endeavor for many artists.

The initiative is named after the famous song by Willie Nelson who partnered with Live Nation to make the announcement.

Who qualifies for Live Nation’s tour assistance?

The program is intended for acts that perform in 77 participating Live Nation venues. And it’s rolling out alongside an announcement that these same venues will no longer keep a percentage of the artists’ merch sales.

While this is a fantastic program, it’s also worth putting in context:

On the Road Again only applies to a certain tier of touring musicians booked for particular Live Nation venues. Even though that list includes small to mid-size clubs, let’s remember a company like Live Nation may have a different definition than most for “emerging artist.”

Through their lens, a small act is probably one that can still sell hundreds of tickets in dozens of cities. That level of artist may have a team, modest tour infrastructure, and a loyal customer base.

So while Live Nation’s program will offer meaningful assistance to many eligible artists, helping them make touring more sustainable, it will not provide relief for the majority of touring acts at the real “emerging artist” or DIY level.

I’m not saying this to critique the program. It makes sense Live Nation would extend benefits to venues and acts within their immediate purview. But there is often a disconnect between how these stories get told in the music press and how they actually impact musicians.

So if you’re an artist who needs to get back on the road, but you don’t know if it’ll be a leap of faith or foolishness, it’s time to return to some of the basic rules for profitable touring.

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