Live Nation Announces Partnership With Willie Nelson To Eliminate Merch Cuts At Some Venues, Provide Artists With Travel Stipend

American Aquarium country music
Getty Images/American Aquarium

Well, it’s a start.

As artists began to hit the road again after the pandemic shut venues down back in 2020 and 2021, the subject of venues taking cuts of merchandise sales began to take center stage.

BJ Barham of American Aquarium really brought the issue to the forefront when he began to highlight the unfairness of venues expecting artists to pay a cut of their merch sales despite not doing any work to sell it. And when they were called out, venues began to backtrack from the practice as consumers who learned about the merch cuts took aim at the venues.

Of course Live Nation is the largest operator of concert venues in the country, and often find themselves the target of outrage from concertgoers due to the monopoly they have on live music that allows them to set ticket prices and pretty much dictate the rules for an artist who wants to play one of their venues – which is often unavoidable for artists due to the sheer number of venues they own or operate.

Until now, Live Nation has been silent on the issue of venues taking merch cuts. But today, the entertainment giant announced a new program that will eliminate these taxes on artists and provide them with some extra cash for their expenses.

A new partnership between Live Nation and Willie Nelson, the On The Road Again program will eliminate merch cuts at Live Nation clubs, and will also provide touring acts with a $1,500 stipend to help cover their gas and travel expenses.

In announcing the program, Willie says he hopes that it helps make life a little easier for artists who are trying to make their living on the road:

“Touring is important to artists so whatever we can do to help other artists, I think we should do it. This program will impact thousands of artists this year and help make touring a little bit easier.”

And Live Nation says they understand the pressure that touring costs can put on an artist:

“Touring is a crucial part of an artist’s livelihood, and we understand travel costs take one of the biggest bites out of artists’ nightly profits. By helping with these core expenses, we aim to make it easier for artists on the road so they can keep performing to their fans in more cities across the country.”

Now, I know what you might be thinking: This just means higher ticket prices or more bullsh*t fees because there’s no way a company like Live Nation is just going to give up all that money.

And honestly, I think that’s a valid concern, although Live Nation says that’s not the case:

“All benefits from On the Road Again are being provided directly from the venue’s existing earnings, with no increases to consumers.”

If true that’s great…but I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Either way, this is a great step in the right direction for artists who make their living on the road. Especially with gas prices where they are these days, that extra $1,500 could go a long way in helping keep them “On the Road Again.”

And of course BJ Barham was excited about the development:

Here’s the full list of clubs that will be participating in the new program, so if your favorite artist is coming to these venues, make sure to go out and support them – and buy a t-shirt, knowing they’ll be getting 100% of the money.

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock