Willie Nelson and Live Nation have launched a new program, appropriately called “On The Road Again,” with the mission of supporting developing artists and crews at the club level with a number of benefits including stipends and bonuses, and by eliminating merch fees.

The new program provides support to artists performing at any of the Live Nation clubs listed below in the form of “an extra $1,500 per show in gas and travel cash—on top of nightly performance compensation,” as well as “special ‘On The Road Again’ bonuses for tour, promoter, & venue staff, the behind-the-scenes heroes helping shows happen.”

The program also includes a “$5 million donation to Crew Nation supporting crew across the industry facing unforeseen hardship,” and, perhaps most notably, it addresses the issue of merch fees, which have received public attention in the recent discourse around fairness in the ticketing and live entertainment industries.

In his testimony at a Senate Committee hearing addressing the issue of competition in the live music business, Clyde Lawrence spoke to just how much Live Nation’s merch fees cost his band Lawrence:

Typically, the promoter takes a sizable percentage (roughly 20%) of an artist’s merch sales, and once we factor in our costs of creating and transporting the merch, it can be an even larger percentage (40%) of an artist’s bottom line. The argument is that the venue is providing us the retail space for us to sell our merch. Sure. But we’re providing all of the customers, and yet receive no cut from their many ancillary revenue streams. Live Nation getting around 20% of our gross merch sales while we get nothing on ticketing fees, bar tabs, coat checks, and parking passes doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

Similar sentiments were expressed by Jeff Rosenstock in the Labor Day post below.


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Under the new program, “Clubs will charge no merchandise selling fees, so artists keep 100% of merch profits for each show.”

Merch fees are only one of many kinds of fees factored into negotiations with Live Nation that have received scrutiny, but getting rid of them signals movement in the right direction, and it is a move already catching on amongst other venues and promoters. Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom in Denver, CO, for example, just followed Live Nation’s example, and Ineffable Music Group similarly announced the end of merch fees at all ten of its venues earlier this year immediately following Clyde Lawrence’s testimony.

“After about an hour watching the hearing,” Ineffable Music Group CEO Thomas Cussins told Billboard at the time, “I grabbed the phone and started calling the venues we owned and operated.”

It is unclear how long the On The Road program will remain active, but Live Nation says it expects to distribute “tens of millions of dollars in extra earnings” to “thousands of artists” through the end of the year.

The program also has received criticism for incentivizing touring artists to play at clubs owned by Live Nation rather than locally owned, independent venues.

Click here to learn more about Live Nation and Willie Nelson’s One The Road Again program, and support your favorite artists by buying merch at the venues listed below (or mentioned above).

The Van Buren (Phoenix, AZ)

House of Blues (Anaheim, CA)
The Parish at House of Blues (Anaheim, CA)
Belasco (Los Angeles, CA)
The Wiltern (Los Angeles, CA)
The Echo (Los Angeles, CA)
Echoplex (Los Angeles, CA)
Riverside Municipal Auditorium (Riverside, CA)
Ace of Spades (Sacramento, CA)
Observatory OC (Santa Ana, CA)
Constellation Room (Santa Ana, CA)
Observatory SD (San Diego, CA)
Voodoo Room at House of Blues (San Diego, CA)
The Fillmore (San Francisco, CA)

Midway Music Hall (Edmonton, AB)
Commodore Ballroom (Vancouver, BC)
Danforth Music Hall (Toronto, ON)
Kee to Bala (Bala, ON)
History (Toronto, ON)
Opera House (Toronto, ON)
Velvet Underground (Toronto, ON)

Summit (Denver, CO)
Moon Room at Summit (Denver, CO)
Marquis (Denver, CO)

The Dome at Oakdale (Wallingford, CT)

House of Blues (Lake Buena Vista, FL)

Tabernacle (Atlanta, GA)
Buckhead Theatre (Atlanta, GA)

House of Blues (Chicago, IL)

Egyptian Room (Indianapolis, IN)
Deluxe (Indianapolis, IN)

Mercury Ballroom (Louisville, KY)

Parish at House of Blues (New Orleans, LA)
House of Blues (New Orleans, LA)
The Fillmore New Orleans (New Orleans, LA)

The Fillmore Silver Spring (Silver Spring, MD)

Citizens House of Blues (Boston, MA)

Shelter (Detroit, MI)
St. Andrew’s Hall (Detroit, MI)
The Fillmore Detroit (Detroit, MI)
GLC Live at 20 Monroe (Grand Rapids, MI)

Varsity Theater (Minneapolis, MN)
The Fillmore Minneapolis (Minneapolis, MN)
Uptown Theater (Minneapolis, MN)

Blue Note (Columbia, MO)
Rose Music Hall (Columbia, MO)
Rose Park (Columbia, MO)

House of Blues (Las Vegas, NV)

Warsaw (Brooklyn, NY)
Gramercy Theatre (New York, NY)
Irving Plaza (New York, NY)

Bogart’s (Cincinnati, OH)
The Cambridge Room at House of Blues (Cleveland, OH)
House of Blues (Cleveland, OH)

The Underground (Charlotte, NC)
The Fillmore Charlotte (Charlotte, NC)
The Ritz (Raleigh, NC)

Brooklyn Bowl (Philadelphia, PA)
Roxian Theatre (McKees Rock, PA)
Theatre of Living Arts (Philadelphia, PA)
The Fillmore Philadelphia (Philadelphia, PA)
The Foundry at The Fillmore Philadelphia (Philadelphia, PA)

Charleston Music Hall (Charleston, SC)
Music Farm (Charleston, SC)
House of Blues (North Myrtle Beach, SC)

Scoot Inn (Austin, TX)
Emo’s (Austin, TX)
Cambridge Room (Dallas, TX)
The Echo Lounge & Music Hall (Dallas, TX)
House of Blues (Dallas, TX)
House of Blues Bronze Peacock (Houston, TX)
House of Blues (Houston, TX)
The Aztec Theater (San Antonio, TX)

The Depot (Salt Lake City, UT)

Majestic Theatre (Madison, WI)
High Noon Saloon (Madison, WI)