In response to the testimony of Lawrence bandleader Clyde Lawrence during a Tuesday morning hearing by the Senate Committee on the Judiciary entitled, “That’s the Ticket: Promoting Competition and Protecting Consumers in Live Entertainment,” Ineffable Music Group has announced that it will stop charging artists merch sales fees at all ten of its venues, effective immediately.
“After about an hour watching the hearing,” Ineffable Music Group CEO Thomas Cussins told Billboard, “I grabbed the phone and started calling the venues we owned and operated.” As a result, Santa Cruz, CA’s The Catalyst and The Atrium at The Catalyst, Ventura, CA’s Ventura Music Hall, Berkeley, CA’s Cornerstone, Monterey, CA’s Golden State Theatre, San Louis Obispo’s Fremont Theater, Felton, CA’s Felton Music Hall, Petaluma, CA’s Mystic Theatre, Arcata, CA’s Arcata Theatre Lounge, and Nantucket, MA’s Chicken Box will no longer take their customary 20% venue cut from touring artists selling merchandise at their venues.
Clyde Lawrence, joined by bandmate Jordan Cohen, was among six witnesses called for the hearing including Live Nation Entertainment President and CFO Joe Berchtold, SeatGeek CEO Jack Groetzinger, Jam Productions CEO and President Jerry Mickelson, The James Madison Institute SVP Sal Nuzzo, and American Antitrust Institute VP for Legal Advocacy Kathleen Bradish.
In his insightful testimony, Lawrence detailed the negative ripple effect caused by the same entity operating as both promoter and ticketer, from intentionally obscured ticket fee structures for fans to added charges for artists like facility fees. He also spoke directly about the persistent issue of venues/promoters requiring a cut of merchandise sales.
As Lawrence wrote in his submitted testimony, which he read with various deviations at the hearing, “Another pain point for artists is the significant loss of revenues due to promoter merchandise cuts. 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.”
“We are on the ground and hearing from artists every day,” Cussins told Billboard of the decision to cut said merch fees at his company’s venues. “We are seeing how much the costs of everything have gone up — from buses to hotels to flights. So even though the club business is a marginal business, any action we can take to help to insure a healthy, vibrant concert ecosystem is important. This industry only works if artists of all levels are able to afford to tour. When artists are able to tour sustainably and fans can afford to buy a t-shirt because the all-in ticket price is reasonable, everyone wins.”
Added Ineffable’s head talent buyer, Casey Smith, “We’ve been able to make our live business work even with increased expenses by having a number of venues and being able to create routes for artists, offering them a number of shows in secondary and college markets between their big city plays. Since we’ve made it work for ourselves, we want it to work for the artists as well. This move is fully aligned with Ineffable’s independent spirit, and in hearing the needs of independent artists, we believe it’s important to put them first.”
Cussins estimated to Billboard that the loss of the company’s 20% merchandise cut at Ineffable Live venues could amount to “several hundred thousand” dollars, but remained hopeful that the decision would help to create a “healthier concert ecosystem” for both artists and fans. That’s the spirit, Ineffable! Your move, Live Nation…
For more on the Senate Committee on the Judiciary’s “That’s the Ticket: Promoting Competition and Protecting Consumers in Live Entertainment” hearing featuring testimony from Lawrence, representatives for Live Nation Entertainment and SeatGeek, and more, head here.
P.S. If you want your favorite artist to get the most out of your merchandise purchase, go ahead and buy it directly from them. Shop Lawrence’s merch store here.
Lawrence will take the stage in New Orleans, LA as part of the 2023 edition of Daze Between New Orleans, taking place at New Orleans, LA’s Faubourg Brewery on Tuesday, May 2nd and Wednesday, May 3rd. The soul-pop eight-piece led by Clyde Lawrence and his sister, Gracie Lawrence, is part of an eclectic lineup featuring two nights of Goose in addition to Tank and the Bangas, Neal Francis, David Shaw of The Revivalists, George Porter Jr. & Runnin’ Pardners, Eggy, Melt, and more.
Tickets for Daze Between New Orleans are now on sale. For ticketing details (it’s not Ticketmaster, don’t worry), head here.
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