Architects Suggest Bands Strike Over ‘Insane’ Venue Merch Cuts
There's no doubt the cost of going to a concert and everything that comes with that has gone up significantly in recent years. But not all of the rising costs can be attributed to the band, as other hands have been taking from the collective pot. In a series of tweets, Architects have become the latest act to bring up the subject of venue cuts, in this case pertaining to the merchandise sold at shows, and discussing the possibility of striking until a more fair deal is ironed out.
Drummer Dan Searle posed the idea on Twitter, suggesting, "Hey @bands when are we gonna go on strike and get rid of these insane venue merch cuts? Or maybe we don’t play until we get a cut of the bar? Can we just get this done asap please?"
Getting more into the specifics of why the top was being raised, vocalist Sam Carter chimed in, "Venue in Melbourne took 15% and it took four hours for them to get our merch girl a light."
That opened things up to some of Searle's Twitter followers to pose ideas and offer reactions. One fan wrote, "I’ve always wondered if bands could add a merch option when buying tickets like £30 merch credit for those who know they will get something that way that money isn’t actually tendered in the venue." Searle explained, "We are thinking about doing this."
When another fan asked, "How much does a band actually see from merch? I was at a gig the other week and spent £60 on two vinyl, how much of that would the band get?," the drummer responded, "I believe CDs and Vinyl are often a smaller cut but we tend to sell those items as cheaply as possible. On clothes arenas often charge 25% of gross + VAT + card fee + ‘business rates’. They walk with £10,000-£100,000 and we pay for printing, shipping, designs etc. small margins."
One Twitter follower countered, "If a 30,000 cap arena is providing the staff to sell + count in/out, those are hefty labour costs. (I’m not saying their rates are fair.) It’s very a different thing for a 200 cap room to charge fees esp if the band are selling their own merch."
Searle responded, "Firstly I don’t think there’s a single 30k cap arena on the planet but if there was then they’re probably going to be taking £100,000 from the artist for one night of work. Should just about cover the workload of counting in and out I imagine?" He then added, "The promoter is already paying to use the venue….which is ultimately paid for in ticket sales…ticket sales that only exist because of…..oh yeah, the band."
The drummer then further made his point as to why something should be done, explaining, "Fans would see bigger, better shows and pay less for merchandise. Or we can keep making billionaire dollar corporations richer. There’s not a single band that wouldn’t have their finances completely transformed if things were to change. Theres no fathomable reason not to act other than apathy. And all it takes is everyone to say ‘no, we’re not doing this anymore, you need us to exist.’"
Circling back to his original idea, when a fan questioned, "Time for an artist strike?," the drummer responded, "I genuinely believe so."
Stray From the Path's Craig Reynolds commented, "It's almost like one company bought up all the venues during the pandemic so they could do this more often."
The Devil Wears Prada's Jeremy DePoyster jumped into the conversation, stating, Merch bar cut seems only fair especially when our median fan ages are 30+ and when a corporate venue owns the bar as well."
Architects are not the only ones who are bemoaning the influx of corporations taking more from the live performance till. Last fall, Garbage frontwoman Shirley Manson spoke in broader terms in a post titled "The Live Music Industry Is Broken."
She explained, "Live music is under enormous strain. The average musician can no longer survive let alone thrive under the current conditions. We are seeing so many precious talents buckle under the economic injustice of a system that does not pay the creative for their artistic output. Everyone is vying for a handful of venues in order to make a small amount of money to tide them over until the next show, most sailing without a dollar of insurance. A large percentage of musicians that you know and love are likely living hand to mouth."
She went on to add, "Corporations are making billions of dollars off of their work and sharing none of the profits. This can not stand. We will lose a whole generation of young artists if it does."
Dissecting her comments a little bit more, she adds, "Let me put it to you another way: So many of the artists that we revere and hold dear throughout history would have been utterly destroyed by this system entirely. Musicians cannot survive without being paid fairly for their music. And if the live scene fails, the whole ship goes down entirely. All you will be left with is the mainstream. No alternative perspectives. Nothing loud. Nothing dangerous. Nothing weird. Little that lasts more than one album cycle. That strikes me as a great sorrow for our culture as a whole."
Architects are wrapping up an Australia tour this Wednesday (Feb. 22), with dates in Europe to follow this spring and summer. Keep up with their touring here.