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MMF CEO warns touring costs will price out artists

Annabella Coldrick says that the "perfect storm" of Brexit, Covid and inflation is making touring unaffordable for some acts

By IQ on 18 Aug 2022

Annabella Coldrick, MMF

Annabella Coldrick, MMF

Annabella Coldrick, CEO of the UK’s Music Managers Forum (MMF), warns that the cost of touring will see some artists priced out of their careers, resulting in a “lost generation” of talent.

According to the CEO, the membership is dealing with a “perfect storm” of Brexit, Covid and inflation, making touring unaffordable for some acts.

“I want to be really positive because we’re so pleased that live music is back but when costs have gone up 30-40% – and you can’t put tickets up at the same level because people are working out how to pay their heating bill – that’s tough,” says Coldrick.

“Some artists can absorb the current costs of touring but most can’t. I think we’re going to have to look at how we tour and what reductions we can bring in.”

One band that has spoken up about the overwhelming cost of touring is Belfast-based band New Pagans, who earlier this year opened up about the “massive debt” they racked up on a European tour with Skunk Anansie.

“I think we’re going to have to look at how we tour and what reductions we can bring in”

“Brexit and Covid have truly done a number on small bands. To break even on a tour, or even come home with a little profit was always the goal… to come home from a tour having accumulated massive debt is now the reality for many small and independent bands in 2022,” reads a tweet from the band.

“Fuel costs, tolls, venues taking 25% of merch, buying a carnet to get through customs: just a few things conspiring against you.”

Coldrick raises concerns that the hike in prices will result in a talent drain of British artists.

“I think in five or six years’ time, you’ll see a load of artists who lost momentum because of Covid and not being able to make ends meet,” she says. “And when you look at festival bills in half a decade, they’ll be much fewer British artists on them – partly because they’ve not been able to build the audiences from touring.”

And for the acts that do continue to tour, there’ll be some tough decisions to make – both financially and creatively.

“I think in five or six years’ time, you’ll see a load of artists who lost momentum because of Covid”

“I think production will be severely stripped back for those who do go ahead with touring,” she continues. “I’ve already heard about bigger bands that would usually take three trucks and are now just taking one. We will definitely see different types of shows now.”

With no silver bullet for the cost of touring, the MMF CEO anticipates a tough few years for gigging acts but says there are some things that can ease the pressure.

A 5% rate of VAT on ticket sales is high on the CEO’s wishlist, along with acts being able to take home 100% of the proceeds from the merchandise sold at concerts.

“So many managers have spent a lot of time trying to find ways around venues taking a commission of merchandise,” she explains. “I’ve heard stories about artists hiring ice cream vans and putting them outside of the venue to sell merch, or taking over cafes. We don’t want to do that – it’s a lot more time and effort.

“We’re hoping the venues will realise that being able to make it possible for artists to tour at the moment is a key thing. I think we need to realise we’re all in it together and try and find a way to make that level of touring work or shows will get pulled and that’s not good for anyone in the industry.”

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