Jeff Rosenstock Breaks Down How Much Venue Merch Cuts Suck
Jeff Rosenstock released his excellent album HELLMODE last week, and he’s launching his tour in support of the record Wednesday in Washington, DC. Ahead of that road trip, he’s shared a graphic explaining how much of a cut the venues in each city are taking from his merchandise sales. He’s accompanied the numbers with a message critiquing this practice, which is well worth a read.
Here’s what Rosenstock had to say:
Felt appropriate to post this on Labor Day. Here are the merch cuts being taken by the venues on this upcoming tour. This is going to cause us to sell our merch for higher prices than we’d like to at certain venues. We think that sucks.
The argument for the cut is “well, fucko, we give you a place to sell your merchandise.” By that logic, we should also be getting a cut of the bar for bringing hundreds to thousands of people and their cash to the venue that night. **For the record, we’re 100% down to give a merch cut any night we get a cut of the bar.** But the thing that makes the most sense is that we don’t take each other’s money! We like each other and we’re working together and helping each other! It makes no sense that at the end of these killer shows where we’re all having a nice time, someone who was our friend all night low key robs us and goes “have a safe trip to the next gig buddies!!” That’s fucking weird!!!
So much of the time all that money goes to big corporations like AEG & LiveNation. Seems like the fuckin’ rule now, if you work in a creative field you’re supposed to feel lucky and happy enough to be there to get raked over the coals by millionaires and billionaires who will give you as small as slice of the pie as they can to perpetually show growth in profits. It’s never these people left holding the bag. It’s either a musician – a field in which if you make a poverty wage that’s considered *making it* – or fans who take on the burden. Even if you are older now I think many of us know what it feels like to think “well, that show costs $30, so I can’t afford to go.” It’s fucked up that someone to whomst $1,000 is nothin’ is taking that money from you for real.
I’d love to say “and as a result of all that, we’ll no longer be playing venues that take merch cuts.” But unfortunately, during the pandemic AEG & LiveNation bought so many of the types of venues that we play, that dodging these super high cuts is nearly impossible. But we’ll never stop trying to keep the prices low for everyone out there, and we’re gonna do whatever we can do to avoid it in the future. We as a band and crew just wanted to let you know what’s up. Lub ya see ya soon.
Yep — shitty situation! It’s good that Rosenstock is speaking up about it.
UPDATE: Steve Albini weighed in, writing “Not often admitted, but merch cuts are 100% negotiable, to the extent that my bands over 40+ years have never, not once, ever paid them. When agents make deals, they don’t care about ticket surcharges, merch cut or other leaks; they don’t affect their cut. The band has to insist.” Rosenstock responds, “You know the massive amount of respect I have for you but I assure you, we insist. When you’re not touring to make your living it’s a different situation. When you’re ‘Steve Albini’ you get special treatment. We have completely different circumstances.”
09/06 – Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club #
09/07 – New York, NY @ Terminal 5 #
09/08 – Boston, MA @ Roadrunner #
09/09 – New Haven, CT @ College Street Music Hall #
09/10 – Philadelphia, PA @ The Fillmore &
09/12 – Richmond, VA @ The Broadberry #
09/13 – Carrboro, NC @ Cat’s Cradle #
09/15 – Atlanta, GA @ The Masquerade – Heaven #
09/16 – Madison, TN @ Eastside Bowl #
09/17 – St. Louis, MO @ Delmar Hall #
09/19 – Chicago, IL @ The Salt Shed #
09/20 – Detroit, MI @ Royal Oak Music Theatre #
09/22 – Toronto, ON @ The Danforth Music Hall #
09/23 – Ottawa, ON @ Rainbow Bistro # [SOLD OUT]
09/24 – Montreal, QC @ Théâtre Beanfield #
11/25 – Phoenix, AZ @ The Van Buren $
11/27 – Santa Fe, NM @ Meow Wolf $
11/28 – El Paso, TX @ Lowbrow Palace $
11/30 – San Antonio, TX @ Paper Tiger $
12/01 – Austin, TX @ Empire Garage $
12/02 – Dallas, TX @ Ferris Wheelers Backyard and BBQ $
12/03 – Tulsa, OK @ The Vanguard $
12/05 – Denver, CO @ Summit $
12/07 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Soundwell $
12/08 – Boise, ID @ Treefort Music Hall $
12/10 – Portland, OR @ Revolution Hall $
12/11 – Seattle, WA @ The Showbox $
12/14 – Reno, NV @ The Holland Project $
12/15 – San Francisco, CA @ The Regency Ballroom $
12/16 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Novo $
12/17 – San Diego, CA @ The Observatory North Park $
# w/ Sidney Gish, Gladie
& w/ Chris Farren, Sidney Gish, Gladie, Diners
$ w/ Gel, Small Crush