Lorde has discussed the current economic realities of touring in a newsletter sent to fans.
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The singer – who has been on the road for most of the tour touring in support of her third studio album, ‘Solar Power’ – is currently in the midst of a string of South American shows, having completed North American and European runs.
“Basically, for artists, promoters and crews, things are at an almost unprecedented level of difficulty,” Lorde wrote in her letter, citing factors like “three years’ worth of shows” occurring simultaneously, global economic downturn, and concertgoers’ “totally understandable wariness” around health risks.
She went on to acknowledge logistical factors such as widespread crew shortages, linking to an article from New Zealand news outlet Stuff about the issue. “Extremely overbooked trucks and tour buses and venues, inflated flight and accommodation costs, ongoing general COVID costs, and truly mindboggling freight costs” were also listed as factors.
“To freight a stage set across the world can cost up to three times the pre-pandemic price right now. I don’t know shit about money, but I know enough to understand that no industry has a profit margin that high,” Lorde continued.
“Ticket prices would have to increase to start accommodating even a little of this, but absolutely no one wants to charge their harried and extremely-compassionate-and-flexible audience any more fucking money.
“Nearly every tour has been besieged with cancellations and postponements and promises and letdowns, and audiences have shown such understanding and such faith, that between that and the post-COVID wariness about getting out there at all, scaring people away by charging the true cost ain’t an option. All we want to do is play for you.”
Lorde went on to say that she’s lucky because profits being down across the board doesn’t pose an issue for an artist of her stature, but touring has become a “demented struggle to break even or face debt” for artists selling less tickets than her – which in some cases, can make touring prohibitive altogether. Such was the case for Animal Collective, who cited economic difficulties for cancelling a recent UK and European tour.
“Preparing for this tour we were looking at an economic reality that simply does not work and is not sustainable,” the Baltimore experimental outfit when announcing the tour’s cancellation last month.
“From inflation, to currency devaluation, to bloated shipping and transportation costs, and much much more, we simply could not make a budget for this tour that did not lose money even if everything went as well as it could.”
In her newsletter, Lorde also discussed the toll that these difficulties presented for crews, promoters and musicians, noting how many artists had cancelled shows citing mental health concerns in the past year.
She wrote: “We’re a collection of the world’s most sensitive flowers who also spent the last two years inside, and maybe the task of creating a space where people’s pain and grief and jubilation can be held night after night with a razor thin profit margin and dozens of people to pay is feeling like a teeny bit much.”
Lorde concluded by saying that she was personally “doing pretty good”, thanking fans for coming to shows in “such mammoth numbers”. However, she said that even she was not immune to the stress that came with such uncertainty. “Just a month ago I was looking at a show that was pretty undersold and panicking, only for it to sell the remaining 2,000 tickets in ten days,” she said. “Wild stuff.”
She continued: “I wanted to put all of this in your minds to illustrate that nothing’s simple when it comes to touring at the moment, and if your faves are confusing you with their erratic moves, some of this could be playing a part.”
Lorde and Animal Collective are far from the only artists to address the economic difficulties of modern-day touring. In September, Santigold cancelled a North American tour, citing the inflated costs associated with touring, the unavailability of venues due to “a flooded market of artists”, halted tour schedules due to positive COVID cases and more.
“I want you to understand that I am proud to be cancelling this tour when it means that I am proclaiming that I, the person who writes the songs, is as important to me as the songs,” she added. “I will not continue to sacrifice myself for an industry that has become unsustainable for, and uninterested in the welfare of the artists it is built upon.”
Last month, London singer-songwriter Christopher Taylor (aka SOHN) cancelled a planned UK tour. “The bottom line is simply not enough tickets have been sold in the towns outside of London,” he wrote at the time. “We attempted to do a UK tour in good faith, but now it seems just too big a risk to try to play these shows.”
“When tickets don’t sell, everybody down the chain loses money – artists, promoters, live music venues and staff,” Taylor continued. “Tours at this level are under huge pressure right now just to break even, only becoming profitable when the majority of venues are close to sold out, which is not the case with these UK dates.”
In September, the UK government was warned yet again that musicians and crew “could find themselves unemployed en masse”, after a hearing at the House of Lords revealed the damage being caused by Brexit on those wishing to tour Europe. It came after the UK music industry spoke out together last year, saying they had been essentially handed a “No Deal Brexit” when the government failed to negotiate visa-free travel and Europe-wide work permits for musicians and crew.
Lorde’s South American tour will conclude this weekend with an appearance at Primavera Sound Buenos Aires. In February of next year, she’ll kick off the tour’s final leg in with shows in her home country of New Zealand and Australia.