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Live Nation backtracks on controversial artist agreement memo

By | Published on Wednesday 24 June 2020

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Live Nation has backtracked somewhat on the memo that circulated last week which suggested that artists playing its festivals next year will receive lower fees while shouldering more of the risk. “Live Nation will always be the artist-friendly company”, insists Charles Attal, co-President of the US-based Live Nation subsidiary C3 Presents, adding that the memo is “really irrelevant”.

That memo – which focused on festivals – made various proposals for changes to artist agreements once the live industry returns post-COVID, many of which proved controversial once the document leaked. Among said proposals was a 20% cut in fees across the board, and various changes to cancellation policies that would increase the risk of artists, especially if a second spike of COVID-19 caused another round of shows to be called off.

Speaking to US live industry trade magazine Pollstar, Attal – whose Live Nation division runs the various editions of Lollapalooza and other festivals in the US and elsewhere – said that the memo was only meant to be a starting point for discussions. He added that changes had already been made based on the massive amount of negative feedback received.

One of those changes is the removal entirely of a demand that particularly stood out among the cancellations section: that artists would have to pay the promoter 200% of their fee if they cancelled without good reason. “In retrospect, [that] should not have been in there”, he conceded.

He also said that, while guarantees may be lower next year, “clawback” clauses in agreements would see artists paid the same as in 2019 if 2021 festivals are successful. Which, he insists, they will be. “All indicators I see are moving in a really strong direction”, he reckons, adding that sales of those 2021 festival tickets that are already available are “very strong”.

“Live Nation will always be the artist-friendly company”, he adds. “First and foremost, our job is to work for the artists, to branch into new territories, bring new business development to up-and-coming acts, and showcases for headliners to perform for huge, diverse audiences and develop new fans. These [festivals] take years to develop, and that’s our job. We are here to work for the artist. That’s it. We’ve been doing this for years, and it would be impossible without our great relationships with the artists”.

More specifically on that memo, he goes on: “Our relations and negotiations can never be boiled down to one, single one-way document, that’s not reality. We’ve gotten a lot of feedback from the artists. We’ve heard them loud and clear, we’ve revised it, we’ve gotten through it with them, and we’re already booking shows, with confirmed acts for 2021”.

Listen to more discussion about Live Nation’s memo, and what it tells us about the challenges facing the live music industry as it moves beyond the COVID-19 shutdown, here.