BlogDecember 1, 2023 2:11 AM ET

Staind guitarist Mike Mushok on merch cuts and competition with Live Nation


Steve Thrasher

In a recent interview with V13, Staind guitarist Mike Mushok addressed Live Nation's "On The Road Again" program, aimed at supporting emerging artists and their teams with touring expenses. 

The program offers $1,500 in gas and travel funds per show to headliners and support acts, as well as no merchandise selling fees at Live Nation-owned clubs.

Mushok, who co-owns a 1300-seat venue in Foxborough, expressed concern about the program's potential impact on venues like his own. He raised questions about the financial feasibility for venues and promoters to compete with Live Nation's support for touring acts.

Asked what his thoughts were on the program, as a touring band, Mike said: 

I have two thoughts about this because I actually am part owner in a venue. It's a 1300-seat venue in Foxborough outside of Gillette Stadium. We do live music on the weekends and national acts and we generally have never taken a merch fee from bands at our venue.

I got home late last night and I saw this article and I need to go back and really pay attention to it. It sounds like it's going to make venues like mine very difficult because, aren't they paying into a fund for the crew, for the bands, to tour? I can't do that as a venue. They already drive the margins up and, as a promoter, it's just very, very hard to compete with that for the bands.

Now, me coming a musician, it's great, right? I mean, however, it's Live Nation. They're gonna make the money back somewhere. If you think that they're not going to charge you, well… Surcharges are gonna go up, ticket prices. They're gonna make it up somewhere. They're a multi-billion-dollar business. They're not going to just give away money. They're gonna make it up somewhere and then that is a whole different problem.

I'll tell you, you know, we just spent a summer out on the road and, now that you don't make any money on record sales, merch is a big thing for bands. It's fantastic there are fans who want to support the bands and wear a shirt or buy a bandana or whatever you're selling. It's great, but the venue takes 25% of it.

I remember '95, we played some like amusement park out our way and I had never heard of this. We used to sell shirts at shows for about 20 bucks or whatever, and that was the first time, like, 'You're taking a percentage. What do you mean?' It's surreal, a real eye opener, because a lot of fans don't see that side of it, but it seems like this has really come to everybody's attention, so I think it's nice that it's been addressed. I think it has come up because it's just so expensive to tour. It's just expensive to go out on the road. It's really expensive to tour, so I think, for a band playing clubs, maybe not even in a bus because you can't afford it because it's a fortune, when you're selling 1,000 bucks' [worth of merchandise], 500 has gotta go back to the venue or whatever. It's a lot. Consider that over 30 shows. The next thing you know, [it's like], ‘Wait a second, I gave you how much?’

As a musician, Mushok sees the program's benefits for bands but also shared skepticism. He suggested that Live Nation, as a major business, would likely recoup the costs elsewhere, potentially affecting ticket prices or adding surcharges.

Mushok also highlighted the financial significance of merchandise sales for bands, noting that venues commonly take a percentage of the sales. He emphasized the expense of touring and the impact that venue cuts can have on bands, especially in smaller venues.

Tags: Staind


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