In search of reliable sources of income, since late summer artists are back on the road en masse. Alongside Genesis (who have completed 12 dates of their UK campaign), this season UK audiences have had their pick of tours by artists as diverse as Richard Thompson, Manic Street Preachers, The Reytons, Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott , The Specials, Kasabian, The Offspring, and dozens more. The recent announcement of spring and summer stadium trips by Ed Sheeran, Liam Gallagher and Coldplay suggests confidence in the future as well as the present.
In truth, however, nobody cares. In addition to the threat of infection and derailment, artists face unprecedented costs of doing business. While in the old world a band could take out insurance against shows lost to illness, no such guarantee exists for Covid-19. To undertake a tour, musicians are required to pay in advance for transportation, production and the hiring of a road crew. Agents and promoters will take care of venues and publicity. The cost of canceling concerts at the last minute is far more than lost box office revenue.
“I had a discussion with [promoter] Live Nation at the start of [a recent] tour and said, “Let’s hope we make it to the end because if we don’t, you and I are going to be in an almighty row,” Adam Saunders told me. “There is no doubt about it and there is no way to avoid it. There’s going to be a huge bill that we’re going to have to cover… It’s amazing how fragile things are.
Whether a band plays in stadiums or clubs, the problem is universal. Unable to secure insurance for their forthcoming UK theater tour, English rock quintet Marillion have calculated the cost of derailment after just two or three of 10 planned dates at around £150,000. For a band that operates as a cottage industry – the recording of their forthcoming LP, An Hour Before It’s Dark, was funded via pre-orders – the idea of being on the hook for a sunk six-figure outlay was unthinkable. . The group’s manager, Lucy Jordache, however, has an idea.
“[She] said, ‘I wonder if the fans would be willing to step up and become our insurance company?’ drummer Ian Mosley tells me. The money would be held in an escrow account and returned to its donors if not used. The group could offer incentives such as Zoom meetings and hand-written lyrics. “She put it to our fanbase and in three days we raised £113,000 from around 30 countries. That’s what’s amazing about our audience. This is a UK tour. United, but we’ve had people from all over the world who have pledged money because they want to feel part of the Marillion family.