Neil Young lays into Ticketmaster and questions the future of touring: "It’s over. The old days are gone"

Neil Young
(Image credit: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for SiriusXM)

When we reported on Robert Smith and The Cure's stand against high Ticketmaster ticket fees recently, we wondered if more high-profile artists would also put pressure on the company. Step forward Neil Young, but it seems he's not optimistic about the sustainability of touring at all.

"It’s over. The old days are gone," Young wrote on his website under the heading 'Ticketmaster fees at 30%' while sharing a news article on The Cure's recent dealings with ticket sales and distribution giant "I get letters blaming me for $3,000 tickets for a benefit I am doing," said Young. "That money does not go to me or the benefit. Artists have to worry about ripped-off fans blaming them for Ticketmaster add-ons and scalpers. Concert tours are no longer fun. Concert tours not what they were."

Young has been reluctant to return to the road, previously citing Covid concerns, but this latest statement suggests a wider dissatisfaction with the business of touring. His last live appearance was a surprise two-song performance of Come A Time and Heart Of Gold at a rally to protect old-growth forests in Victoria, British Columbia. 

And it's not just ticket fees that are being questioned by artists this week – instrumental trio Russian Circles were just one of an increasing number of bands that have withdrawn their merchandise from sale at a venue ahead of a live performance. The US act cited unreasonable percentage cuts from a venue in Paris via a third-party company on 22 March that would have forced the band to charge more to fans or lose money.

"As you are probably aware, merch sales are vital to keeping artists financially afloat while on tour," the band wrote in a statement on their social media channels. "Venues often take a percentage of merch revenue from artists, and their rates have gotten higher in recent years.

"At tonight's show in Paris [22 March], the venue has enlisted an outside company to sell artists' merch. This company takes a 25% commission and withholds a 20% VAT tax.

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"Our options appear to be either raising our prices or losing money, so we've opted to not sell merch tonight," Russian Circles continued. "We apologise to our friends and fans in Paris who were hoping to grab a shirt or LP at the show, but we don't want to partake in this arrangement with this company. If you want our merch, it is always available at [online store] Evil Greed."

The fan reaction was overwhelmingly supportive of the band. 

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.