In a telling example of the state of the touring industry in 2022, indie artist Santigold has canceled her upcoming North American tour, citing the “devastating” costs due to inflation, soaring costs and the glut of artists on the road after pandemic restrictions lifted early this year.
“As a touring musician, I don’t think anyone anticipated the new reality that awaited us,” she wrote in a long and impassioned post on Instagram. “After sitting idle (not being able to do shows) for the past couple years, many of us like everyone else, earning no or little income during that time, every musician that could, rushed back out immediately when it was deemed safe to do shows. We were met with the height of inflation — gas, tour buses, hotels, and flight costs skyrocketed — many of our tried-and-true venues unavailable due to a flooded market of artists trying to book shows in the same cities, and positive test results constantly halting schedules with devastating financial consequences.
“All of that on top of the already-tapped mental, spiritual, physical, and emotional resources of just having made it through the past few years,” she continued. “Some of us are finding ourselves simply unable to make it work.”
Her cancelation speaks to a growing problem as festivals and touring artists returned after two years of lockdown: Audiences can’t or won’t return in sufficient numbers to support all of the tours and festivals that are taking place, due to ticket prices, too many options, Covid caution or all three. While attendance numbers might be great for Harry Styles or Lady Gaga, for the average touring musician, it’s tougher than ever.
What this will mean for the music world remains to be seen: Touring has been the primary source of income for working musicians ever since illegal downloading and then streaming upended many artists’ business models — they came to accept that they would not make money from recordings, as they had during the CD and vinyl eras, but those recordings would bring people to their shows, where they could make money from ticket and merchandise sales. But if their tours are failing after two years without road work, it’s hard to see what the next option might be.
Santigold’s most recent album, “Spirituals,” dropped earlier this month on her own label, Little Jerk; the tour was slated to launch Oct. 9 in Atlanta. All tickets for the tour will be refunded.
In her post, she said she had considered “every angle,” but “I simply don’t have it. I can’t make it work.”
“I want to tell you that for me it has taken a toll — through anxiety, insomnia, fatigue, vertigo, chronic pain, and missing crucial time with my children,” Santigold explained. “In the place that I’m in, in the place that the music business is in, it feels like I’ve been hanging on, trying to make it to the ever-distant finish line, but my vehicle’s been falling apart the whole time — the bumper fell off, the wheels one at a time, the steering wheel, and finally the whole bottom fell out. And here I am thinking, ‘Should I just hold the doors up and run?’ And my little heart that has been working way beyond its limits, my whole body in fact and my soul too, are screaming at me ‘NO muthafucka! Pull.The Fuck. Over!’”
“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,” she concluded.