Let me paint you a picture.
Last Friday night, loading up the bus and trailer after the show in Milan. We’re all exhausted but radiant. We’d just had our best show in Italy to date. Being on the road again, properly, consistently, hitting places that had started to feel like a dream in the last two years, seeing old friends, making new ones – it’s almost impossible for me to exaggerate how redemptive all that felt. Shows in Ireland, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, France, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Italy had all been wonderful. I felt like I had a purpose again, for the first time in a long while.
But. You knew there was a “but” coming.
We were heading home, instead of heading to Austria. For those who missed the announcement a week ago, we have had to pull the Austrian shows on this tour (and thus also Nuremberg), and that’s what this post is about. I wanted to start by emphasising that the mood on a bus when you’re in for the long drive home without having finished what you started is funereal black. My band and crew and I take a huge amount of pride in our work, and letting people down is the very last thing we ever want to do.
So let me explain the reasons. I think the initial announcement wasn’t clear enough about this, for which I apologise, but after a fair few hostile comments on the subject, I wanted to state my case and try to help people understand what’s going on, not just for me, but for the live music industry in general.
Someone somewhere snarked that the cancellations showed I was “all about the money” – and that is true, to the same extent that paying rent, paying bills, eating food is “all about the money”. Touring isn’t free – in fact it’s hugely expensive. With 12 people being paid full time, a bus and trailer, fuel (fuel!) costs, hotels, PDs, food, taxes, carnets and the like, it used to cost me a comfortable five figures a day to be on the road – show days and days off the same. Now, with extra Brexit bullshit and soaring gas prices, it costs more.
I’m not trying to garner sympathy or complain about my lot in life, just to explain. Looking forward through the tour, and after consulting with our promoter in Austria (an old and trusted friend), it became clear that going there for a week was going to cost a fortune – it was going to put the tour catastrophically in the red.
Now, in times gone by (and maybe again in the future) I’ve toured at a loss plenty. It’s arguable that I’ve never actually done more than broken even going all the way to Vienna (13 times now), but you make it work – you route it in with bigger shows, you balance it out against other tours, you make some (not as much as people think…) money on merchandise. You do the job you said you’d do.
But after the last two years, the music industry in general is still bleeding profusely, wounded, limping. Any buffer zone, any fallback, is so long gone it’s a joke at this point. Everyone is broke. A lot of people think musicians at our level are wealthy people – pretty entertainingly wide of the mark at the best of times, not even funny now. Among other things, no one got paid for two years. Doing those shows at this point in time was simply not possible.
There’s a whole bunch of reasons for that. Obviously I know that shows in Austria are open now, but attendances are low across the board, and no-shows are through the roof. I know of 3 other acts in the same shoes right now. I’m not blaming anyone in that part of the world for anything, it is what it is, but ultimately there’s a bottom line here that I can’t just wish away, ignore, tough out, or anything else.
So we drove home. My team are working overtime to get the shows back on the books for later in the year. I think there’s been some confusion about ticketing – for which I apologise, and which we’ll sort ASAP. But we ARE coming back. We WILL make good on our promises, as soon as that’s humanly possible.
I guess ultimately the reason I’m writing this is because there’s been a fair bit of disappointment around the cancellation – which I fully understand, and to which I can only add “me too!” – but also because there’s been some comments which, to me, feel pretty unfair. Sure, things unlocked recently. That doesn’t undo two years of catastrophe for touring musicians at a stroke. I wish it did, but it doesn’t. I know people were looking forward to the shows, and some of them are now out of pocket – again, me too.
Thank you so much to everyone who made a show on this tour. Thanks to the people in Austria who have been understanding about this situation. We will be back, before the year is through. I’m going to take a bit of a break from the internet for a minute, but we’re hitting Yeovil and then the Eden Sessions with MCR at the end of the week, and I can’t wait. Peace.