SXSW Rewind: Rebuilding the Touring Industry from Scratch

Posted on: March 27, 2023
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By Stefny
Host of “The Emo Diaries

There’s no question that the last three years have looked very different for 99% of the earth’s population, but the music industry’s entire way of being has been disrupted.

On Wednesday, March 15, I attended Rebuilding the Touring Industry from Scratch, moderated by Taylor Mims from Billboard and featuring Sara Mertz from Tixr, Liz Norris from Activist Artists Management, and Sarah Tehrani from William Morris Endeavor.

Although they work on different sides of the spectrum, each panelist agreed that major changes have been brought about by the COVID pandemic, not the least of which involves the cost of touring. According to Sarah: “We are trying to find money under every rock possible these days. There’s a lot of saturation. It’s a lot more expensive… We are a lot more dialled in on how we can be more efficient. There’s demand but there’s also a lot of competition.”

Liz said that the cost of touring is making it hard for any small or midlevel artists to tour, but it’s important for her that the increased costs to go on the road do not trickle down to the consumers. “We will always continue to super serve the fans,” she said.

For fans and artists alike, Sara said that people want a more specialised and curated experience. Both parties have to be more careful with their money. For artists, that may mean playing more to the fanbase than trying to go outside of their wheelhouse. She said that some festivals have even retained some of the creative ways they were forced to forge ahead during COVID, such as pod seating models.

For some artists, the pandemic changed their approach to life and how they want to share it. They are taking more control over the experience and also letting their fans in more. Michael Franti began leading a yoga class to his album prior to concerts (Liz joked that they almost lost him to Bali during lockdown). Umi has integrated meditation into her shows.

Other artists, such as Santigold, cannot afford to put themselves on the road.

If you’re wondering “How can I make money in this new touring landscape?” then they did have a few suggestions. Liz: “For developing artists it’s firing on all cylinders, not just touring. As a developing artist, there’s no right way to build your team. Find people who are passionate about you and want to help you. As an artist, you are the CEO of your art, but you have to build a team of people around you so you can focus on your art.” Sarah adds, “Build a team that understand technology.” She says to utilize tech like fan-to-fan reward systems and to get fans to commit to potential tickets so you can convince venues to book you.

For more information and to hear a recording of the panel, please visit


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