Tomberlin Calls Out Vienna Venue for "Aggressive" Merch Cut Policy

The singer-songwriter opted not to sell merch because of this "unreasonable" rule at a "supposedly non-profit venue," claiming she would have made no money

Photo: Jean-Michel Lacombe

BY Megan LaPierrePublished Sep 18, 2023

Venue merch cuts have been a hot topic of debate recently, with Jeff Rosenstock kindly breaking down the math for everyone on social media earlier this month and the positive changes that have come to follow.

(Sarah Beth) Tomberlin, who is touring with Ray LaMontagne behind her exquisite album, i don't know who needs to hear this... (one of the 50 best of 2022), has added her voice to the debate by calling out the venue in Vienna, VA, she played last night (September 17) for their "aggressive" 41 percent merch cut policy.

The singer-songwriter performed at an outdoor amphitheatre called the Wolf Trap while supporting LaMontagne last night, and ended up deciding not to sell merch to fans, claiming she wouldn't have seen any profit.

She reactivated her Twitter/X account to share the "unreasonable" rule in place at the venue — which paints itself as a nonprofit — claiming they were planning on taking 30 percent on soft merch (anything that isn't recorded music), 10 percent for music, 5 percent for use of their credit card scanners and 6 percent for sales tax. Tomberlin added that it was a "forced sell" venue, which meant she couldn't have her regular merch seller sell for her, nor could they use their own Square account.
The artist took to Instagram today to expand on the experience, claiming to have felt the brunt of "inappropriate" anger from the venue's merch manager, who barred Tomberlin's merch-seller cousin from entering the merch booth unless a cut was agreed upon.

"This is of course a major loss to me as this was one of the largest shows of this tour so far," she wrote of her decision not to sell "because I did not want to charge [fans] $60 for a shirt to make a profit."

"I felt it was an extremely unfair rate and that altogether a merch cut is an archaic rule and truly a made-up model by the heads of these venues and companies to continue to profit off of the labour of those whose labour is already undervalued," she explained. "That is why we have to go on tour and become a Walmart and sell you T-shirts. To make a living. Because we artists today, especially those of us starting out the last few years, cannot afford to make a living if we don't sell you T-shirts."

See Tomberlin's post below.

A post shared by tomberlin (@tomberlinnnn)


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