Steve Vai on Financial Woes For Big Bands: ‘You Can’t Get the Numbers to Balance’

Steve Vai Photo by Mariano Regidor/Redferns (via Getty Images)
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A lot of bands and artists are struggling when it comes to touring right now. Many musicians have been speaking up lately regarding the impact that the pandemic and rising inflation have had on their careers.

Among those artists, guitarist Steve Vai has expressed how, when it comes to touring: “You’re lucky if you break even.”

During a recent interview with Talkin’ Rock With Meltdown (which is part of Michigan’s 101 WRIF radio station), Vai spoke about his own experiences navigating the difficulties associated with modern touring.

He starts off by talking about frustrations related to COVID, like tours being booked and canceled later when COVID cases have spiked (as well as the struggle of scheduling a tour “after COVID”). He then went on to add (as transcribed by Metal Injection):

“You couldn’t get a bus. All the buses sat for two years, and the bus drivers went to drive trucks. You couldn’t get a bus driver, you couldn’t get gear, you couldn’t get help.

“And it was really difficult – that European tour I did [in 2022] was the most challenging tour I’ve ever done. But we got through it. And now things are getting oiled and are starting to come back together nicely.”

Vai then went on to share the following, speaking to how tough it is to make a buck from touring right now:

“Some bands actually canceled some of their European tours as recently as this past year, just because they couldn’t make it work [financially]. It’s remarkable.

“You know, before you do a tour, you get all the gigs, you get the guarantees, and you look at what your bottom line is. And it’s changed, brother.

“Unfortunately… You’re lucky if you break even. I have a lot of friends that are canceling—big bands—because they just can’t get the numbers to balance.”

What do you make of this entire situation regarding bands/artists struggling on the road?

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