What Does the Black Keys’ Tour Cancellation Say About Live Music in 2024?

It could be emblematic of larger changes

The Black Keys live
Patrick Carney and Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys perform at O2 Academy Brixton on May 07, 2024.
Matthew Baker/Getty Images

When a band or solo artist announces a tour, it often merits a news item from online music publications. The Black Keys — the long-running rock duo — are in a slightly different position right now: the cancellation of their planned fall tour, with little fanfare, has sparked speculation and plenty of online discourse. While the band hasn’t cited a specific reason for the tour not happening, it certainly seems to be in line with some ongoing trends that the pandemic only accelerated.

As Stereogum’s Danielle Chelosky reported, the band has yet to comment on why they opted out of the planned tour, as well as limiting the ability to comment on their most recent Instagram post. On social media, music writer and DJ Scott Heisel cited evidence that low ticket sales may have been a factor in the decision. “Whoever thought booking this band in arenas in 2024 should be fired,” Heisel wrote.

That a band big enough to make a guest appearance on The Voice would be looking to play arenas doesn’t seem that strange. That said, it’s possible that their new-as-of-2022 represention erred in its judgment of where the group should play — or that the group’s fanbase balked at paying arena-tour prices this time out. Or it could be something entirely unrelated to any of this.

Still, it seems like further evidence of a troubling status quo for touring musicians who aren’t global superstars. “Companies themselves are doing fantastically well. And yet staff numbers are being pared back and many artists themselves, unless they are in the Taylor Swiftian top 1%, say that a proper living from recorded music income or songwriting royalties is a cruel pipe dream,” wrote Eamonn Forde in a blistering analysis of the music industry at The Quietus.

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This particular news is interesting in light of those industry changes in that it helps illustrate just where the at-risk middle class of musicians can be found. If a group as ubiquitous as the Black Keys is facing challenging times, what does it mean for groups with a similar longevity but a lower profile? The pandemic made things challenging for plenty of artists, and the ensuing years haven’t brought much relief.

UPDATE: The Black Keys announced on Sunday that they would be rescheduling their fall tour at a different set of venues.

“Following the recent run of shows in the UK & Europe, including stops at iconic venues like Brixton Academy and the Zenith in Paris, we have decided to make some changes to the North American leg of the International Players Tour that will enable us to offer a similarly exciting, intimate experience for both fans and the band, and will be announcing a revised set of dates shortly,” the band wrote on Instagram.

“Everyone who had purchased tickets and/or VIP to the initial tour dates will be fully refunded — and when the new plans are announced, will be the first to be able to buy tickets.”

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