Bands Like The Who Can’t Afford to Tour Anymore

Frontman Roger Daltrey says it's unlikely the band will ever play North America again

Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend of The Who perform onstage at Madison Square Garden on May 26, 2022 in New York City.
Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend of The Who perform onstage at Madison Square Garden on May 26, 2022
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The COVID-19 pandemic upended all of our lives in countless ways, but over three years since the start of the lockdown, there’s one industry in particular that is still struggling to bounce back. Live music hasn’t been the same since 2020; many artists are still working to recover two years of lost income from when quarantine made playing live shows impossible, and thanks to COVID protocol and other post-pandemic logistics, touring is more expensive than ever.

Obviously, the situation is most dire for lesser-known, working musicians who rely on their gigs to get by, but even massive acts like The Who aren’t immune from this new grim financial reality. In a recent interview, frontman Roger Daltrey admitted that he doesn’t think the classic rock band will ever play North America again — simply because they can no longer afford to.

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“I don’t know if we’ll ever come back to tour America,” Daltrey said. “There is only one tour we could do, an orchestrated Quadrophenia to round out the catalog. But that’s one tall order to sing that piece of music, as I’ll be 80 next year. I never say never, but at the moment it’s very doubtful.”

“Touring has become very difficult since COVID,” he continued. “We cannot get insured and most of the big bands doing arena shows, by the time they do their first show and rehearsals and get the staging and crew together, all the buses and hotels, you’re upwards $600,000 to a million in the hole. To earn that back, if you’re doing a 12-show run, you don’t start to earn it back until the seventh or eighth show. That’s just how the business works. The trouble now is if you get COVID after the first show, you’ve [lost] that money.”

It doesn’t bode well for the future of live music. If a legendary act like The Who can no longer afford to tour internationally, how can anyone else be expected to?

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