STEVE VAI On The State Of Touring: ‘You’re Lucky If You Break Even’

Steve Vai

Steve Vai recently had a discussion with Meltdown from Talkin’ Rock on Michigan’s 101 FM-WRIF, where he provided his opinion on the current status of the music industry, particularly touring. Vai‘s latest LP, Inviolate, was released in January 2022 and is his 12th project since he dropped Flex-Able in 1984.

“By the time the record was released, everything was starting to open up,” Vai said. “But it was kind of iffy. It was really weird – you book a tour, and then COVID would spike, and you have to cancel the tour. And then, trying to get out on tour after COVID was incredibly difficult for musicians, because everything was kind of deranged.

He continued: “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.”

“Some bands actually canceled some of their European tours as recently as this past year, just because they couldn’t make it work [financially],” Vai added. “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,” Vai concluded “I have a lot of friends that are canceling—big bands—because they just can’t get the numbers to balance.”

Last year, a number of bands, including ANTHRAX, LAMB OF GOD and PRIMUS were forced to forgo their European tours because of the increased expenses of touring.