Kanye West didn’t just drop his microphone as he abruptly walked off the stage midshow during a concert Saturday night at downtown’s Golden 1 Center. He also likely threw away his chance of getting paid for the performance, according to an industry expert.
“Live Nation is not going to give ticket money back (to concertgoers) and still pay Kanye,” said Gary Bongiovanni, editor-in-chief of the concert trade publication Pollstar. “There are absolutely no winners here. There are plenty of losers, and that includes Kanye. He’s damaged his career and cost a lot of money. ... Live Nation expects to be made whole.”
On Monday morning, as tickets were being refunded for West’s truncated Sacramento performance, which ended with a bizarre on-stage rant, the mercurial rapper announced that he was scrapping the remaining dates of his Saint Pablo Tour, an outing that was to wrap with a New Year’s Eve show at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. No reason was given for the cancellation. Live Nation, the promoter, said in a news release that tickets will be “fully refunded at the point of purchase.”
By Monday evening, however, both NBC and TMZ were reporting that West had been hospitalized. He was taken by paramedics to a Los Angeles-area hospital, according to both reports; TMZ said he had “severe sleep deprivation.”
According to Pollstar, West has grossed more than $30 million in ticket sales over 22 concerts on the tour, averaging $2.4 million in total revenue per show. With more than 20 dates left on the tour, West’s shows could have earned another $50 million, including ticket and merchandise sales.
“He was doing excellent business,” Bongiovanni said.
A representative for Live Nation did not respond to questions from The Sacramento Bee about the financial impact of West canceling his Sacramento appearance or his Saint Pablo Tour.
Cancellations aren’t unheard of in the concert business. Artists sometimes have to skip or postpone shows due to illness or family emergency. West cut a show short at the Meadows Festival in New York on Oct. 2 after receiving news that his wife, Kim Kardashian, had been held up at gunpoint inside a Paris hotel room.
Contracts between artists and music promoters typically have clauses related to cancellations, and in some cases artists have the right to cancel or reschedule a performance for up to 30 days before the show. But once the house lights go down, the artists can be bound by strict obligations.
“The contract is usually that an artist has to play for a certain amount of time,” said Gary Avila, the former manager of Papa Roach and Rudy Parris from NBC’s “The Voice.” “If that doesn’t happen, the promoter is reimbursed for the costs and (the artist) doesn’t get paid. If there’s a make-up or rescheduled shows, there are always costs that accrue over that.”
West was on stage for approximately 30 minutes at Golden 1 Center on Saturday, performing just two songs. However, because the specifics of his contract are not known, it’s unclear what kind of financial exposure he might face for ending early.
He’s not the only artist to storm off stage midshow. Axl Rose of Guns N’ Roses famously cut a Montreal concert short in 1992 after fuming over sound problems. Scenarios such as these can be costly for artists if their contract puts them on the hook for production, equipment, venue and crew costs.
“Sacramento was absolutely the worst-case scenario,” Bongiovanni said. “Every single expense that could have been in the show was spent. And if you hold the ticket money back, that’s brutal (for the artist).”
A spokesperson for Golden 1 Center wouldn’t comment on financial matters related to Saturday’s concert. However, it’s likely the arena still fared well despite West’s only playing a handful of songs.
The arena, which was filled with more than 13,000 fans for West’s show, still earned revenue from concession sales, its building rental to Live Nation and parking. Typically, venues also receive a percentage of the artists’ merchandise sales.
Sacramento music promoter Scott Brill-Lehn calls a midshow cancellation like the one West pulled a “nightmare scenario.” Public safety quickly can become an issue if frustrated concertgoers begin acting out.
While no major incidents were reported in the wake of West’s Sacramento concert, the streets near the arena were filled with fans who were agitated over the event. Loud chants of “F--- West” could be heard along L Street after the show.
“As the promoter, you don’t know what’s going to happen and how it will play out,” Brill-Lehn said about midshow cancellations. “You don’t know if there’s going to be violence, and you’re not even talking the nightmare of giving all those refunds.”
Before West’s hospitalization made headlines, many local fans remained angry with the entertainer, including a hip-hop radio station DJ who announced he would stop playing West’s songs. West had ranted about commercial radio during his Sacramento show, among other topics, including MTV, Hillary Clinton and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.
Music director and morning host JayMarZZ of Hot 103.5 went on his own rant Monday to say that the station wouldn’t play West’s music “for a very long time.”
“Everybody came out to have a great time Saturday night,” JayMarZZ said. “A lot of people spent a lot of hard-earned money, bro. A lot of hard-earned time, time, time, time.”
JayMarZZ said that even though ticket holders are getting refunds, the time lost cannot be recovered.