Paul McCartney's postponed Out There tour dates left thousands of disappointed fans and promoters scrambling to adjust their schedules. And while the long-term costs of his recent viral infection are likely to be minimal, show delays and cancellations can become rife with complications.
McCartney had to pay perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars for the musicians, crew, trucks and buses he hired to set up the shows originally planned for June, concert-business sources say, but he also likely had insurance in case of cancellation. "It would be a huge catastrophe if Paul couldn't tour again, ever," says Doc McGhee, manager of Kiss, Darius Rucker and others. "But a postponement is just an inconvenience. I've seen people cancel shows that are sold out and come back later and do 50 percent [of the] business — I would doubt that would happen to a Beatle."
Although McCartney, 71, had to postpone all of his June shows in the U.S. to new dates in October, he said in a statement this week that he's "feeling great," and all accounts suggest the virus he contracted in Asia last month is a minor health issue. "I'm sorry, but it's going to be a few more weeks before we get rocking in America again," McCartney continued, adding that he was "taking my docs' advice to take it easy for just a few more days." His rescheduled U.S. tour of stadiums and arenas will begin July 5th in Albany, New York, and conclude October 28th in Louisville, Kentucky. (McCartney's reps wouldn't comment further, and his promoters didn't respond to interview requests.)
Performers and concert promoters often negotiate over insuring shows in advance, depending on the tour — McCartney, who has been reliable for decades, may spend less on insurance than, say, Guns N' Roses, which has a history of cancelling shows. Postponements generally take less of a financial hit than outright cancellations. McCartney's managers will likely have to pay for crew salaries and trucking contracts for the lost June dates, then renegotiate contracts for the October shows; concert promoters will have to spend thousands of dollars advertising the new dates and dealing with fan refunds. "There will be an expense," McGhee says, "but it's more of a nuisance."
As for McCartney's health, McGhee and others in the concert business used the word "concerned." "Paul puts on a very strenuous show — he's up there two and a half hours singing his heart out and playing his ass off," says Bert Holman, manager of the Allman Brothers Band, which postponed four shows from March to October due to 66-year-old singer Gregg Allman's bronchitis. "You do that every day, it starts to get really grueling."
Over the past decade, artists in their 60s and 70s have generated hundreds of millions of dollars in concert revenue — Pollstar's Top 10 touring acts in each of the last two years have included the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Roger Waters and the Eagles. "These aging rock & rollers are more susceptible to health issues," adds Tim Jorstad, manager of the Grateful Dead and business manager for Journey and Carlos Santana. "When they're on the road, these guys are very, very focused on staying healthy, and isolating themselves from anybody who is sick."
Another preservation tactic is simply cutting down on the frequency and duration of tours. The Stones, for example, have drastically cut back on the length of their tours in recent years, while the Allmans will play their final shows in October. "It's definitely kicking in — look at Billy Joel, who plays [roughly] once a month or something, and I don't think Aerosmith is doing back-to-back shows at this point," Holman says. "And who's replacing them?"
"When they have an illness, it lasts longer," says Jorstad. " But the one thing they never want to do is quit performing."