Upcoming tours threatened to be cancelled due to international shortages of instruments, gear and other music tech

The shortages spell trouble for the current touring industry.

Gear Shortages in 2022

Image: Charles Gullung/ Getty

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Artists including Jack White have admitted that the recent lack of music gear could bring an indefinite end to the traditional way of touring. Lighting fixtures, in-ear monitors and vacuum tubes are just a few of the items that have become increasingly expensive and harder to locate for even some of the biggest names in the industry.

The music industry is amongst one of those most hard-hit by the influx of global crises. Following both the COVID-19 pandemic and the more-recent boycott of Russian exports, these past two years have proved critical for musicians looking to hit the road in 2022.

Complications to international supply chains across the globe have led to prices of music equipment skyrocketing and left many of the biggest names in the industry struggling to make their planned tours become a reality.

“It’s crazy right now,” says Rob Steiger, tour manager for the German rock band Milky Chance when talking to Billboard, “You don’t get the simplest things like drum skins or case wheels, not to talk about the big stuff like PAs, trucks and consoles.”

Lighting fixtures, wireless microphones, in-ear monitors and Vacuum tubes for guitar amps are currently among the most affected products. This comes as strict lockdowns and the global boycott of Russian companies have made products both harder to locate and more expensive than ever before.

While only being highlighted this year, as artists are now able to hit the stage after a two-year hiatus – Lalo Medina, tour manager for Jack White, first highlighted this issue back in 2021, admitting the crew were already struggling to provide sufficient equipment and staff for the upcoming tour.

Discussing how the members were reportedly scrambling to find adequate drivers, trucks and buses, Medina also reflected on how he was forced to improvise and adapt to fit the inflated price of vital touring equipment.

“If the lighting or production designer wants a certain fixture, but it costs a lot more because of scarcity, I’m going to ask to make an adjustment,” he says, later assuring fans that the changes will be unnoticeable. “The difference won’t be so great where anyone notices it — it’s just the designer [now] has to compromise his creative vision a bit to meet [the] budget.”

A lack of sufficient staff has also become apparent across countless companies, further threatening to force musicians to bring their tours to a halt. Unable to hit deadlines and having to extend the shipping times to up to twelve weeks, items such as cymbals and steel used to construct the stage have become increasingly hard to access.

Although some bands including Alt-J have reported that they have yet to run into any issues, other acts such as Coldplay have said that the shortages are already forcing them to revaluate their approach to touring; implying that compromises will have to be made if bands are to continue with their upcoming shows.

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