Should the Recent String of Tour Cancellations Be a Reflection on Us or Them?

In the last month alone, half a dozen young acts have cancelled gigs. They’ve cited a decline in their mental health, burnout from being overworked and exhausted, the feeling of not being ready to take on a demanding tour schedule, and, in some cases, all of the above.

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On Sept. 16, British indie pop star Arlo Parks cancelled eight US tour dates this month in order to look after her health, telling fans her mental state had “deteriorated to a debilitating place” and left her “burnt out.” “I am broken and I really need to step out, go home and take care of myself,” the singer shared.

A week before Parks, British indie duo Wet Leg didn’t perform two of their US shows as they also cited mental health concerns. “Our mental and physical health are such easy things to overlook when everything is so exciting and so busy, you barely have a moment to check in with yourself,” the two apologized.

The day before the duo, fellow-Brit singer Sam Fender cancelled the remainder of his 2022 US tour in order to look after his own mental well-being. “I’ve neglected myself for over a year now and haven’t dealt with things that have deeply affected me,” the singer said. “The state of my wellbeing is starting to affect everything I do, including my performances.”

That same week, one part of the English twosome, Disclosure, also dropped out of the duo’s forthcoming Australian tour. Howard Lawrence of the group, which is completed by his brother, stated the “need to take some time to look after myself.”

This past weekend on Sept. 18, rapper Lil’ Baby canceled his set at Vancouver’s Breakout Festival last minute, which resulted in fans rioting and destroying festival grounds. The next day (Sept. 19), the rapper released an apology on social media, in which he explained his body “completely shut down” following a stint on tour with Chris Brown this summer.

Most recently, GAYLE announced the cancellation of her North American tour, before it even kicked off on Oct. 8. She gave little reason for the change, releasing a statement on Instagram that read “I’m learning how to be an adult and how best to do this new life.”

A point could be made about these acts’ age and inexperience on the road and in the industry, however, earlier this summer a seasoned artist and world tour pro like Shawn Mendes put his 2022 tour on hold. He claimed the eagerness he felt to tour again after the pandemic overshadowed the reality that his mental and physical health could suffer.

It is no secret that a lot is expected out of musicians on tour —late nights and long hours under often not-so-great working conditions, for months at a time, as they get carted off on the bus or by plane to be in one city for an evening gig and then somewhere else entirely a few hours later. For years, that kind of life has been idolized, looked at as a dream more often than as a nightmare. The truth is it takes a toll on even veteran performers.

These young artists are beginning to recognize that and are taking a stand. This string of cancellations certainly begs the question of whether or not conditions for touring musicians need to be reassessed, but it should also be a reflection on the pressures we put on talent to perform.

Arlo Parks photo by Josh Brasted/WireImage; Shawn Mendes photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Shawn Mendes

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