11.02.12

Cat Power Announces Possible Tour Cancellation, Bankruptcy

The indie music star’s latest album has been selling well, but now she’s tweeting about possibly canceling her tour. Could health and money woes threaten her career?

On Thursday afternoon the singer took to Twitter to stem the rising tide of headlines that her European tour might be canceled with the missive, “EUROPEAN TOUR IS ON. WITHOUT STAGE PRESENTATION. HARD MONEY WASTED.”

A representative from her label, Matador Records, confirmed that nothing has been canceled. Neither Matador nor Power, known off-stage as Chan Marshall, had any additional comments. She’s been touring to support her latest album, Sun, which was released in September. Since then, she’s performed 10 dates across the U.S. and Canada, including a sold-out show in D.C.. The overseas portion of the tour is slated to begin this month in the Netherlands and will culminate in mid-December in Belgium.

Speculation about an aborted tour schedule started with Marshall. At close to 9 on the night before Halloween, she broadcast an ambiguous warning to her 40,000 followers on Twitter and Instagram. Accompanying a picture of what looked like an embellished Bible was the social-media caption, “I MAY HAVE TO CANCEL MY EUROPEAN TOUR DUE TO BANKRUPTCY & MY HEALTH STRUGGLE WITH ANGIOEDEMA.”

It wouldn’t have been the first time Marshall canceled a tour. In 2006, she aborted a tour to support the album The Greatest due to reported alcohol and emotional problems. This year, she canceled performances in Tel Aviv and at the Coachella Festival. Before her fall tour commenced, Marshall checked into Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami in for unspecified reasons. Angioedema is a serious medical condition that causes skin to swell, especially near the eyes, mouth, and throat.

When I interviewed Marshall for Newsweek in September, we discussed the role her personal finances played in the creation of her latest album. She cashed in some of her savings to finance the gear and the space to record the album and to make her first music video, for the single “Cherokee.”  “I hope that I live long enough and can make a living doing what I’m doing to get back to where I was,” said Marshall.

“I hope that I live long enough and can make a living doing what I’m doing to get back to where I was,” said Marshall.

Sun debuted at No. 10 on the Billboard 200—a record for the artist—with sales of 23,000. According to Nielsen Soundscan, total sales are now at 54,000 units. In comparison, Power’s 2008 album Jukebox debuted at No. 12 on sales of 29,000 units in its debut week and has sold a total of 137,000 copies to date.

A good-selling album for an established artist like Marshall is gravy—musicians make the bulk of their net income from touring and merchandise sales.  Music industry experts say a performer nets around a quarter of tour revenue after production costs are accounted for, but the price of production and travel is higher for shows abroad, making the profit margin for artists smaller.  If she’s struggling financially like many indie acts today, cutting costs from her shows outside of the U.S. may be a logical move.

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