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  #1  
Old 11-25-2012, 04:55 PM
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blastbeatkeeper blastbeatkeeper is offline
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Default Pay to Play gigs? Fair? Or not?

Hello, everyone. This is a thread that was started on a Facebook group Im a part of: Whether or not "pay to play" gigs are fair to local underground bands. If youre unsure of what pay-to-play is:

A band recieves 50 tickets. 5 piece band x 10 tix a piece. That band sells as many tickets to their own show as possible, then by the amount sold, the lineup for the night is made. Most tickets sold-deeper in line the band plays. Say one band sold 48 out of 50. One band sells 16 out of 50. The band that sold 16, opens. The band that sold 48 plays before the headliner(or headlines themselves). I know a lot of you are of an older generation, and havent done this for years, but Im looking for opinions on this. Ill start...

I think its a good idea for younger, up and coming bands to do, just to get themselves to self promote, and to get a grip on what promoters, club owners, and more popular, veteran bands that are actually making money are doing, or can do.
I think its a crappy idea for bands that have a decent following, whether it be from playing these type of shows, social media, word of mouth, or just staright up hard work self promoting, handing out flyers, burning self recorded demo cds, selling self bought merch, and the like. What do you guys think?
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  #2  
Old 11-25-2012, 05:36 PM
Anthony Amodeo
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Default Re: Pay to Play gigs? Fair? Or not?

unfortunately this will always be the case in major market areas when a newer band wants to play a major tour stop venue sharing the bill with a national act

so whether it is fair or not ......the band gets off their lazy butts and tries to sell some tickets.....and the promoter finds out if this band can pull any heads to a gig.....

if you sell your share you most likely will not have to do it again the next time at that particular venue

it is sort of a way to earn the respect of a promoter who has never heard of a band before


now if it is a crappy little venue that is using this tactic to guarantee heads in the club then that is a slimy move and noone should go near that place

but if is a major venue who frequently houses national acts .....then it is completely fair

I have done my share of this and it always worked out for the best down the line

not sure how much this happens in middle America or in rural parts of the world

but in bigger cities this is quite common
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Old 11-25-2012, 09:10 PM
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DrumEatDrum DrumEatDrum is offline
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Default Re: Pay to Play gigs? Fair? Or not?

This has been common since the 1980's.

The issue is promoters stop taking any quality or long term health of the club into account.

Pay to play lead to the 3 biggest clubs in the San Francisco Bay area shutting down.

What happens is it ends up not being about which band is best, or which band brings in the most people. Pay to play means any crappy band with a wealthy father/uncle can cover the tickets, or maybe one band leader has a really good day job and he covers the tickets. The promoter goes who hoo, this band covered the costs, they get to play, but then no one shows up to see them, the band is terrible, and the few people in the audience to see the other bands walk out the door. The bar does terrible, and people don't want to hang out or come back to the venue for future shows.

So many pay-to-play promoters are just trolling for any band who can cover the cost of tickets, and just don't care about anything else. The last band I was in I was also the manager. I got so many emails asking if we wanted to play shows where we would have to sell tickets, and they were all metal shows, and we were NOT a metal band at all. The promoters clearly didn't listen to the music, or read the bio, they just saw another band they thought they could take advantage of.
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Old 11-25-2012, 09:36 PM
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eclipseownzu eclipseownzu is offline
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Default Re: Pay to Play gigs? Fair? Or not?

I was in a band in my mid-20's that had a pretty good following back in Sacramento. We did the sell tickets prior to the gig thing once or twice, and generally sold a majority of the tickets. We usually were opening for other "bigger" local bands, and on a couple of occasions we would bring in half of the club to see us. Once we played, the place would empty out and the headliner would play to a half empty club.

Very few bands can fill a club on their own. The club needs to be in a good location, have a great crowd regardless of the band, and be a fun place to drink/hangout. Then a band can succeed and not play to the backs of a few people sitting at the bar.
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  #5  
Old 11-25-2012, 09:49 PM
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mikeyhanson mikeyhanson is offline
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Default Re: Pay to Play gigs? Fair? Or not?

Another thing to think about, I believe, is the potential for competition between bands when none should really exist. It's not a matter of competing for who is better, which a pay-to-play can make happen through its very nature.
And then it really doesn't come down to the main thing: your music and getting people to hear it. It comes down to how many tickets you sold, how confident you were in selling them, how ruthless you were to your friends by making them purchase tickets from you [suffering through every type of "get me on the list" argument they have], the ultimate disappointment when some crappy band outsells you and gets the prime spot....

So I'd guess you'd have to put me on the side of Not Fair.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DrumEatDrum
Pay to play lead to the 3 biggest clubs in the San Francisco Bay area shutting down.
I remember The Omni in Oakland had a pay-to-play structure, and it was terrible. Bands would work their butts off, and people wouldn't be interested in it because of it's very nature: it was a mish-mash group of bands that didn't go well together, so the "event" of the thing was lost. Bands suffered for a long time during the 80's when pay-to-play was hot. Some got good at it. Some had no choice. It was their only option. Lots of unhealthy competition happened between bands that weren't prepared to deal with it.
I hated that period.

Last edited by mikeyhanson; 11-25-2012 at 10:11 PM. Reason: attributing quote
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  #6  
Old 11-25-2012, 10:10 PM
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mikeyhanson mikeyhanson is offline
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Default Re: Pay to Play gigs? Fair? Or not?

Quote:
Originally Posted by blastbeatkeeper View Post
I think its a good idea for younger, up and coming bands to do, just to get themselves to self promote, and to get a grip on what promoters, club owners, and more popular, veteran bands that are actually making money are doing, or can do.
I think its a crappy idea for bands that have a decent following, whether it be from playing these type of shows, social media, word of mouth, or just staright up hard work self promoting, handing out flyers, burning self recorded demo cds, selling self bought merch, and the like. What do you guys think?
A young, up-and-coming band needs to see how things work, I agree. But I think they also can do it without suffering so much in the process and by doing it in ways that might be more productive. I agree that it's a crappy idea for bands that have a decent following. They should be able to book their own shows. That would leave the up-and-comers to pay-to-play. Unfortunately, I don't think they wouldn't have a good time, either.

If the band with the decent following had the up-and-coming band open for them, they could do it in a smaller place, with a more familiar crowd, and not end the night frustrated and verklempt.
If your band knows another band that you either occasionally play gigs with or see around the practice rooms, etc., getting together with them and sharing gigs/fans/resources can help immensely. Two inspired bands working together on one show can learn together, share each other's fans and promote each other...win/win.

Sorry....should have been one post.

Last edited by mikeyhanson; 11-25-2012 at 10:10 PM. Reason: Apologizing
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  #7  
Old 11-25-2012, 10:59 PM
Otto Otto is offline
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Default Re: Pay to Play gigs? Fair? Or not?

Wiser to use your time/money to hire a real PR Firm.

Spend your time on the music...not making money for a local venue as a salesman.
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  #8  
Old 11-26-2012, 12:01 AM
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caddywumpus caddywumpus is offline
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Default Re: Pay to Play gigs? Fair? Or not?

"Pay to play" is usually a raw deal for the musicians. My band played some of these gigs back in the late 90s, but the amount of tickets sold didn't determine the headliner--we had to pay for 50 tickets, and try to sell them oursleves to make our money back. Little did we know that right around the corner were 2 venues that would let you play for free--what a better deal THAT would have been!

Ah, the naivety of just starting out. Anyways, if you want to play out, steer clear of any venues that make YOU sell tickets for THEM. It's just dumb.
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  #9  
Old 11-26-2012, 01:01 AM
Anthony Amodeo
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Default Re: Pay to Play gigs? Fair? Or not?

Quote:
Originally Posted by caddywumpus View Post
"Pay to play" is usually a raw deal for the musicians. My band played some of these gigs back in the late 90s, but the amount of tickets sold didn't determine the headliner--we had to pay for 50 tickets, and try to sell them oursleves to make our money back. Little did we know that right around the corner were 2 venues that would let you play for free--what a better deal THAT would have been!

Ah, the naivety of just starting out. Anyways, if you want to play out, steer clear of any venues that make YOU sell tickets for THEM. It's just dumb.
here in NYC if you are not a band whos reputation precedes you and you want to get on the bill of a national act you will be selling tickets

had to do it many times in the 90s and usually got paid pretty well
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  #10  
Old 11-26-2012, 01:37 AM
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bermuda bermuda is offline
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Default Re: Pay to Play gigs? Fair? Or not?

Quote:
Originally Posted by caddywumpus View Post
Ah, the naivety of just starting out. Anyways, if you want to play out, steer clear of any venues that make YOU sell tickets for THEM. It's just dumb.
I can understand a venue not wanting to go out of pocket on a band, but unless band exceeds the alloted tickets, they make none of the money back that they gave to club. In that respect, yes, the bands are selling tickets for the club, not themselves.

In 35 years playing L.A. clubs as a member of several original bands, I've somehow managed to avoid the pay-to-play scene. With sort of one exception.

One of my bands has played the Canyon Club opening both for Leon Russell, and Robben Ford (I was absent for both gigs) and they were pre-sale ticket things. I think the band was able to sell its 50 tickets each time, although I don't know how much if any was given back. I'm guessing nothing. The band - with me - may be opening for another cool artrist in January, and we'll see if the fact that we brought people in the first two times means we can skip the whole pre-sale deal this time around. I'll bet not though.

Fortunately, I'm not personally responsible for selling tickets, I'm a permanent hired-gun with this and most bands I'm in, and not required to help promote them (especially when I don't have a hand in what gigs are accepted.)

But yeah, it does kinda stink when the hoops bands jump through don't eventually pay off, and they usually don't.

Bermuda

Last edited by bermuda; 11-26-2012 at 01:50 AM.
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  #11  
Old 11-26-2012, 03:12 AM
Sesshoumaru Sesshoumaru is offline
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Default Re: Pay to Play gigs? Fair? Or not?

Unfair to the nth degree.

While the internet isn't a cure all for the state of artistry and musicianship, it has cut down on the desperation for exposure. Its one thing for bands to push their own material taking the time to network, shake hands and kiss babies. But shelling out cash to a promoter so my band can do the promotion?

I've quit companies who've had nonsensical "incentive" schemes that boil down to me paying them to work for them.

No, just no.

You'd be much better off making friends with some 20yr old marketing/business major and hiring them to manage/book shows for you.

**And a woman, it has to be a woman.
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Old 11-26-2012, 05:48 AM
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bermuda bermuda is offline
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Default Re: Pay to Play gigs? Fair? Or not?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sesshoumaru View Post
You'd be much better off making friends with some 20yr old marketing/business major and hiring them to manage/book shows for you.
That's certainly a help. The net is inundated with bands hoping that club bookers will visit or otherwise stumble on their sites, and offer them gigs. Networking and an assertive, proactive, and personal touch works wonders.

But a point person for the band is still going to encounter these pay-to-play situations. At least if the band trusts that person to say no for them, they won't end up doing disappointing gigs for no money.

One of my bands keeps threatening to get a person to work the bookers and handle social media. I really think it would help.

Bermuda
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Old 11-26-2012, 08:33 AM
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Default Re: Pay to Play gigs? Fair? Or not?

Well, I think you are talking about paying for the bands. I think it is fair if the band is well reputed band. If not in most of the gig we can't see there are lots of new comers. I guess we don't have to pay for them. Since by giving them a chance to play in the gig is something important to them. Because gig is the place they could improve their talents and as well as the way of gaining some fans.
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Old 11-26-2012, 04:20 PM
Sesshoumaru Sesshoumaru is offline
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Default Re: Pay to Play gigs? Fair? Or not?

Quote:
Originally Posted by bermuda View Post
That's certainly a help. The net is inundated with bands hoping that club bookers will visit or otherwise stumble on their sites, and offer them gigs. Networking and an assertive, proactive, and personal touch works wonders.

But a point person for the band is still going to encounter these pay-to-play situations. At least if the band trusts that person to say no for them, they won't end up doing disappointing gigs for no money.

One of my bands keeps threatening to get a person to work the bookers and handle social media. I really think it would help.

Bermuda
I Agree. I think saying "No" is the toughest part not only for starting bands, but for many businesses as well. Knowing how and when its better to walk away from a deal is a huge lesson that is often ignored until people (or bands) find themselves in situations they cannot easily get out of.

The whole idea of pay to play puts the power in the promoter's hands. I'd suggest that bands look at their own drawing/attracting power and developing that first.

Promoters push too far beyond their power and ability and end up with nothing in the end and that's perfectly fine by me. Most promoters I've come across have no idea how to, and no intention of promoting anything or anybody. They do want young and hungry bands to work for them, generate money for them, while also trying to micromanage "National" acts.

This puts me in the position turning into Mr Ego Crusher. I've never been one to accept things as "just the way it is" especially when it is the artist or craftsmen who is the one at the center of generating revenue, interest, notoriety etc.

sorry for the incoherent rant. I just really hate the idea of new and seasoned artist being treated as pushovers under the veil of paying dues. Especially at a time when the pieces of the old machine are looking for ways to justify their existence by finding ways of getting a piece of the bands actions (if there is any) or by making money off people's dreams and desperation.
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Old 11-26-2012, 11:33 PM
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Default Re: Pay to Play gigs? Fair? Or not?

I've always said no. I can't sell tickets - never been comfortable with selling. I said no to Amway too :)
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Old 11-26-2012, 11:37 PM
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Default Re: Pay to Play gigs? Fair? Or not?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sesshoumaru View Post
Unfair to the nth degree.

While the internet isn't a cure all for the state of artistry and musicianship, it has cut down on the desperation for exposure. Its one thing for bands to push their own material taking the time to network, shake hands and kiss babies. But shelling out cash to a promoter so my band can do the promotion?

I've quit companies who've had nonsensical "incentive" schemes that boil down to me paying them to work for them.

No, just no.

You'd be much better off making friends with some 20yr old marketing/business major and hiring them to manage/book shows for you.

**And a woman, it has to be a woman.
Duly noted! maybe i should think about majoring in business instead of starting to study finances heh
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