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Pay to Play rears it's ugly head

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by SuperDuck, Jun 1, 2004.

  1. SuperDuck


    Sep 26, 2000
    My drummer called me today, saying that we have a chance to play at the Rave in Milwaukee. (We're based in Chicago.) Cool, I say. Apparantly there's this all-day noon to midnight rock fest with a bunch of big name acts (Mest is the only one I can remember) that are playing on three different stages. There'll be three stages, and I'm betting dollars to donuts we'll be on the smallest, as they'll probably use the Eagle's Ballroom, and the Rave, and then the smallest room between the doors and the Rave.

    Apparantly all gear except for guitars and cymbals will be provided for, in order to facilitate quick band changes. That's cool. We get a 20 minute set. Well... ok. Do we get paid?

    Well, that's the thing. We have to plop down like $300 to buy 25 tickets, and sell them ourselves. That's $15 per. But wait, they'll throw in another 25 tickets, and we can sell them for whatever we want. Whatever we sell over the initial $300 is what we get paid.

    That sucks. That really sucks. If it were a club in Chicago, we might be able to pull it off, but there's no way in hell we're going to get that many people to spend that kind of money to travel an hour and a half north to see us play.

    And the worst part is, I think everyone else in the band wants to do it. :rollno:

    Edit: Not only that, but if we're on the smallest stage, there will be at least one other stage playing with a bigger act that has more name recognition.
    Zodion likes this.
  2. adam on bass

    adam on bass Supporting Member

    Feb 4, 2002
    New Braunfels, Texas
    Endorsing Artist: Spector, GK, EMG and D'Addario
    Welcome to the world of 80's-Early 90's LA. That is what the bands I was in and all of'm for that matter used to have to do. It sucks in only one way, you have to sell the tickets. We used to sell them for under face value and make enough for dinner and beer after for the band. It's a shot you might not get otherwise, if you can find the 3 bills, I'd do it.
  3. Don't do it!!!

    I posted a thread a week ago about the bar that the toilets backed up. The band from Chicago ended up playing anyway. Turns out they went to the Rave to try to get on the bill, and the friendly folks at the Rave said they could... for $400. I've played there enough, there's nothing exciting except for the crappy sound.

    Nowadays you can't even go running around the whole building like you used to be able to do...

    PM me if you're in an original "rock" band and want to play Milwaukee...
  4. Dude, it's Milwaukee. The Rave/Eagles club is Clear Channel/Cellar Door. There's plenty of other places to play without saying "it's OK for pay to play here" to the people who are singlehandedlydestroying the music industry.
  5. supermonkey


    Mar 15, 2004
    Atlanta, GA
    I say: NEVER take a pay-to-Play gig under any circumstances -- no matter what they promise you -- unless you actually happen to be in 80's-90's LA.
    Which I'll go out on a limb and assume you aren't going to be.

    It's my experience that pay-to-play situations are a big fat scam designed to suck money out of "hopefuls" like us. The general pattern of events is you "sell" the tickets by simply eating the cost, because trying to sell tickets is the absolute worst. Then have no one there to see you. Such fun, so worth the effort.

    I think your initial analysis is right on. Think about it. For your $300 fee you're:
    - doing the work for all your own promo AND selling tickets (which sucks to do)
    - getting a paltry 20 minutes of stage time (that wouldn't be enough time for my band to fart appropriately, much less play some kind of "set")
    - driving up to Milwaukee (which also means Gas at $2+/gal right now for that 1.5 hr drive -- each way)

    Further, if you only get 20 minutes that probably means you'll be just 1 of 3-5 acts on a given night. So that translates into $1200 - $1500 for the club, -$300 for you. What a deal -- for them!
    They pay the soundman a few hunge, rake in whatever the take is at the bar (likely as not getting plenty of $$$ from your very own band) , and spend not a dime on entertainment! That's SUCH A SCAM! :spit: :bawl: :mad:

    And what happens if you're band 5 of 5? At 1:30 AM on a weeknight? In a different town? Even if you sell tix, will anybody come? And that's not a slight to your band, mind you. You'd have to be f-ing Radiohead or something to pull that off.

    So I say screw it. Save the money for a good demo, that will get you real gigs. Use it to produce stickers or t-shirts you can sell for a fat profit. Buy a fricking new PA to practice with. There are 1001 better uses of band money than a pay-to-play gig.

    The tribe has spoken. ;)
  6. adam on bass

    adam on bass Supporting Member

    Feb 4, 2002
    New Braunfels, Texas
    Endorsing Artist: Spector, GK, EMG and D'Addario
    People, you must chill. I'll play anywhere, anytime. I don't play for money, I play for the pure enjoyment and satisfaction I see in peoples faces. I wouldn't ask people that come to see us drive an hour either, but they do everytime we play.

    "There's plenty of other places to play without saying "it's OK for pay to play here" to the people who are singlehandedlydestroying the music industry."

    Are you playing to souly make money? IMHO that is what's wrong with the music industry right now, people that pick up an instrument to souly make money.

    Take it easy, I am not as my Username attests, I am a nice guy.
  7. I think you took my post the wrong way!!!

    This is Milwaukee, it's not a big town. The Rave/Eagles Club is trying to work Pay to Play in here. It's not an institution, when we play a club, we don't have to give the bar any money to play. Generally, the money for the PA/ sound comes out of the door. This has nothing to do with the band making money and everything to do with forking out money to play.
  8. adam on bass

    adam on bass Supporting Member

    Feb 4, 2002
    New Braunfels, Texas
    Endorsing Artist: Spector, GK, EMG and D'Addario
  9. I don't think you quite understand how this works... OK, so you're not in it to make money... are you willing to pay money to see the enjoyment on those peoples faces?

    My first 2 club shows were this type of deal, we came out minus about $150 and the promoter came out plus about $8000. 50 bands in three days, half hour sets. Awesome scam on his part, 50 inexperienced bands get screwed.

    I don't think anybody enters the music industry to make money, as there isn't that much to be made... but for those people who need to pay the bills and music is their career, it kinda becomes important.
  10. :D
  11. adam on bass

    adam on bass Supporting Member

    Feb 4, 2002
    New Braunfels, Texas
    Endorsing Artist: Spector, GK, EMG and D'Addario
    I have been in a band situation since I was 14 (LA in the late 80's when this was really popular and where it all started), toured the country when I was 16, toured the world when I was 19. I am now 33 and I have been around the block and I know how this thing works.

    All I am saying is, if you want to play you'll find a way. Look at the rapper Master P, he started selling his CD's out of his trunk at his shows, now he's a freakin' multi-millionare.

    My experience lately is a lot of bands don't want to put in the leg work self promoting. They expect people to just show up at the shows. And when they don't, they get all pissed off. It's the old adages: "Spend money to make money", "you get what you put into it".

    Smile people, it's all good fun. :hyper:
  12. Planet Boulder

    Planet Boulder Hey, this is a private residence...man

    Nov 10, 2001
    6,482 feet above sea level
    I once had impure thoughts. Oh, and I pluck my ear hair.
    Why should "putting in legwork" and self-promoting equate to having to pay some club owner to play somewhere? If anything, that's the relatively "easy" way out because you are simply renting space on a stage without having to do much work if you are willing to eat the 300 bucks.

    Firkin: I respect your experience and I appreciate the fact that you do know what you're talking about, but I don't think it's fair to even loosely imply that those who don't want to pay to play are not doing the legwork necessary to get gigs.

    Speaking for myself (and there are MANY on this board who do the same, week after week), I put in a hell of a lot of legwork by creating posters, contacting media outlets, contacting club owners and promoters, working with other bands, etc., etc.

    Paying for a spot on a stage is weak. I'm not going to sugar-coat it, because there is no better way to put it. Don't perpetuate this dog S___ practice by giving these guys money for tickets up front. This is nothing more than taking advantage of hard-working, new bands who, in some cases, just don't know better.
  13. adam on bass

    adam on bass Supporting Member

    Feb 4, 2002
    New Braunfels, Texas
    Endorsing Artist: Spector, GK, EMG and D'Addario
    That's what I was trying to say. It just came out the wrong way. Oh well.
  14. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    If a venue wants bands to come and play in order to attract people, they should be willing to pay for that service. Why not ask them for a copy of their budget? I'm sure you'll find that some people are hoping to rake a bit of money off the deal.

    My band had a great time last Sunday playing at a pub in Central London. It would have been shut but they opened up and provided us with space and money for the PA. We got about 150 people to show up, charging £3 on the door, and everyone benefitted:

    - the venue had a busy evening (and I'm sure it impressed a lot of the punters as a place they'd go back to)
    - the audience got a full evening of entertainment (three sets from us, a couple of sets from a singer / songwriter guy and DJs keeping the music going) for a bargain price
    - the band had a fun gig and picked up enough to cover our next three or four months of rehearsals

    If you're willing to risk $300, you could probably put on a show nearer home, give people value for money, support live music and have a strong liklihood of making a profit. Might be better than trekking to Milwaukee to play a couple of songs.

  15. SuperDuck


    Sep 26, 2000
    That's basically the conclusion that we came to last night. The more we discussed it, the more it seemed like a bad idea. While we're not hurting for gigs, although we're not booked solid. We usually have a hard time turning down a gig, even if it means playing in the middle of nowhere to basically nobody. We love playing shows- it's the whole reason we do this schtick. But we decided in the end that this particular scenario was not worth our time/money.

    Thanks to everyone for the replies, including firkinahsoul. It's always good to have someone pointing out the opposite of what everyone else is telling you. :) We're not afraid of legwork (God knows we do enough of it as it is), but we saw this crossing the line of roll-up-your-sleeves-hard-work to being-taken-advantage-of. Considering we would have had about one week to sell the tickets, it just wouldn't have flown.
  16. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    While this is true, IME there's a difference between this and pay-to-play.

    All that time that has to be spent selling tickets could be spent promoting your band in other, likely more productive ways (going out and talking to people, networking, etc)

    Pay to play can be worth it if you're getting the chance to open up for someone big, as you'd be getting exposure you probably wouldn't otherwise.

    Still, for a 20 minute set, and there being multiple stages, it really doesn't seem like it's worth it.

    Sure, bands can't expect to be making much money right at the start, but as mentioned, pay-to-play is tantamount to the exploitation of musicians. Sometimes it can be mutually beneficial in terms of the exposure you get, but it basically comes down to the venue making $$$ off of your hard work. Why should bands not be entitled to their share (whether it be in exposure, networking, or money)?
  17. Planet Boulder

    Planet Boulder Hey, this is a private residence...man

    Nov 10, 2001
    6,482 feet above sea level
    I once had impure thoughts. Oh, and I pluck my ear hair.
    Also, there is no guarantee that antying up 300 bones will result in a larger crowd. In the end, you still have to sell those tickets and that isn't an easy thing to do.

    Paying 300 bucks to play does not necessarily equate to "effective promotion". I've found that, by doing the necessary legwork and hanging professional-looking posters, getting your gig sufficiently announced through media outlets and getting the word out, you are likely to get the crowd you need, at least in time.

    Obviously, it takes time to build a following or to even get your name recognized. A $300.00 quick fix is no more likely to do that than the methods I mentioned above.

    But, like others have stated on this thread, if you have the money and are willing to part with it, that is certainly your choice.
  18. Woodchuck


    Apr 21, 2000
    Atlanta (Grant Park!)
    Gallien Krueger for the last 12 years!
    North Atlanta in the early '90's! That scam made it's way down here too. NEVER PAY TO PLAY! That's what Ozzfest is doing. When I first started out, my band got a gig at a "hot" club in Marietta, then the "catch" was revealed. We had to sell tix and give the money to the owner, and he was ssssoooo nice, he even offered "extra" tix blah, blah, blah. :scowl: I took the liberty of telling the owner to explore himself in a sexual manner. The idiots in the band threatened to kick me out, because, I'd "ruined any chance of the band's success". :rolleyes: Keep in mind, I was the only one that had $450 at the time. Since that was the case, the Golden Rule kicked in. I had the gold, I made the rule! :bassist: They ended up replacing me, and the guy they got, vetoed the idea as well. Honestly, I can't believe that's still going on.
  19. Josh Ryan

    Josh Ryan - that dog won't hunt, Monsignor. Supporting Member

    Mar 24, 2001
    With 300$ my bands would have set up a show at a venue and at a time that people would go to. Much better IMO than bending over.
  20. vegaas


    Nov 6, 2001
    I agree, dont do it!
    My band was also generously offered a spot at the Rave. They wanted us to play when Jackyl comes to town. The cost? $400! To play really early on for Jackyl? Are you fricken kidding me!
    No thanks. If it was band with a better following, then we may do it. But, no sir, no thanks, not this time.