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Pay to play -vs- Play for pay

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by LumpyGravy, Mar 10, 2004.

  1. LumpyGravy

    LumpyGravy Guest

    May 8, 2002
    I am trying to get some input from musicians about the opinions of the "PAY TO PLAY" syndrome. I, personally am against it. I live in Southern California. It is almost customary for LA and Hollywood to offer this malevolent(not benevolent) practice. Competition is tough out here. One of my complaints about this topic is that the only people getting rich are the clubs. Personally, I am about 3 hrs from the Hot clubs. My band does play close to and sometimes in LA and Hollyweird. Ticket sales are hard for me. Unless I bribe my friends with beer and a busride, they will not attend a show that far away. Understood! That is my situation. I also attribute these clubs as theives to the musician. Sell 30-50 tickets and profit over that. Not to mention the cut they take on "selling" your merchandise! Just give me some advice or expereiences. Thank You!
  2. JSCHRO7376

    JSCHRO7376 Commercial User

    Feb 23, 2004
    Los Angeles County, CA
    Owner, Schroeder Cabinets
    Lumpy, I also live in the SGV, closer to Pomona, and we're playing all over LA County and Orange County. I avoid Hollywood like the plague. There are alright paid situations out there, as long as you have a good promo package.

  3. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    I live near Boston but almost never play in town because the gigs don't pay too well. Mostly $150-250 gigs while traveling out 25-30 miles into the suburbs, $400-600 gigs are easily had. Money talks, BS walks.
  4. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    And they'll get harder. After a short while, your friends/relatives will avoid you like the plague, saying, "OH NO!!! Here he/she comes trying to push tickets on us again.........let's get moving."

    Moreover, since these clubs, IME, buy ads in the local mags, the mags have no interest in covering your band in an article. They don't care who is playing at the club.........they just care about the ad subscription.
  5. yah, pay to play is a losing proposition no matter how you slice it. we had some tough breaks with a certain venue in new jersey and it took a while to deal with the consequences.

    i don't know that there's an easy solution. of course you want to be in the thick of things, but it might be good to play smaller venues closer to you, make a name for yourselves, then shoot for the bigger LA venues when you have a bigger following. then it's not a big deal to get people to make the effort to get down there.

    in new york city, you don't really get pay to play, but they'll stick you in the worse time slot imaginable until you start to really get a draw.

    viscious cycle, for sure.
  6. aaron f.

    aaron f.

    Oct 21, 2000
    Wow, I feel lucky, in my city we just pay for the soundman usually 60$ for the night and keep the door. Though there are only about 3 or 4 decent clubs to play rock/hardrock/metal.
  7. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    Not to get off track here or be "preachy", but, as much as I abhor pay to play, I hope you guys aren't overlooking the fact that gigs are a great opportunity to sell your swag - t-shirts, stickers, CD's, you-name-it.

    Country/western bands have been onto this for the last few years..........their swag items practically bring in as much revenue as their ticket sales!!!
  8. LumpyGravy

    LumpyGravy Guest

    May 8, 2002
    Thanks a lot for the input. I completely understand you great comments. I feel it is better to make a name for yourself in a smaller less dense forest. I hate selling tickets to friends and family also. I agree with the fact that these clubs do not care who the band is. They just see the $$$. I am doing this next gig mainly because it is a legendary place. Thanks again!
  9. funkcicle


    Jan 9, 2004
    Asheville, NC
    Never. Ever. EVER.

    Starting with a new band I might play in a situation where it was "tips only" for a few shows.

    If a venue asks for money, make sure your union local knows about it. Simply being silent isn't enough. Protect yourself, protect each other. Don't let venues get away with this kind of bull****.
  10. Josh Ryan

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

    Mar 24, 2001
    Yep. Exactly right.
  11. LumpyGravy

    LumpyGravy Guest

    May 8, 2002
    Is that union local for union members? How about non union?
    Do you mind sharing your thoughts on the MU? I have debated joining. I want to see the pros and cons. Thank You for the reply!
  12. RicPlaya


    Apr 22, 2003
    The Mitten
    I've played for almost nothing but never payed to play. I consider beer as payment. I think at least in my area (Detroit) that there is enough going on that by double gigging, open jams etc you can get the ball rolling for yourself w/o paying to play.
  13. funkcicle


    Jan 9, 2004
    Asheville, NC
    For me there aren't really any cons, though others might disagree. Depending on your area, the annual membership can be from $90 - $300, average being around $125, I think. If you work a lot, do a lot of independant contracting, studio work, etc, being a union member is a no brainer. Being a member of the union opens you up to a lot of gigs, too... good for you frelancers. You're given a lot of protection you wouldn't otherwise have if you went it on your own. A manager stiffs you on your contract.. the union has lawyers willing to fight for you. The airline tries to charge you fees they said they wouldn't, your union rep should be able to take care of that(as they have for me twice!). Homeowner's insurance doesn't want to give you more than $250 for your '59 P-bass that perished in a fire because they see a "P-bass" on eBay for $99.. the union is there for you.

    You are expected to show the utmost integrity as a musician... take yourself seriously... this might mean turning down some gigs that aren't up to snuff. I can understand how this might be a problem for some people, but keep in mind- that's what makes the union strong- MEMBER INTEGRITY(someone ought to start a new thread, I could rant on this something awful!).

    There are a lot of "underground" music networks that are union-like, and some of those might work better for some people. The AFM is probably the largest, the most diverse, and most well respected. And the monthly magazine's pretty good... a nice median between the monthly academic music(Downbeat, Jazziz) rags and the monthly newstand music rags(Guitar Player, etc)... it's about "musicians" rather than gear, rock stars, gear, rock stars, gear, rockstars or... gear and rock stars. :p

    (that said, I haven't renewed my union membership since moving to NY! :( )
  14. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    Mm mmm. Nope. Negative. No way. Uh uh. No sir. Negatory on that, good buddy. Ix-nay. Nope. It ain't happenin'. Fuhgeddabowdit. That's all.
  15. funkcicle


    Jan 9, 2004
    Asheville, NC
    I can't tell if you were adamantly agreeing with me or adamantly disagreeing.... ?
  16. Pete


    Jan 3, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    With all this being said, all you folks reading this need to be aware that every time you play for free or pay to play, you bring the value of music (as a service) down considerably. We provide a service and that service should be compensated for.

    A small Rant: About 8 months ago I bought a ford E350, cost me 8 grand. I haul a PS system large euf to play anywhere I need it too. I see all these guys in E150s and E250s driving to and from job sites, like painters and carpet cleaners, hell even animal control. Do you know what it costs to have anyo of these guys over to your house? Minimum 100 bucks. Thats not alway for 4 hours either.

    So when I show up in my e350 van loaded heavier and with as expensive gear, I wanna know that where I park is gonna net me a 10 bucks. I'm worth it and so should you. Make it happen and don't make excuses. This is my job and for me to make house calls I'm not gonna **** around with pay-to-play or any of that garbage no matter what the product is. My clients are well taken care of and I do what I can to make the music I make the best every time so I can show up in my white van again.

  17. Pete


    Jan 3, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    You know what... you're right. Bad bands cost us our jobs. I'll say it,"If your band sux, then DON'T PLAY LIVE". I'm serious. I don't want to hear you and people do't want to pretent to like to, especially your friends. How about you get into those one on one conversations w/ one of them and ask them how they feel about you dragging them to every f-ing show you put on at any club that takes you.

    The reason we compete with DJ's? Two things: understand your market (i'll get to the other). If you play original music, your audience is smaller than what's out there already. Supply greatly exceeds demand, hence the pay to play scenario. You don't compete w/ dj's, the club does.
    If you play original music then you do compete (I do). Do you know how much DJ's make a night. LEARN, it's like McD's not knowing what Burger King Sells. Why do DJ's have a market??
    Because they provide consistency, the same thing that makes all IHOPs the same. If eery band sounded just like the record in every room in every venue then we'd have a lockdown on all gigs that need us. We don't, You guys **** it up (I'm perfect here... he he). Seriously, when your guitar player is late, your drummer complains, the vocalist forgets words, the guitar solos over everything... this is why we are losing out on our work. Are DJ's cheaper than us? NO! Most DJ's who work consistenly charge as much or more than us.

    Get off your asses and build a product and lets play these DJ asses into the ground!!!

  18. LumpyGravy

    LumpyGravy Guest

    May 8, 2002
    Some good points. That dj talk is true. I have done a couple just because I could make about as much as a whole band, and I am the only one - no coworkers. Our band does both originals and covers. We seem to do good with the crowd. However, paying weddings is not in our forte, but those are mint gigs to get. Good pay, food, and great hours.
    That is something to mention to my bandmates. We have quite a bit of casinoes out here. That is another route. I can wear the suit and play the crap they play. It can in time fund our next cd. Thanks for all of your input. I am learning a lot, and it opens a lot of doors.
    Peace! :bassist:
  19. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    Never. Ever.

    It's incomprehsible to me that there are people (and bands) out there that are so desperate to play "live" that they'll put up with crap like that.

    The other thing I'll never do is play a 45 minute "gig". There's no way on God's Green Earth I'm gonna shlep my gear across town to play for 45 minutes.

    Anyone who does something like that, it says a whole lot more about them than it does about the venue.

    Harsh but true. :)
  20. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    I have to agree with Pete; lousy bands charging cheap prices do hurt the good bands. Many crap bands will undercut the good bands and take all of the dates. I've seen it happen many times before. What's the bar owner care? He just wants some noise to get the people to drink. There are a few band laureates in my area who can book on name alone, but they are very few and far between. Luckily, there's actually some decent money to be had in my scene. (kind of strange considering it's such a rural area around here)

    I once played with some musicians who use to live in LA. They told me all about the scene. The whole ticket system sounds like garbage. Clubs are just taking advantage of hungry bands. If someone wants to make a living playing music, LA would be one of the last places I would recommend someone to go.

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