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Pay to play

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by HassBacker, Apr 15, 2003.

  1. Being that our band is relatively new, getting paying gigs is tough. However, we have the opportunity shall we say, to pay to play a gig.The cost of this insurance for the club owner is $250. We'll probably split the bill with another band and it won't be a problem to actually get the dough, but I don't think we'll realize any dough for ourselves and :eek: likely won't even get drinks. I have no idea if the gig will be properly promoted, meaning you shouldn't always have to ask your friends and family to support these type of things, right? I did a search and got about 3 results. Should we do the gig or should we run screaming? TB'ers, please share your thoughts and experiences. Thanks, JD
  2. Being you didn't say if the club or place was one that generally has alot of people that go there or not. It could be a tuff call but if your band is new to the seen and it is hard to get gigs it might just be a good idea. If the place tends to attract alot of people the exposure will do you good you might get your next gig without having to pay them. Word of mouth is the best advertising when starting out. Well them are my thoughts let us know if you do the gig or not.
  3. Thanks axman. Here's some more background. This club is in a hotel downtown. It is only open for special functions, like receptions, casinos etc. I have no idea how popular the place is due to it's other bars or attractions. The guy who is putting this on is the fella who runs our rehearsal space and he intends to do this on a regular basis showcasing bands who use his space. I don't know if the hotel owner will do any promotion, I don't know how our guy will promote it or what our responsiblities are. I expect to have more info on those sorts of things soon. The gig is not until the end of next month, so I wanted to gather a little more info going in.
  4. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Having to pay to play is a pernicious practice that started in L.A. back in the eighties. It takes playing for free to the next onerous step, that of actually paying for the priviledge to play.

    That said, I think that paying to play is a choice that your band must make with eyes wide open as to whether it is the best way to attract fans and more gigs. Do a cost/benefit analysis. With that same amount of money you would pay to play, could you achieve your objectives just as fast and just as well some other way?

    I'm a little wary of the details you have given because unlike a bar that might have regular customers and a track record of the way bands are treated, this is a one-off gig that may attact no one. It looks to me as if the man is expecting his bands to handle most of the risk and I bet he gets all the gain.

    My understanding of "pay to play" gigs is that the band is expected to run the publicity and try to attract as many people to the gig as possible so that the expense of playing is defrayed by those who come to the gig. Thus besides what your band pays, you must also add in publicity and maybe other expenses.

    If you do decide to undertake this project, MAKE SURE you have a written contract spelling out what you pay, what the empresario is paying, who is responsible for what, how much you share in the gate, if you get drinks or food, who handles the publicity, and make sure there are absolutely no hidden charges that you may have to pay later, especially if few people come to the gig and this man suffers a financial loss from the showcase.

    Whatever your band decides to do, good luck and let us know how it turns out for you.
  5. Thanks Boplicity. From the limited talk we had with our guy and as you say, we are supposed to defray the initial cost of this via getting our friends, acquaintances and families to put up $5 a head. I have a certain amount of respect for our guy, in that he has treated us pretty well in our current dealings with him, but as you put it, sometimes a handshake is not enough when it comes to who gets what and who will be liable for what. I definitely need more info from him as to how he's dealing with the club owner.
    Thanks again for the insights Boplicity. JD
  6. Turock

    Turock Supporting Member

    Apr 30, 2000
    Pay to play? That is ridiculous. I'd tell that club owner and the "fella who runs our rehearsal space" to go **** themselves. They are trying to take advantage of you. Don't be their suckers. You're not only cutting your own throat, but cutting other musician's throats as well.
  7. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    I'd be interested in what the promoter intends to take as a cut. Unless you've pretty confident of getting at least 50 people there, at $5 a pop, and you know that the first $250 of takings will go directly to paying off your 'risk' I'd suggest leaving it.

    In fact, I wouldn't be happy to see anyone else get paid until the people who have taken the 'risk' (ie. the bands) have got back at least double the money they put down (ie. 100 people through the door, $500 takings, $250 payback for your advance and $250 profit).

    If the place is trying to get established as a venue, why not suggest that they only have to pay you a low fixed fee for the night - say $50 or $100 dollars, or maybe a month of rehearsal slots - so they can keep the rest of the profits. After all, their passion is surely promoting things, while yours is making music.

  8. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    If you can't find a paying gig better to offer some bar owner your services for FREE than PAY to play somewhere.

    You can always rent out a VFW hall and promote your own shows, too. I've done this in the past.
  9. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    Paying to play blows. I was in a band had to sell a certain amount of tickets to the show in order to play, but we did it because we were opening for In Flames and Moonspell.

    Don't do it unless you can see a distinct advantage to doing so. From what you say, it doesn't seem like there is.
  10. The thing about 'paying to play' is that it will typically get you into bigger venues and in front of people who wouldn't typically go to your shows. It's a great way to network and get your name out.

    With that said, I would never go into a 'pay to play' situation unless I was confident that I would get my money back plus some profit in order to defray the rest of your expenses.

    If you need to sell 50 tickets at $5 a piece in order to break even, you need to honestly ask yourselves how hard it would be to sell above and beyond that. If you feel pretty confident that you can easily sell 80-100 tickets without too much of a hassle, then it would be a worthwhile endeavor. If you can't say for sure that you can do that, it isn't worth it. The last thing your going to want to do is play a gig in front of 10 people and loose a bunch of money on top of that.
  11. Thanks for all the replies. The more I read, the less I want to do this. Although it won't really cause me any hardship immediately to do it, there may be repercussions down the line. I don't want to set any kind of precedent for our band or anyone else by doing this show. I have qualified it by saying I might do it once to help our guy get his promotion career off the ground. The rest of the guys in the band have not weighed in with an opinion yet and we've not had a second meeting to talk it over with the promoter. JD
  12. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    While it's definitely cool of you to be helping this guy, bear this in mind: Helping the guy get his career off the ground is one thing; paying your own good money to help him do it is another, especially when it should be his risk to assume.

    Like I said, do it if there is a distinct advantage for your band. If this is a big club that attracts international acts and there is a chance you might get more gigs there later, then it may be worth considering, but $250 is a disgustingly large amount of money to pay to play anyway.
  13. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    If he's trying to get into promoting bands, then I would have thought that one of the first lessons he needs to learn is that there is some risk involved. How about you do it in return for a discount on your next month of rehearsal bookings, with a clause that should the door takings be particularly high, you will get a fixed percentage after given point (something like the $250 'risk' money + at least as much as you'd save on the rehearsal discounts... and maybe double that since he's now the one taking the risk).

    What you don't want to do is teach him that promoters can thrive by finding bands to rip off - that harms you in the short term and a whole bunch of musicians down the line.

  14. Seems to me that he thinks that 50 people will come easily, so he should take on the $250, then after the first 50 people, profit can be divvied up.
  15. bill h

    bill h

    Aug 31, 2002
    small town MN

    well said
  16. Eric Moesle

    Eric Moesle

    Sep 21, 2001
    Columbus OH
    My opinion: If the "exposure" you want can be obtained from playing ANY local bar, then DON'T pay to play. There are free places to play in order to get "simple" exposure.

    If the "exposure" is something special, i.e. an A&R showcase, then pay the dough for a roll at the dice.
  17. salputrid


    Dec 6, 2002
    Please, Jaydee, don't give this guy your money. If you're unsure, ask him exactly what this money is for. He said insurance. You have no idea what he's insurancing himself against. If the costs are legitimate, and you guys want to work as partners, then any money from the gig could go to the costs of putting on the show, ie the insurance or whatever. But putting the onus on your band isn't fair. Besides, what exactly is he bringing to the table? Is this his club? If so, your band is an attraction, and you will be bringing family, friends and soon to be ex-girlfriends to buy booze and whatever off of him. If he's the booker, then I really don't understand. Do not underestimate your value as a working musician. Yes, it's tough to get places to play, but perserverance is the key, not handing over money to guys because they own or know of a venue. Get together with other bands and promote your own shows, and build from there, With that sort of organic approach, you'll never get in over your head, where too many of us have wound up. Boplicity is absolutely right: If you do have any financial arrangements, get them in writing! it's not just the money Jaydee, it's the attitude with which you approach yourself as an artist with commercial potential. Do it right from day 1. If this promoter is really interested in being succesful, he should learn about building bridges with bands and working in concert (sorry) with them. good luck, and let us know what happened!:bassist:
  18. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    I'll bet any amount of money that it's "insurance" against nobody coming in the door.

    Which should be the club owner's risk anyway.
  19. BassDodger

    BassDodger Guest

    Jul 14, 2002
    Never, EVER, pay to play. Man, that's like paying someone to rake their yard. I will give you some reasons:

    1- It's a win+win situation for the bar owner. That's NOT the type of bussiness he's in, whether he thinks so or not.
    2- Down the road when there is a potential for getting a paying gig, a prospective bar owner might find out about your paying to play. There goes any chance of making decent money. He'll just simply say something like, "Although I'm gonna make a haul off you guys, I see no reason to pay you more than $50 because you payed at that one gig". I personally have seen this happen (not with a pay-to-play situation, but bar owners DO communicate about bands).
    3- You are doing a SERVICE. You might have fun doing it, but damn- play for free if you have to...
    4- It's bad news for other bands. If this guy thinks he can get one band to pay him, then he will think that way for the next group that comes along. Remember, that next group might be less experianced. They might just shovel over ALOT of money in the space of 6 months they could've used for desperately needed gear and recording time.
    5- YOU AND YOU BANDMATES are going to look ALOT more proffesional by saying that you can't do that. That in itself makes you sound confident to him- more business-like. You NEED that type of impression later on in your careers...
    6- And what if you DO attract alot of people to that club and they LIKE the place? Hell, some of the people you attracted decide to become regulars...are YOU gonna see any profit for that?...the answer is the same...NO!

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