1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Play for Pay promotions

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by repoman, Nov 18, 2012.

  1. repoman


    Aug 11, 2011
    Kinderhook NY
    OK, so I just copied and pasted this article about "Pay or Play" events so you wouldn't have to click a link.
    Here's where I'm coming from... I don't play out but would like to play out soon, maybe within the next couple months. These play for pay things are all over the Albany, NY area. Is it something that I/we (my lame band) should look out for...what's your experience with these type gigs?

    Anyway, here's the article I grabbed from http://oneworldpool.com

    Scams are everywhere you look. Banks ripping off people. Politicians lying through their teeth. Everyone is out to make a buck on the naivety of others. We are all unsuspecting of scams until we realize what is really going on and then we feel like suckers.

    Well, in music scenes across the country and around the world, there is a strong sentiment amongst bands that they are being suckered by the “pay for play” promotions being run by groups and venues. The strategy is simple: blast inviting messages to bands about playing a particular venue for prize money at a “Battle of the Bands” or some other catch phrase. Bands that are starting out often feel a slight euphoria and excitement because a promotional group found them and wants to put them on a ticket.

    But once the good feeling of being “found” fades, the reality sets in of the true purpose of the spontaneous booking: they have to sell as many tickets as they can. Some musicians feel this practice is a scam. But is it really? At the end of the day, they push the tickets on family and friends that genuinely come to support the band. They ultimately experience a crowd and interact with other musicians, but what do they truly gain? Well, it all boils down to one’s perspective.

    Jeff Totten of On-Stage Management and the founder of Project Independent asserts that what bands refer to as “pay for play” is actually a safeguard for venues to ensure bands bring in people to their establishment. Totten says, “MOST bands think that it’s everybody else’s job to promote them, most do very little to self-promote and bring out heads. So, the venue/promoter (whoever is picking up the tab) require the bands to GUARANTEE that a set number of people will show up on their behalf.” In a perfect world, bands would play at a venue that already has people in there hanging out and they could magically get exposure. However, in the real world, venues bank on musicians drawing people/fans in, which helps generate more business (for everyone). Most rely on this basic model, even though musicians often feel cornered into selling tickets and essentially “paying to play at a venue.” So-called “Pre-Sale tickets” are part of the self promotion process.
    Totten goes on to say, “[This is] a common practice that MOST bands refer to as PAY-TO-PLAY… however this is far from the truth. In truth if a band sells the required number of tickets, then the band pays nothing at all, and in some cases can make money as well.”

    But not all feel this “common practice” actually helps bands. The argument would be simple if these types of promotions actually benefited the bands all around. Perhaps there are some prize monies won or an obscure sponsorship that is picked up along the way, but for the vast majority of participants, there truly is NOTHING in it for them except to say they played at a particular venue. And really, venues and promotion groups seldom care anything about certain bands unless they bring in a number of people, regardless of their collective talent or anything music related. It’s purely business and that’a all. Rob Hamrick of Entrust Music, started the agency to promote bands and “give the power and the freedom back to the artists.” Hamrick believes music scenes are doomed because of corruption, and musicians need to take a stand against practices that are counter-productive to invigorating promotions of independent musicians.

    Hamrick started Entrust Music because of bad experiences with venues requiring “pay to play” and the corruption he witnessed with various promotion groups. Here is an excerpt from an open letter in which he speaks of how he felt after a gig that featured terrible bands praised for their ticket sales and not their music: “The following month I didn’t DARE even look for another gig. I was that disgusted with this short burst into the Baltimore music scene. We tried one more P2P out a couple months later just to get out for a show in Lancaster, PA at a venue called The Chameleon Club. That was actually a decent show…the venue is great, they had relevant AND good bands there, the crowd was great, however THEY DID NOT PAY US ONE DIME OF ANY TICKET SALES!!
    The excuse was, “You weren’t the headliner and you only sold 22 tickets for the show. We don’t pay the bands who don’t headline.”

    Some say venues need to be cutthroat because their business depends on musicians bringing in and keeping people in their establishments. And since there are many “terrible” bands, and “lazy” musicians who don’t promote themselves, one truly cannot always blame venues for being so demanding. But in fairness, venues and promotion groups also need to do more to create a better music scene. It is nullifying on the part of venues to say their business depends on a healthy music scene, but then act like it isn’t their place to foster one.

    If a music scene is suffering because businesses don’t take bands seriously, yet simultaneously places blame on them for poor head counts, then it is no wonder everyone is at a loss. True: bands need to step up and promote themselves more, but also venues need to be fairer with paying bands and letting more get a share of the action. Only booking high drawing musicians is great for business, but also give the up and coming bands a shot as well.

    The “pay for play” mentality may seem like a foolproof plan for some, but it is a formula that hasn’t worked and will not work in the long run if all parties involved are not fair with each other. It appears “pay for play” is here to stay. But whether or not it will be a working formula for all parties is still the subject of great debate. There are pros and cons and each individual musician has to decide if the rules are in place to favor them or the promoter/venue. When you weigh out the differences, then making your decision should be eas
  2. I'm speaking from an amateur originals band member.

    There is is one big flaw in this "pay to play" system (which sadly is all over here in France) is that it is based upon bands promoting themselves to sell tickets to their own shows. Even if you could rally all your friends and family to the show to sell your tickets quota, you wouldn't build your audience. Bands need to play in front of strangers in order to build their audience.

    Those promoters would tell that you will play in front of people the other bands have brought with them, strangers for your band. That would be true if those people would actually listen to the other bands. Last time I went to one of those shows (they usually call them tremplin, springboard in english), people would only go listen the band they came to support. Yes, the whole room emptied and refilled between sets, 30 minute sets on top oh that. There were ten bands on the line up this day and therefore lots of money for the promoters...
  3. 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
    It's called "pay to play." And no. Just no.
  4. Bassist4Eris

    Bassist4Eris Frat-Pack Sympathizer

    Aug 11, 2012
    Upstate NY, USA
    Hello Repoman, I'm also from Albany. I'm guessing I'm a bit older than you, but I play originals. There's no way I would do one of those pay-to-play gigs. One time I did, and I asked the bartender for a glass of water before I played. She said she could sell me a bottle for a dollar. So here's the scam: book 10 desperate bands, with an average of 4 members per band, and that's 40 paying customers before you've sold a single ticket. Now if each band member only manages to bring 3 people out, that's still 120 more customers, plus the money from the tickets you bought, and they've had a very profitable night. You, on the other hand, have gained nothing. No pay, no true exposure, if you're lucky maybe some networking. And set up between bands consists of you furiously trying to get everything plugged in as fast a possible while a severely incompetent "sound tech" barks at you about how your just eating into your own time. Exploitation, plain and simple.
  5. repoman


    Aug 11, 2011
    Kinderhook NY
    Sounds delightful.:cool:

    I suspected this was just a ploy for the venue to get people into their place with next to no cost for them. Thanks for the reply... and BTW old timer, I'm no spring chicken myself,pushing 60 here,I play with a bunch of 40something kids... this is something I'm thinking about doing after I retire from my "day job". :D
  6. Pay to play are a time waster. Better off hooking up with 3 or 4 other bands an do your own show somewhere. I have done some battle of the bands however that turned out to be good publicity for the band and the audience actually stuck around and listened to all the bands....something that does not happen at pay to play events.
  7. Corbeau


    Dec 14, 2011
    I would never go for pay-to-play gigs. They are mostly some sort of scam, even if on paper they sound good. We have something here called Scorcherfest - you buy x amount of tickets from the organisers, you sell them at a higher price and you get to keep the profit. Sounds good at first sight, right?

    The issues:

    + Each ticket costs $13, and the minimum you have to purchase from the organisers is 30 tickets. So, that's a $390 outlay;
    + Even if you sold the tickets at $13/each to simply get back your investment - who is going to pay to see a bunch of bands they've never heard before? It's a pretty hard sell;
    + On the night, people tend to come to see their friend's band, and nothing else. So, while technically the gig might have something like 100+ punters, in reality, only a fraction of those people are going to stay to watch you.
  8. repoman


    Aug 11, 2011
    Kinderhook NY
    See, that's the part I can't believe about these events...the band has to literally pay to play in them. If I had to sell 30 tickets to just break even....that ain't happening. I might be able to give away 30 tickets and have people show up, but what's the point of that?
    How are these events even still around,I mean, with the internet and forums like this, how are bands falling for this non sense?
  9. klejst


    Oct 5, 2010

    I have never participated in a "pay to play" show because I am against what most of them really are under it all. Basically greedy (mostly amateur hour) promoters looking for bands to exploit for their personal gain. And the prizes they sometimes offer are hardly anything great and not shooting on other bands you may be playing with but the shows are generally not anything special either.
  10. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    Hey, it's all good. If your band is paying to play somewhere it just makes it easier for my band to get paid to play somewhere else. I only did one of those PTP things a couple of years ago at The Bitter End on Bleeker St in NYC. I was playing with a singer/songwriter and it didn't cost ME a dime (he covered all expenses). The reasoning was to expose a new audience to his music (which is, admittedly, VERY good) and perhaps someone important would hear one of his songs and buy it. Of course, that didn't happen ... we played to an essentially empty poopiee-hole of a bar on a Wednesday night.

    We're doing quite well now ... playing locally with the occasional trip to NYC or Boston ... to get paid to play.
  11. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    My band did it once a few years ago. We only did it for the PR and to shoot a live video. After the show the promoter gushed over us for a great gig and bringing in so many people who paid the touring headline thru ticket sales. We got 100 bucks :meh:
  12. repoman


    Aug 11, 2011
    Kinderhook NY
    I love happy endings....
  13. Because there will ALWAYS be new bands forming that play original music (which sound great to themselves, but in reality are not good enough to draw a following) and the ONLY way they can get others to listen to them outside of their garage is to get on one of these events.

    The people that run these types of events/venues KNOW this, and eliminate the risk of themselves losing money.
  14. keep a close eye on the venues doing this crap. you'll see the same bands over and over again on the shows. it fosters a sense of accomplishment in bands that don't deserve to be out of the basement or garage as well. they get 30 friends to come out and the venue tells them "you did good kid" well your highschool friends aren't going to tell you your music is terrible, go back and work on it.

    I could go on and on about problems but I won't bore you all.

    local "promoters" get very very angry with us when we turn these shows and like to call us failures and stuff. It's all good fun.
  15. bluewine

    bluewine Banned

    Sep 4, 2008
    Wow, The Bitter End used to be a top notch venue to play back in the 70s. They use to book a lot of stars.

  16. bluewine

    bluewine Banned

    Sep 4, 2008
    Yes, and it will never change. I would bet the mean age for bands that PTP is around 21. I doubt you will see older guys paying to play.

    There will always be young musicians and bands to exploit.

  17. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    Indeed, and further back into the 60's! And I suppose they still might. But Wednesday night is a PTP situation. BTW, I'll be doing a 30 minute set at 116 Macdougal St (the former Village Gaslight) tonight. Another Greenwich Village icon ... where the likes of Dave vanRonk, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and so many others played "back in the day". They played for FREE or tips ... and definitely never paid for the opportunity ...;)
  18. bluewine

    bluewine Banned

    Sep 4, 2008
    Is The Bottom Line still open?

  19. Hmmm, I would think that bands who pay to play hurt the scene for all musicians.
  20. lfmn16


    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv

    This is worst than playing for the door. Sorry, but if your band can't get a gig without paying to play, you need to look at what you are doing wrong. At the very least you should be able to get a gig someone playing for the door. To each his own, but I'd rather stay home than pay to play.