ladyspitfire2This month, Running with Scissors talks about Pay-to-Play Showcases. As musicians, we can’t stand it. The idea behind this article is try to come up with a solution to avoid having to go through it moving forward--for we are all on board with trying to

create a global music scene worldwide.

What is Pay-to-Play? According to it means “The transfer of money from an artist to a promoter before playing. The term Pay-to-Play is used to describe a performance where an artist (primarily applies to musicians) turns in money before taking the stage.

This payment can originate either directly from the artist or be collected from the artist through the sale of tickets (aka pre-sale). All or the majority of the collected funds go to an independent promoter or to a Pay-to-Play club.”

Bon Von Wheelle’s website has a mission statement that clearly says it all--“It is my belief that building a strong music/art scene is vital to the success of musicians and that Pay-to-Play is not only a rip-off, but counterproductive to sustaining a healthy music community. I further believe that the practice of Paying-to-Play will ruin important/unique opportunities for the next generation of artists.”

His website is a great resource for musicians.

So the question of the day for everyone is: How do you feel about Pay-to-Play? Do you think that Promote-to-Play means the same? Is there a solution?

How does Lady Spitfire feel about Pay-to-Play? I look at it as Promote-to-Play. It’s a good concept, because it’s the only way that as a DIY musician, you’re going to get heard. The venue is going to make money, you will make money, and your fans will come out to see you. However, I think if you are someone who can figure out the system and find an alternative solution that works for all parties--that works too.

I recently reached out to a group on Facebook called Musicians against Pay-to-Play, fronted by Bon Von Wheelle and this is how they feel about it: 

Xtreme Party Team:We are trying not to promote Pay-to-Play for our event at Central PA Music Fest 2014.”

Tanna Welch, Everett, Washington: “I have been posting that Gorilla, Afton, et al. approach to having musicians sell tickets and turn proceeds into promoters for stage time, is legal human trafficking: i.e. requiring exploitation of people to free labor to give them money, for stage time. I do not see the difference between requiring people to labor for free in sex trade, manufacturing, etc. and requiring artists to labor for free. If you look up the actual dictionary definition of human's pretty much the Pay-to-Play model. Just my 2 cents.”

James Cripps, Rock Gator Radio, West Melbourne, Florida: “Bands should not have to Pay-to-Play. If a promoter wants to use a good local band to bring people in for a national, the local band should be compensated. For a local show involving all local bands, bands should be given tickets to sell and the opportunity to make as much money on the show as possible. Good bands who work will do well. Bands who don't, won't.”

Sarah Lish, “Selling tickets is the same as Pay-to-Play. If you don't promote your own show then who will? The promoter, the venue--they shouldn't be stuck doing the work the band should be doing. They have other responsibilities they are handling in order to make this the best show possible for everyone involved. Don't you realize that selling tickets will help you as a band create a good solid fan base and help your band get known by the people in the local scene? That is the main reason this website was created--to counter all the lies and half truths about Pay-to-Play being the only way venues can keep their doors open.” trend for bands to use their (or their parents) hard-earned cash as a short cut to playing the supposedly “choice” gigs in town, has sadly remained commonplace in the music world. With the onset of websites offering “opportunities” in return for a fee to submit your music, the Pay-to-Play phenomenon has also found a new home in cyberspace.”

Further reading the website, they talk about Lazy Promoters, A Live Cycle, Nobody Wins, and Ignore the Temptation.

Let’s see what some bands have to say about it…

Governing Murphy, NEPA: “Pay-to-play? As far as selling tickets in advance--it is the way it’s going. Does any band like it? No. But this has always been the way out west and now promoters are bringing it here. However, it does give more of a guarantee on who is going to come and see you. But, the bands that are selling these tickets are not getting paid enough for selling them.”

Isaiah Stauffer, Drummer, Tigerbomb, Lancaster, PA: “As a band and personally, we feel that P2P is the biggest scam perpetrated onto musicians. The idea that a band should have to pay to prove its worth is ludicrous, and the fact that it's been passed off for long enough that it is now accepted by many artists, is disturbing. Nothing hurts a scene, its venues, and its artists as much as P2P. We as a band have never and will never participate in any P2P show or do business with a P2P promoter.”

Let’s see what promoters have to say about this….

RedDragon Records LTD, Dorset, UK: “We do not endorse and will not work with Pay-to-Play promoters. If you are a good promoter, you will match a good band to a good venue and collect your pay from the ticket sales of your night.”

Chris Lawler, Wartime Entertainment: “I believe Pay-to-Play is beneficial for both parties--the promoter and the artist. It ensures the touring band gets paid and it ensures the locals playing do their part in promoting the show. Although it depends on the demographics of the city. Bigger cities like LA benefit--as opposed to a smaller cities-- that wouldn't do so well with pay to play.”

Lisa Norman, Independent Promotions & Productions, Lewiston, ME: “My feeling on Pay-to-Play I guess depends on the situation or the event. A lot of the so-called industry showcase shows that promise the artist label exposure, etc., fall short with holding their end of the deal with the artist. Some are promised things like major label exposure, a record deal with some battle-of-the-band set-up of some sort--telling them they have to sell x amount of tickets and will make x amount of dollars and get x type of exposure. When it comes down to it, the artists are buying the tickets, then giving them away to get the most heads in the door--which equals winning the battle un-reliant on talent. Most of these events are equally matched and are mixed genre and that makes such events unfair--depending on the demographic in the area the events are being held as well. And in the end, they still get nothing promised. Like I said, some--not all. But the bad ones make it hard for the good showcase’s productions.”

Yvonne Loveland, Voodoo Queen Management, Coal City, Illinois: “Well, Pay-to-Play can be looked at from two different points of view. Although I am not found of tickets sales, at the same time, when you have a band that has a chunk of guarantee to pay and the locals want on that slot--the tickets are the only way to go to make sure the national act is paid. Do I like it? NO. Is it necessary sometimes? Yes! From the standpoint of a manager, promoter, and producer of my own shows, you must earn the trust and respect of the bands and no matter what you do, be a part of the work, and your show will always be worthwhile.

Jeff Totten, Project Independent:PI offers a service that no one else on the planetoffers. That is what we charge for, not the "right" to perform.”

Linda Parker, Wolf Band Management & Music Promotion, UK: “Gigs are very hard to come by sometimes, and then the bands are expected to sell so many tickets to be paid. This is what Pay-to-Play is all about and it is WRONG! Bands are coming to venues, filling the tills, bringing people in, and yet are expected to pay for the privilege.”

Jim Jarrell, Jim Jarrell Promotions: I guess it depends on the circumstances--if you’re and upcoming band that had to Pay-to-Play in a small venue in front of less than 50 people--I wouldn't do it. But if it was playing with a national act in front of thousands, I would just for the exposure--especially if the venue would let you sell your merchandise at the show.”

Rock Titan, Delaware: Okay--so my thoughts on Pay-to-Play…honestly, I think it sucks. I feel that Pay-to-Play is a greedy philosophy--by both booking agents/promoters and the venues especially. Musicians bring out crowds, no matter how big or small, that wouldn't otherwise be in attendance at whatever club, bar, or restaurant it happens to be. The agents and venues are all profiting from the musicians performing LIVE, so why shouldn't they be paying the talent that makes that possible? Let's say it wasn't LIVE original music. The venue would be legally obligated to pay BMI, ASCAP, SESAC to play any cover music or DJ-produced music. So, why shouldn't original bands is compensated in the same fashion? Pay-to-Play is a red flag that would motivate me to boycott the venue and the agent promoting the show. Pay-to-Play? How about PAY ME TO PLAY!” will use the words "THROW UP" On the idea of bands ever having to Pay-to-Play! Nobody should have to Pay-to-Play. Pay should be included in all gigs for the hard work/multiple hours put into the craft of being a musician, performer, entertainer and group. It's also an "INSULT" to musicians because there are real costs to being in a serious band. Unpaid practices, gas, time, up-keep for instruments, gear and 100 other hidden expenses. Then marketing pressures—then, oh by the way--you must now pay our venue to play? Trucking INSANE!”

JC Coffey, Red Rage Entertainment: “I think that ticket selling for a national act show is reasonable sometimes. You can't just start a band and say we're not going to sell tickets. You have to pay your dues! Every band in their career has sold tickets at one time. If nobody has ever heard of you, why would the venue just throw some band on the stage opening for a national act? This is your way of showing that venue they can rely on you to open up for a national band and blow people away.”

Chicago Metal Alliance:Pay-to-Play--well, we are not your typical promoters. We are musicians and Randy is a fan. We try to run things so that bands benefit from their work. Pay-to-Play is UNACCEPTABLE! We have struggled with this many times through the years because we are sick of losing money. But, still unacceptable. We'll ask bands to sell tickets to earn their slots on a big show but, that's as far as that goes.”

Mike Fowler, HaHO Promotions: “Pay-to-Play is a scam--and a huge one at that. Most venues will allow people to use their building for little-to-no cost and promoters make money in their own ways through ticket sales or a cut from food or drinks. Asking a band to pay $50.00-$150.00 "for the exposure" is just wrong--especially considering the gigs have a door cover or ticket sales most of the time. Pay-to-Play events VERY RARELY actually help a band any more than playing a local festival and getting paid. Same deal with promoters who require a minimum number of ticket sales to hit the stage. The biggest rip-off is when they try to bring out-of-town bands or out-of-state bands in, and still want to charge the band for stage time. Pay-to-Play benefits only one group--the people who set up the scam to begin with.”

Let’s see what the venues have to say about this….

Blue Room, Linden, NJ: “Ultimately, there is no scene anymore and bands do not have much of a fan base. Bands play a show with a month in advance to promote nowadays, and then they show up with 2 people with no presales required. The clubs would have to close and there would be nowhere to play or very few outlets to do so. And if the clubs advertise and spend that money with local band names on the ad, you are lucky if 5 heads show. It’s sad, but it’s the only choice as a venue to keep up on the bills to enforce some kind of presale. You must be fair and give them their opportunities to make money as well.”

Nina Kelley-Rumpff, Owner, The Legendary Dobbs:On the one hand, I see the venue's or promoter's perspective--when they have production costs that must be covered and a band does nothing to market them. In that case, the venue or promoter ends up taking the production costs out of their own pocket and the band essentially just got a free rehearsal space in front of at least some crowd. On the other hand, I see the bands' perspective--in that they feel that they shouldn't be responsible for bringing the whole audience--and the promoter and/or venue should be marketing the event and their brand. But ultimately, any band that expects to be paid MUST have draw. So the band must do their part to market themselves. All of that being said, it truly should be a PARTNERSHIP between venue, promoter, and musician.”

The Factory Underground, Wilkes Barre, PA: “I, myself have been on the band side of that before and now being on a venue side, I'd like to think I have a well-rounded perspective on that. When it comes to Pay-to-Play, it’s usually involving a national act headlining, touring support acts, and a local act opening. In that case, there are a lot of local bands that would love to open for say, Nonpoint, who may not sell-out a venue. So the venue opens up the avenue to these prospective local openers to sell, say, 50 tickets for that slot. I don't see that being unfair because the venue doesn't want to show favoritism to 1 local band, yet has a quota to reach for any given show. So for any local opener who has the fan base to sell tickets to a show that they are playing for, the exposure that they get from the fans, in my opinion, is a fair trade.”

Now, after taking into consideration everything that people have said, we are pleased to inform you that a VERY GOOD friend of The Indie Authority Magazine and I have created a solution that is working for him--and we hope that others will take it into consideration.

So here is what Lady Spitfire has come up with--based on a recent phone conversation with DJ RTFX over at in Barnegat, NJ: 

“Just finished another Launch Pad Live program, and as I sit here listening to all the amazing Independent artists on, I think it is about time that I share this information and a plan to finally get rid of Pay-to-Play. First off, with the growth of Independent artists and the popularity of the growing revolution it has become, venue owners are lining up to have original music performed.”

“Here are a quick DON’T! DON’T ever PAY to get on to a national show. When did this start? It must have happened while I was away in college in the early 90's. Use a simple CPM measure. Some promoters even request $1000 to get on a national spot. WHAT? Most Events sponsors for Events pay about .3 cents per impression (people who come into contact with the brand) because of all the pre promotion that goes into a show via web and traditional marketing techniques. So for them it makes sense.”

“Now, take the max capacity of most venues of 400 people. This means you are potentially paying $1.25 a person to POTENTIALLY see you perform…WAIT, YOUR PAYING PEOPLE TO COME SEE YOU? This doesn't make very good business sense. Save the money for some great merch or into your own promotion. Usually the money you pay to open either goes into the pocket of the promoter or the headlining national act because there is no sponsor support in the first place. That is not a knock at all. Sponsors are very smart with their money these days. In this economy…wouldn't you be?”

“I have heard from many artists that this is the way it is, "brother" and NRR will have to follow suit. I SAY BULL&*$%! You only believe that’s the way it is, because you grew up in it and predisposed to it. IT wasn't that way in the early 90's, the 80's or the 70's. IF YOU WANT IT TO CHANGE, YOU ALL HAVE THE TALENT AND THE GUTS TO MAKE IT HAPPEN! Unless you want to keep lining other people’s pockets and not your own.”

“What we do is work directly with the venue owners and request that the FULL door be split equally between all the artists. Along with that, we request that the bands share the ENTIRE door or depending on the venue who is working with us, we actually get the artist GUARANTEED money. And all of this without the artist SELLING ONE TICKET. On our bigger events, we bring in corporate sponsors to offset costs for the venue, so that a bigger and better event and show can be created. So the people going to the show are treated to an EVENT, not just a show.”

“Now there is a request of the artists--and that is to stay at the entire show and support the other artists. In other words, put your money where your mouth is when you say you support the scene. WE NEED TO ALL WORK TOGETHER. We have created this model in New Jersey, New York, and now Central PA and the UK as well. IT is the NEW ORDER, a new way of doing things. The venues do well and artists don't have to spend their last dime to play a show. Remember, without the venues, there is no place to play, so SUPPORT your venues who RIGHTLY treat Independent artists. We, the NEW ORDER, DO NOT take any of the door from the artists. We are supported by our sponsors--which we work hard for. We are all part of this REVOLUTION and all part of the NEW ORDER!!!!”

“People have asked ‘Aren't you afraid that people will copy your model?’”

“I WANT PROMOTERS AND AGENTS TO COPY the MODEL and treat HARD WORKING INDEPENDENT ARTISTS BETTER. So if it does make a difference and WE MADE a change--isn't that what it’s all about in this life? Making a positive difference?”


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