Comments Off on RANT: Pay To Play? No that is just you being lazy.

Pay to play. These three words spark heated debate in many music scenes. Its all dependant on who you talk to as to what it means. I personally have seen and done so many different structured shows as a promoter, manager and fan, that that term kills me when used to describe a show to where the promoter has a minimum sale requirement or just ticket based at all. Every concert I ever went to that was worth it from the time I was a kid, to now, was ticket based. Now the reason why I bought those tickets for those concerts was to see the music I love to listen to played live by those that created it. Weither I heard them on the radio, internet, through a friend or on a commercial, movie or tv show or even opening for another act I saw live. So if I have heard and liked the band, that means that they laid the ground work by getting their name, music and information out there so, I the fan, will know and care that the band is in my town. But so many local bands complain about putting their fare share of the groundwork needed to have a successful show. Ticket sales are almost a guarantee that you will have someone come see you play your show, so why wouldnt want to better guarantee a crowd going into your show? Sure its not easy, but neither is anything in the music business if you want to do something in it. Having to sell a certain amount of tickets to get paid and to play on a show you want to shouldn’t be such a problem. Again why the hell dont you want to make sure there is a crowd at your event? If you put in the effort, the other locals put in the effort, the national bands promotion and label does their part, the promoter and venue does its part, every show will be successfull. But saying that puting in the effort to play a larger show is ‘Pay to play’ is ignorant. If the promoter says give me XX amount of dollars then hands you tickets, THAT IS PAY TO PLAY. If you are handed XX amount of tickets and they say sell these to your fans and friends, bring back the left over tickets and sales day of show, and you get your split (based on the agreements YOU made) at the end of the night, is NOT pay to play. And if you cannot or will not put in the effort to make the show a success, just go back to playing low expectation shows at bars and restaurants and wait for that magic carpet to come in and take you to the never never land of music successes and groupie heaven. OR you can get your ass in gear and make sure you stand out in every way possible.

As a band thats really only played local, at local venues, and only played on the radio once a week (if lucky) on a local-based show on an off night, why are they expecting the same treatment as the band who has laid that groundwork for years or decades? And no, playing shows at local bars and restaraunts to your friends and co-workers doesnt mean you are worth a guarantee like the band who is known by me, the fan. And it doesnt mean you can just show up and play with a known act because you have played around town and worked hard on making your ep or current set list tight. Lets start off by saying usually the booking agents for those national acts DO NOT WANT LOCAL SUPPORT! Its people like me who fight for a few slots for locals, but even then, they as well as us want to make sure they pull the same amount of weight as the other locals and all involved. Because in reality you will benefit more for being on the show than anyone else, we are just trying to make sure theres a crowd and hard costs are covered going in so we all get rewarded. Now if you are asking to play with known acts, it should mean that you are outgrowing the local scene and are ready for more. You should be able to draw 30-75 people consistantly to your shows based on your bands name alone if so. If you cannot pull that amount, it will be difficult to justify you being on the bill with someone who has already done that… all over the country and sometimes the world. Now the expectations for locals on these larger shows, or even all ages events with overhead is usually 20-50 tickets sold to your fans. This amount covers your time onstage, the advertising that included your bands name, the staff onhand to ensure you sound good, are protected from thugs and money collected at the door. If you have been around for more than 5 years and you still can’t get a solid 30+ people to come hear you locally… I have nothing but warm and fuzzy feelings toward you cause you wont listen anyways to any constructive critisism or accountability.

Lets actually break down a national show so you see whats all involved with making it happen, and why, you as a local band only make a certain amount, and only if you do your fare share of the ground work, and sometimes get stiffed because the show fails. Theres so many variables that you have to consider and realize its different EVERY TIME. Start with rent, which can be anywhere from $100-1000 and could include only the room itself and you have to provide the stage, PA, engineer, security, door person, production manger and possibly more. Some venues include all those, and you just have to advertise and pay the bands under contract. So your overhead really depends on the size of the room, what bands are playing, and their audio needs. And bands that normally cannot fill that room do not play those rooms. Locals are used to playing 300 and under capacity rooms, so expectations are pretty low. If its a bar, they want 15-30 drinkers, the more the merrier, but just want to pay the bills and make it worth being open and letting you play. If its a national act at the same bar, or larger capacity venue you cannot expect the same ol structure and payouts. Theres more costs. More staff, more advertising, guarantees to bands, and even BACKENDS! No, backends arent big booties, its a split ON TOP of the bands guarantee if the show reaches a certain amount and covers costs with ticketsales and walkups. So even if the show does do more than the deal, most of that back end extra money still ends up going to that national act or touring package, not to the promoter or venue. Again, going into these shows, you want to have most of the costs if not all the overhead costs covered and guarantee a good crowd by the time doors open, thats why there is such a push to sell presale tickets. Ideal situations have tickets available online, tickets at the venue, and in the hands of locals on the streets to reach as many people as possible so that EVERYONE involved has a great show, and every band gains new fans.

The music business is not catered toward any one band, or person. It takes tons of people to make shows happen, to make albums and sell them, and also just to be known. Its a never-ending daunting task that will never get easier, but you will get smarter if you only understand that it takes more than your efforts to make anything work, and the longer you think its other peoples job (unless you are paying them to do so damnit) to promote your band, the longer your road will take to gain successes you can actually see and benefit from.

And for the love of gawd, at every single show, no matter how big or small, have CD’s, Merch, Stickers, Newsletter signup sheet set up. Split up all costs with all members to get this done. Unless you are the drawing name on the bill (again 30 people isnt a drawing name), you probably wont make much from the door or sales, but will if you do your share of the ground work, have shit to sell, and promote your band besides just when you play live.

Now get out there and promote your music and band to the world, and quit being so local.

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