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Why You Should Think Twice About ‘Pay To Play’ Shows

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Why You Should Think Twice About ‘Pay To Play’ Shows

December 19, 2018

One of the common questions that tends to travel around the music industry and the internet a lot at the moment is: Should I/we pay to play?

In short, no – we don’t recommend that you pay to play.

Before we go into the reasons for saying no, take a look below to see what ‘pay to play’ actually means.

Pay To Play is the act of turning in money in order to play a show. It doesn’t matter where the money comes from (out of pocket, through ticket sales, etc) its the act of turning the money in before a band/act performs that qualifies it as pay-to-play.

This practice is mostly implemented by independent promotion companies. A company that isn’t located in your city rents “dead nights” at local clubs to host P2P events. They typically send flattering spam emails through social media to new bands notifying them of shows they can play, either Battle of the Bands, showcases or “tours”.

In order to play these shows, the company expects (or pressures) the bands to sell expensive tickets or turn in money directly. The money is collected during load-in and the band sees no compensation or a very small percentage (usually not more than 20%). The promotion company pays the club/venue rent and takes the biggest profit for themselves with very little effort and no promotion. These P2P companies are acting as unnecessary middlemen.

Now we’ve gone over WHAT P2P means, let’s cover the reason(s) not to:

The gigs set up by P2P advocates are usually (not always) poorly attended, poorly promoted, poorly prepared and poorly structured. Quite often (again, not always), bands of completely opposite genres will end up being placed on the same bills, the sound guy is a friend of the promoter and not really fussed about the sound, the audience consists of only whoever the support bands etc brought along and the bands aren’t set in any particular order – the result is chaos, frustration and empty pockets.

Supporting this toxic side of the music industry allows it to keep happening. By agreeing to play a pay-to-play show, you’re keeping the cycle going until the next band comes along to be taken advantage of. Additionally, they can harm your own reputation by proxy, if you start to get associated with a well known pay-to-play scam artist. There are several to watch out for – a quick Google and Facebook search will help you find the ones to avoid in particular!

Stay true to yourself and your music and there will be plenty of open doors that you won’t need to pay to get your foot through!

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