Thursday, 17 March 2011

The Pay To Play Scam

Bands, please DO NOT pay to play at a venue.

The way it works is the band has to buy £180 worth of tickets from the promoter up front and if they fail to sell them they loose their money. So any liability for the failure of the the night lies with the band, the promoter takes no risk. Its a con but I was talking to a guy in a band who believed this is STANDARD PRACTICE in London venues. This is INSANE - I've played at most of the small/mid sized venues in London and never encountered this until recently.

The band involved said "if you can't sell the tickets you must be shit and we would get in the NME by playing there". I know this sounds hopelessly naive be there are musicians like this, desperate for exposure - often from outside London looking to build a following in the city. To be honest I thought all this had stopped.

I agree bands should help promote gigs and bands and promoters need to work together to make nights work (I wrote about it here), liability needs to be shared.

All these venues end up doing is putting on poor bands who can't get a gig anywhere else, playing to their mates and often paying for the privilege. This is crazy and MUST STOP NOW. Spread the word, we must stop this.


Chris said...

Yeah,this is actually an old scam that is also widely used in the clubs on the Sunset Strip in L.A. I actually had a guy try this on with me in London in 1984.Politely told the guy where he could go!!

Steph Macleod said...

Its a disgrace. Agree with you totally mate. It's one of the main reasons I don't play the main venues in Edinburgh.


Anonymous said...

I thought pay to play had died out, but apparently not.
This used to happen a lot a few years ago + is total bullshit. It is basically taking advantage of young + naive bands + the fact that some still think this is 'normal practice' is worrying. If you are having to pay to play then it's not going to be a decent gig that you will get any exposure from.
I've certainly not heard of pay to play happening in Glasgow for a good while; it certainly disappeared due to folk highlighting how much of a scam it is, so you are doing the right thing by sharing it + I'd always tell folk to make a massive point of it if they see it happening + avoid any such promoter (thieving arsehole).

Heikie said...

This is very interesting, indeed. I actually thought that you'd have to 'pay' for most of the London venues, too. It is also very interesting for me (as I'm a tour organiser) cause in Germany more and more venues start the 'pay to play' method. I thought it might be because live music lately seems to suffer from less and less audience members (compared to five years ago, definitely). But it is so hard to finance a tour like that.
I'm all up for boycotting against this method!
Good luck with all your gigs.

Unknown said...

Cheers for the comments guys - looks like its a universal problem. Just so no!!!

Steve said...

Pay to play is indeed a huge rip off, but what do you recon to this.

In this particular situation is it acceptable as it's only £20 quid. We're not doing it by the way. But if Bath Fringe do what they say they will, and it's kind of a community thing is it ok? I feel it might be.

Alun Vaughan said...

It's a terrible situation but unfortunately for everyone who refuses to do it, there are 20 bands who will.

The number of promoters on the rock scene who are willing to actually "promote" and take any kind of risk is very small. A lot of the venues on the small to medium capacity circuit tend to do "venue hire" where the band effectively rents the room, PA, etc and is several hundred pounds down before they even get there. To add insult to injury, the band now becomes the promoter for the night and therefore pays the PRS charge (yes, including the support act and the music played between sets) which is particularly ridiculous if you're playing original music. At the end of the night the band then get a PERCENTAGE of the door. So you pay to be there, and then the venue makes further profit off the ticket sales as well as the bar.

Unfortunately without either a, everyone being strong enough to boycott it or b, a stronger Musicians Union and PRS who will do something about it, I can't see it going anywhere for a while.


J A James said...

Well said!


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