Pay-to-Play Sucks

Attention All Bands!


Do you realize that selling tickets is the same as paying-to-play?

Lots of bands sell tickets. It's part of promoting your show. All bands need to promote their shows. If you don't promote your own show then who will?

The "promoter", the venue... they shouldn't be stuck doing 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.

Pay-to-Play is a phrase used for a variety of situations in which money is exchanged for services or the privilege to engage (play) in certain activities.¹ In regards to the Music Industry, Pay-to-Play refers to a growing trend, where venue owners charge an up-front fee to performing artists for the use of their facilities. It has become common in many U.S cities at low-turnout all-ages shows where performers are required to guarantee a minimum attendance through pre-show ticket sales.²

Wait! What's wrong with this picture?!...

Well, the first thing that comes to mind when I hear a venue (or promoter) tell a band "We can't afford to have bands play if there is no one to see the bands." The truth is a venue is a business and a business doesn't exist unless they make money. A venue makes money by selling a show that people want to attend. Once people are at the venue, then they can then sell them food and/or drinks. If people want to attend the show, they will show up. Tickets for the show are offered as a convenient way for people to reserve a guaranteed spot in the audience for that show. Now, if you buy tickets to a show and can't attend the show... what happens? Do you get a refund? NO! This is why venues like ticket sales. They get their money before the show even occurs and it is theirs to keep (no strings attached). They don't care if you attend the show because they already have your money. This is why a "promoter" wants a band to fork over the money anyone plays. Hell, you could actually go home after you gave them the money for the tickets. They really don't care if you even play (try looking for the promoter just before or during you set and see if you can find him/her). In a perfect world, if a venue could sell out of all the tickets prior to show night and then guarantee that none of those tickets would be redeemed at the door, they could then resell all those tickets the actual night of the show (and at a higher price). Well, this not being a perfect world, and our country having laws against double selling a venues' capacity, venues are left with figuring out other ways of making money.

Our Purpose

Our goal is to give you the counter argument about pay-to-play. Almost every promoter out there has thought about using pay-to-play at some point but the only ones that seem to actually practice it are the ones that can't seem to pull off shows any other way. Most venues only resort to pay-to-play if they can't make money any other way. It's a quick fix for an age old problem. "Promoters" (and I use that term loosely) use pay-to-play when the show or headliner can't seem bring people to the shows they are running. This means that either the headliner is asking for a guarantee that is way too high for the actual number of fans they can draw or the promoter isn't doing his job and actually promoting the show.

Let's look first at the show's potential audience. People go to shows for various reasons just like people don't go to shows for various reasons. There are a few reasons why people don't go to shows...

  • They don't go to shows in the first place
  • They have other plans
  • They can't afford it
  • They didn't know about the show
  • They don't like the bands playing

There are other reasons why people aren't attending but these are the 5 main reasons. The first 3 reasons you can't control but the last 2 you can.

Take a look at reason 4, "They didn't know about the show." This is first and foremost the promoters fault. I'm not saying bands shouldn't promote their own shows but the function of a promoter is to promote. If the word about a show is not getting out then the promoter is not doing his job. Pay-to-play allows the promoter to avoid the responsibility of promoting the show and places it on the shoulders of the bands.

Now, let's look at reason 5, "They don't like the bands playing". This can be avoided by bands if you avoid any shows that are pay-to-play. Pay-to-play shows consist of bands that will sell tickets. Personally, I will not go to a show if the bands on the bill are only known because they take pay-to-play shows (it's not like these bands can be known for anything else since these bands usually don't have any songs posted anywhere that you can listen to). Ok, I know what you are thinking... "If my band doesn't play the show then someone else will." This is true. After all, there is a sucker born every minute and more than likely they will want to be rock star.

If you don't want to see other bands fall victim to this practice then you need to take some responsibility and talk to the band playing about their decision to take a show that is pay-to-play. This is where you can make the most impact. If promoter can't get bands to open for the larger acts (especially the larger acts that don't draw well on their own) then they will have to reevaluate their handling of shows. Just remember...


What?!... you don't believe me?!... Venues need what in order to get people through their doors?... Bands. A promoter needs what to bring in money to pay the venue and the headliner?... Bands. The trouble is musicians (especially young ones) are so hell bent on "making it" and or being "Rock Stars", they will sell their soul to the devil if he offered. Pay-to-play is just that, "selling your soul to the devil." The only person that comes out a head on the whole thing is the devil. Why do you think the devil loves pay-to-play?


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