PROMISES BROKEN? "Pay to Play" for area bands

We recently heard from a few band members about their experiences with promoters and/or venues that make you pre-sell tickets to play a show. They were not happy to say the least. One venue that is widely known to engage in this practice is The Monkeybar in Huntington. Our friends in Rose City recently went out there and had a most unsatisfactory experience, according to their drummer.

We talked to the guys in Belle-based A Promise Kept about their experience Thursday (1.24) night at a show put on by Youth Focus Productions. Turns out they had apparently not sold enough tickets to play this gig, even though they had sold more than a band that was allowed to play, and had been allowed to set up and sound check only to be told at the last minute to get off the stage, from what we're told. This was the night it was like five degrees or something.

After hearing about these experiences, we decided to ask the question: what are the pros and cons of pay to play? Now, granted, there will exist differences between bar-based venues, where they can just make money off alcohol, and venues that promoters like Youth Focus would work with, like a YWCA or something.

And, in case you don't know; we don't represent any venue. We just wanted to know what people thought about this and if they thought it was fair.

Here we offer band members and fans an opportunity to comment about this practice...


WVRockscene! said...

FROM: Mike w/cheese
The Monkey Bar is the MECCA of Pay to play, screw those yuppie crackheads! It makes a complete diffrence in the way you play....If a venue tells me I have to pay them in any way or sell tickets for them....They can go to hell.

Unknown said...

I was the booking agent /promoter for Hyamp and we never once made any band pay to play or sell tickets to play. We weren't responsible for what people did when they rented our venue, although if we caught any other promoter attempting to do either of those things we did step in and tell them what we thought.

I udnerstand you want a band to sell tickets and promote their show, but making them sell a set amount of not allowing them to paly isn't the way to go about it. Any self-respecting band will promote their shows to the full extent of their ability and will do so without being forced to abide by some ticket selling rules.

If you are a promoter and don't believe a band will bring in a crowd, or don't believe the band won't promote a show, then don't book them. If it's a new band consider their first time doing a show with you as a trial and if they don't do their job as a band then you have reason to tell them what they did wrong and make them aware that you won't book again until they're more serious about their band and shows.

But yeah, to make a long story short, we at Hyamp always hated the idea of pay to play or forcing bands to sell tickets, we gave bands tickets for shows to sell, but it in no way affected their chances to play, once a show was booked those bands were on unless they dropped off theirselves.

Anonymous said...

Pay-to-play is such a huge scam. They tell us every time that we can make a lot of money if we sell a lot of tickets, but the truth is, most bands don't sell a lot of tickets, and therefore they play for free after doing all of the promoting.

Venues know the average number of paying customers, and they can use that to their advantage when telling bands the amount of tickets they need to sell before they make any money.

The deal the Monkey Bar gave my band is that we gave them all of the money from the sale of the first 20 tickets and we got to keep the money from the next 20. The problem is that we only sold 18 tickets. They got all of that money and then kept whatever came from the door as well, so we got nothing.

Selling tickets is difficult for bands who don't go out and party every night. How do you deliver them to your fans before a show? How do you contact them to tell them that you have some tickets for sale? Mail order? PayPal? You can't have your fans fax you some cash and then you fax them a ticket. It is difficult to set up a meeting place for the 40-80 people you are expected to sell ticket to.

National act shows were even worse. We had to give them the money from the first 40 tickets sold and then we got to keep money made from the next 40. The problem there was that tickets were much more expensive and we only sold a few. The monkey bar made us play first and only gave us 15 minutes for our whole set. We worked our asses off to play this show and promoted the hell out of it.

There is a bright side to playing at The monkey Bar. The stage and sound system are really nice! There are not many places a band would get to open for a national Act! If a band wants to be considered for a spot in X-Fest, the almost HAVE to play at The Monkey Bar.

But working your ass off to play there is not worth it.

I heard that The Monkey Bar is starting a new method for paying bands. They will give $2 per ticket to the band. They still get to keep all the money from the door. The most my band has ever sold was 18, so the average we will make there is only $36? That doesn't even pay for gas for a lot of bands.

To top it all off, they won't even give bands a discount on drinks.

I know that it may cost a lot of money to operate The Monkey Bar, but the bands deserve some of the profit too. Without the bands, no one would even come to The monkey Ber.

They just added a nudie bar to the top floor. Add that to the drugs and Thugs who frequent the place. It seem that it's starting to become a classless and unsafe place to visit.

My band has almost decided that playing there is not worth it. We would rather make money for a club that appreciated and compensates their bands! I know that Paradox is starting something like giving half of the door to the bands without selling tickets. It's a move in the right direction.

Anonymous said...

We just won't play shows where we have to sell tickets. I/we COMPLETELY disagree with anything that involves paying to play. Especially for places and organizations in our area that are notoriously shady about money, do a terrible job promoting their events, and then over charge for shows. I do think that bands should promote every single show that they are playing as much as humanly possible. I'm talking about flyers (real flyers that actually hang on bulletin boards in real buildings), Myspace, websites, word of mouth, etc.

I am not a "DIY or die" person, but I definitely believe in the DIY ethic. I'm happy that we've done everything ourselves without sucking up to some local organization or person that will rip us off and use us. I've seen it happen and it's a shame that it happens. In a smaller town like Huntington, WV, we should all be helping each other, not using each other.

Anonymous said...

The show your are talking about, was not Kevin's of Youth Focus but mine of What's Next Booking (www.myspace.com/whatsnextbookingwv). A Promise Kept did not sound check, but they were loaded in. Me and Kevin of Youth Focus work together some though. This night he was providing sound for me. The reason A Promise Kept did not get to play is because a band member told me they didn't sell any tickets, and they agreed to selling 20. Then I talked to Kevin and they showed up to one of his shows over a 1 hour after load in time, and load in is ussually not even 30 min before the show starts at the YWCA, and that their was another incident. We let bands slide once or twice and that is it and they had their chance. The part that made me mad was that 3 tickets appeared at the door that they sold and they told me they didn't sell any. Also there was a band that only sold one ticket, but was their first time working with me so they will have one more chance or we will not be working with them again. We try not to make bands presale tickets but when we are not a bar that can rely on liquor sales its had not to sometime. Also we let people slide if they are close on ticket sales, just not when you are no where close to the agreed amount.

Anonymous said...

I hate the term "PAYTOPLAY". No band in their right mind should paytoplay to not even get 20 bucks out of the deal.

The MonkeyBar is the worst about this. I refuse to go there to see local bands perform due to the way they treat local bands. I have heard about this from The Concept as well as Rose City. This is a screwed up way for the venue to promote the show. They give the band tickets to sell and they sit back and do nothing while the money rolls in. The bands work their asses off to sell these tickets. Then, they go play the gig (spending money on gas to get there) and get nothing at the end of the night. This is just not fair to the bands.

I have only been to the MonkeyBar twice and both times it was for Hank III (which the tickets were overpriced). I have no intentions of ever going there again.

I would much rather support local music the right way, by going to The Blue Parrot and the Empty Glass to see local music. These two bars are the best in town for local bands to play and these bars know how to treat bands!

I advise all local bands to boycott the MonkeyBar since they do not treat local bands fairly.

WVRockscene! said...

You should've reviewed HankIII for us...

Anonymous said...

well , paying to play is not always bad. if there is a huge band headlining like testament, or mastodon or something it costs a shit load to have them play and one way to help pay for that is to have bands sell tickets in advance and in exchange they get to play a show with a huge band who can draw people who probably never came to the venue and in turn gets your band in front of new people. but there are alot of shitty promoters and clubs out there that do it for any kind of show and that is just bull shit.

Anonymous said...

I know of a few places that do it, and I think it's kinda ridiculous. I agree with Mike when he says it makes a difference in the way you play, because you're not relaxed. I'm not in a band, but I'm good friends with several, and the practice of Pay to Play can actually hurt music lovers more than anyone, because it limits the music we're exposed to to bands who can AFFORD to play.

Anonymous said...

Pay To Play is NEVER a good idea. If the venue doesn't have the funds on hand to promote a show correctly to get the crowds in instead of essentially having the local bands pay for the headliners, they shouldn't have booked the show in the first place.

Anonymous said...

What do I think about pay to play?

It sucks.

Bands work hard to make the music, they shouldnt have to work hard to make the club owner rich.

Bottom line : If you dont think the band will bring in people, dont book them. Dont get their hopes up and then smash them into the ground. Bands work as hard as they can to promote their shows so give them a break.

But this is the music world, and anymore it isnt about the music. Like I have been saying for a while now : It is all about the money.

Screw the people who want the money, let's do it for the music!

There is something we can do to stop this though. Just refuse to play any place that makes you pay to play. With no bands there will be no shows. With no shows there will be no crowds and thus no money.

Stand up for your rights as a musician and show the world that you rock!