If a club asks your band to guarantee ticket sales or buy tickets up front, tell them to go fuck themselves. Why?
1. PAY-TO-PLAY chases the record companies and other people away from the venues doing it because they get tired of seeing headliners that are not necessarily talented but can afford to be there. While a lot of the real talent rots away in a garage or rehearsal space because they can't or won't pay to play.
2. If your a band that pays to play you are losing respect in the music community and you are supporting a promoter that is exploiting you. Wake-up. It's exploitation of musicians and if the promoter is into that, most likely the employees are exploited too. And who knows what else the promoter is into besides greed.
3. As a musician you really are degrading yourself asking people to give money for a ticket or buying tickets with your own money. You will start to get a clue when your family buys the tickets but stops going to your shows or when your friends run and hide when they see you 'cause they know you're going to hit them up again. Until you finally realize that you are working with the scum of the business and these pay to play clubs are never going to give you a break. They are not interested in what they can do for you but how much money they can make off of you.
4. You already spent alot of time and money getting to where you have a band ready to play out. You spent years practicing. You spent money buying equipment, maintaining that equipment, moving that equipment. You spend money on a rehearsal space, perhaps lessons as well. So these pay to play clubs are not helping you pay these expenses, why should you pay for theirs? A musician is one who gets paid to perform (believe it or not) and the promoter is one who purchases talent and sells tickets to see, the talent they purchased believe it or not).
5. Some pay to play clubs have been known to take musicians equipment as hostage till the musician comes up with the money for the tickets unable to be sold.
6. Pay to play clubs have a certain percentage of it's community that boycott pay to play and will never go to these clubs to see you.
7. A club that needs to make bands pay to play doesn't know how to book or manage their club and doesn't have a clue to what the music business is all about. Much less how to create an atmosphere that will draw people to the club regardless of who is playing. Why would you want to play in a joint like that?
8. Most likely you will get a very short set on a four or more band bill. Most likely you will get cheated out of a quality sound check. If you opening for a national act you're not only paying the national act you are getting less space on stage in front of their drum set then you have in your little rehearsal space you pay way too much for.
9. The time you spend selling tickets could be spent in practice. Money spent on paying to play could be spent buying studio time to record or to make promo packages or set up merchandising that will make your band money, or to put on your own show and make 100% of the door or put you on tour etc...
10. Most likely one or more of the bands on the bill with you will be non-professional in musicianship and other areas as well.
11. Many musicians even though they have day jobs are homeless or living in their rehearsal spaces in order to pay to play.
Other pay to play ripoffs include charging bands too much for a video or audio tape of their show or charging a band for sound, lights or advertising. The biggest rip-off of them all is having to pay off a booking person under the table for a certain show or slot on top of the pay to play guarantee.
OK. So you're a band that has no problem selling tickets and you make good money off your ticket sales. How long do you think that is going to last before reason #3 starts to kick in, remember? Your family and friends avoid you or when you realize it's the day of the show and you have tickets left you can't sell and you have to come up with the money out of your pocket.
So you say your band does not have to pay to play in the pay to play venues because the booking manager digs your band. Well ask yourself this. Are you getting the nights you want? Are they calling you to fill last minute dates? Are they paying you a percentage of the door? Do they treat you with respect when you play there? Do you get a sound check? Do they put you on good bills? Are you always playing too early or too late? Do they let you play long sets? Are they covering your expenses to play? Do your fans enjoy seeing you in that venue? Are they treated with respect?
Even if you get everything YOU wanted from a pay to play clubs you are still supporting a place that exploits musicians. And what do you think will happen when you fall out of grace with the club? So you say the club is big and has a large overhead. Well is that the musicians problem this club owner opened a business he can't run any other way than you paying for it? If the club is that big and you have to pay to play then you didn't do yourself a favor by building your draw in the smaller clubs first and getting to the point that the bigger clubs call you cause your name draws thus you call the shots on what you want to be paid.
Don't let these club owners tell you, it's a straight ahead business deal and that it's good for the musicians to "learn the business side of music." It's bullshit! Selling tickets is not going to teach you anything you need to know to perform your music. Maybe it will prepare you for a job in sales when your career fails in the pay to play scene.
The clubs can't survive without bands. The bands are the majority. If all the bands said no to pay to play, no club would be able to exploit bands. In Seattle a club owner tried to get the bands to pay to play. No band did. The club closed and reopened with new management and a non-pay to play policy. The bands have the power to create a new order in the clubs and in club policies.
In my opinion any band that plays the pay to play venues are cutting off their own nose despite their face and they have no self respect or respect for the music they claim they love. The national acts that play these venues, shame on you for not supporting the up and coming and not telling the pay to play clubs to shove it. I have found alot of the nationals don't even know it's pay to play, please get your booking agents to ask questions. Alot of people won't go to see you in these clubs.
The local press that won't write about pay to play because the pay to play clubs advertise in their mags. Shame on you for selling out. It's time to stop pay to play. It's time to start boycotting pay to play venues. It's time we put respect back into the music part of the music business. Give musicians back some of their dignity. Who do these clubs think they are playing God with your career. You wouldn't pay to work any other job, why this one? It really is a matter of ethics. Even for the nationals on arena tours, are you paying to play. Fuck these record companies and booking agents that don't have your best interest at heart. If you look you can find people who do have your best interest at heart because your's is their's. Play places that you can fill and will pay you what you're worth.
You the press, the local bands and the national acts, it's time to support the musicians instead of the clubs. You have the power, now get the balls.
(Editor's note: Tambre Bryant is R.O.C.'s representative for the San Francisco area. She is a punk/thrash artist who performs under the name of REPULSA. Tambre has come onboard THE ROC as one of our new associate editors, and will be writing on a regular basis. -JW-)