Posts Tagged ‘pay to play’

Thanks to Facebook and the internet bad word spreads fast and so does good word. No longer is it possible to fool bands and then hope nobody finds out. It just doesn’t work that way anymore!

In one of my earlier posts I mentioned how the unsigned music scene in London works and that there are some venues that do a “pay to play” system. My band experienced pay to play via Emergenza in a sham Battle of the Bands contest and I sure learnt my lesson after that, never ever again to get sucked in. Being given tickets to sell first so that you raise enough cash in order for your band to play a gig is just plain wrong and unethical.

There’s also the “bring your audience” system that is the norm in London where you are expected to bring your own audience who pay for tickets to see you. This system is ok but not good when venues start threatening/banning bands when they can’t bring large enough audiences. My experience with the Bull and Gate was terrible at this. They banned my band from ever playing there again. And Monto seem to be getting a lot of bad feedback in the last two days as well. There was a “Put a Stop to the Monto Bands Ripping Off Culture Facebook group”. And then there is the more generic people against play to play group.

So it is important to have a list of venues/promoters/institutions to avoid. Here’s a list from my experience and feedback from others.

  • Surface Unsigned Festival
  • Emergenza Festival
  • Live and Unsigned
  • Monto
  • Bull and Gate

If you have any more to add to this just post a comment here with your experience and I can add to this list.

Having said all this you certainly cannot expect to bring no fans at all to a gig and then expect to play to fans of other bands. That’s not fair on the bands who have done all the promotion work themselves and built a fanbase. In some ways until you have done the hard work yourselves you will always “pay to play”. It’s just the form of this payment has to be ethical. There are promoters who rip off bands and bands who rip off promoters. It goes both ways. But fear not, this group is precisely there to help the good promoters and good bands find themselves and along the way learn about working together and figuring out how marketing and promotion works.

As for good promoters. There’s a list on the contacts part of this blog. Life’s not all that bad, good word spreads just as bad as bad word 😉

(Update 12 June 2011: The Anti Monto Facebook group got shut down by Facebook so that link has been removed)

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Battle of the bands are an (almost) total sham

My band has now played several battle of the bands gigs now and looking back I say…

What the hell was I doing?

Let’s see what the organiser of a typical battle of the bands offers you:

A lifetime experience, groupies, a recording contract, fame, fortunes and all that jazz

Ok, so what they are really selling you is *your* dream, a ticket to instant fame and an audience who cares for your music. That precious dream that you live for! Ahhhh if only it worked like that. So falling into the hype you work hard to bring an audience and they milk in the money. Sweet, what a simple plan for the lazy promoter.

Let me ask you a question, have you ever?, I mean ever heard of a band in the mainstream that became famous just because they won a battle of the bands contest somewhere…now think hard….right, none!

Usually a BoB contest also asks you to bring loads of supporters so that you can be voted to win. Emergenza being a great example of that, they even ask you to pay £50 upfront….and thousands of bands fall for it every year…yet I have not heard a single band that *made it* via Emergenza. The world’s biggest battle of the bands festival is the world’s biggest sham. And they keep getting away with this immoral practice of “pay to play”.

If I bring 30 of my mates to a gig and they pay £5 each, then my band is carrying a £150 worth of capital. Why on earth should I then enter a contest where my mates pay all that money and I *may* (but very unlikely) end up winning a recording contract. I might as well raise the capital direct.

If I don’t end up winning YOU and your mates have just ended up sponsoring some other bands recording sessions for free.

Charity work for other bands, nice!

There are some exceptions to this (high school/college fun gigs), but those are rare, almost every time the promoter is benefiting from a BoB gig somewhere. Whenever you get this sort of offer, think about how someone else is benefiting from it.

So that’s what I think, but your experience might well be better than mine on this or worse…either way, I’d love to hear from you so drop a comment.