So you’ve formed a band, practice regularly, cut a basic demo, and
are finally ready to take that next step… Performing. Your friends and
family are excited to see you play, the only question is, “where”? If
you’ve done any bit of research, you’ll find that most establishments
these days are on a pay-to-play basis, or otherwise known as pre-sale.
So what is pay-to-play?
Pay-to-play is essentially a push for the venue to garner more
profits and reduce their responsibility. Here’s how it works. You
submit your demos to the powers that be at different venues, and get
some interested replies. In fact, most of the clubs are interested in
what you do, only thing is, they want you to buy approximately
$200-$300 worth of tickets to ensure their profits. Doing so now
passes ticket sales and promotion responsibility onto you and you band.
This is where things get interesting. If you happen to be lucky enough
to sell your tickets (usually about 30-50 tickets per band), then you
and your band will make a profit. However, if you don’t sell them all,
you might just end up breaking even, or even worse, actually paying to
play a show.
Most bands are so eager to get out and play, they will take just
about any deal they can, and unfortunately this is often pay-to-play.
Often bands will start off making money off their ticket sales, but as
friends and family tire of watching you play, you’ll start losing sales
one by one, until playing becomes ultimately, unprofitable.
There is however, a solution. Many new venues see pay-to-play as a
music crime, and thus are opening their doors to new bands, so long as
they draw people. The key here, is learning to play a few gigs for free
to prove both the quality of your music, as well as how many people you
can draw. If you are willing to do this, you will actually open up many
new doors, with venues paying YOU to play! This might take a bit
longer, and require some patience, but believe me, your friends,
family, and co-workers will love the fact you’re not trying to hawk
tickets at them every week. Everybody wins!
So get out and play!