You Can Play This Music Festival… If You PAY $1,200

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If you thought pay to play was dying off, well, you’ll be quite surprised to see these shady practices by Revolutionary Entertainment Group for an upcoming June 27th/28th “festival” in Long Beach.

Revolutionary’s cohorts convince naive bands (mostly over Facebook) into buying 60 advance tickets for $1,200 that they have to resell at $20 a piece. If you do the math, that’s a profit of… $0. And that’s only if they sell ALL 60 tickets. But, the more tickets they sell, the better their slot at the festival will be! Woohoo!

Some of the headliners this promoter is pimping out to shake down up and coming musicians include Ill Nino, My Body Sings Electric, Straight Line Stitch, Davey Suicide, Motograter, and JD Woodruff of Hawthorne Heights.

Now, this isn’t meant to shame these headliners.  I imagine (hope) they don’t know the shady practices the promoters are employing to get them paid.  Because if they did, I imagine they would have told the promoters to go fuck themselves (like many bands have already done – and forwarded the messages on to me).

I was just hit up by a different booker at another festival also in Long Beach (wtf?) for a similar deal.  Not quite as bad, but BAD.  Well actually, I got the phone number of one of the (self-proclaimed) “booking agents” of this festival and texted him saying “I want to play the HID festival.”  I never gave my name and I gave this booker a (just created) email address of a fake band (so I could see the contract).

This festival is the Holdin’ It Down For The Underground featuring Escape The Fall, Days Hell and others.  The festival, on May 30th (uh, two weeks away), still hasn’t locked in a lineup – because, like Revolutionary’s fest, lineup is based on number of tickets sold.

This festival is working with four “booking agencies” to book the festival.  The guy I worked with (via text message) to get the details about it called himself “one of four booking agents” and he told me he also runs one of the stages.

We went back and forth over text for a solid hour where I got the full rundown.  By the end, he offered me a slot at the festival – WITHOUT EVER HEARING MY MUSIC.

The deal he offered for a “good” slot “near the headliners” was to BUY 40 tickets.  I got two options: I could either buy the 40 tickets up front (“send money via at PayPal or money order”) at $18 a piece ($720) and then sell them for $20.  I would also get 40 more tickets to sell on my own (and keep the dough).  Or, if I couldn’t shell out $720 up front, I could buy only 10 tickets up front ($180), get 50 total tickets and then turn in the rest of the $720 3 days before the festival (via PayPal or money order).  Total potential for option number two if I sold all 50 tickets (mind you 2 weeks before the show)?  $280.  That’s 28% of what I sold.  And that’s ONLY if I sold all 50 tickets.  If I sold only 35 tickets, I’d be out $90.

Bands, listen to me closely. This is not how it works.

This is not how you play (legitimate) festivals, build a fanbase or get in front of important people.  This is not how you build a music career!  Reputable promoters will PAY YOU when you deserve to be paid.  Venues will book you (and pay you fairly) when you’re ready to play their clubs.  You will work WITH promoters, agents, festivals and venues with a mutual level of respect when you are ready.

+Should You Pay To Play? Here Are The Worst To Best Deals In The Country

I know it’s tough out there navigating the music industry, but here’s a good rule of thumb: if anyone asks for a deposit or asks you to purchase tickets up front, it’s time for you to run the other way as fast as you can.  It’s the promoters job to book a mix of talent that will draw the crowds along with new talent (who they love) to showcase amongst the lineup.  And it’s the promoter’s job to fucking promote!  Sure, the bands should do their fair share in helping promote through their social media networks, email list and possibly some press appearances, but in no case, ever, should the band be on the hook for unsold tickets.

+Booking Your Own Tour: A How-To Guide 

Legitimate festivals make their money on sponsorships and ticket sales.  Not off the backs of young bands who don’t know any better.  Just because the promoters are incapable of securing enough sponsorship money to cover their costs is their fault. Not the artists.

+My Response To An LA Pay To Play Promoter

Escape The Fate, Ill Nino, JT Woodruff, Dayshell, Don Vedda, Straight Line Stitch, Davey Suicide, Society 1, Blood On The Dance Floor, Runaway Kids, My Body Sings Electric, Motograter, This Legend, and all the bands playing these festivals who NOW know better, pull out!  Make a public statement that you don’t support “promoters” and “booking agents” who make young bands pay to play.  Take a stand!  Shame on your agents for not doing their due diligence either.  Or maybe your agents are just as shady as the promoters they’re working with.  And if that’s the case, fire them!

Because, if you move forward playing these festivals then you are just as much a part of the problem.  Without the talent, these pay-to-play promoters have nothing.  Remember that.

If every band said no to pay to play it would end.  The model would change.  Let it start with you.

+Why The Sunset Strip Clubs Need To Die 

65 Responses

  1. Jenna

    HEAR HEAR!!! Definitely agree with you 100% on this!

    Crappy deals like this are exactly why people are not going out to shows as much. They assume there will be crappy music because there will be!! If he never even asked to hear your music before getting you on the festival, obviously there’s an issue. There are so many free places for new/young bands to play in OC! Other than that longbeach festival area. This isn’t the first one I’ve seen being thrown in that area with massive presale and not enough proper management. It’s summer now. Keep your eyes peeled!

    • Ash

      It’s really surprising the headliners don’t know what exactly is going on – doesn’t that have to be disclosed to them or to their booking agent in the contract for the show, Ari? I’d love to believe these bands are ignorant, but a lot of them are on small independent labels (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and are playing to smaller crowds than they used to. If anything, this makes the headliners look bad more than the promoter because their booking agents clearly aren’t vetting these shows and promoters properly.


      Ari are you mad because your band paid to play? Are you mad because your band wasn’t good enough to land a paying gig? Stop your crying, maybe if you spent more time, perfecting your craft, and not talking shit about promoters, and bands that do music for a living, you would land a paying gig yourself.

      • Props to Ari

        From Mr. Herstand’s wikipedia:

        Herstand is popular in the United States where he has played at Summerfest in Milwaukee, WI and the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, TX, as well as Carnegie Hall. He has played with various artists including Ben Folds, Cake, Sister Hazel, Phil Vassar, Matt Nathanson, Joshua Radin, Eric Hutchinson, and Ron Pope. His music has been played on popular TV shows such as The Real World, One Tree Hill, Friendzone, I’m Married To A…, The Real L Word, and The Hard Times of RJ Berger. He has received airplay on NPR’s All Things Considered and Cities 97.

        He is known on television for his co-starring roles in Mad Men, 2 Broke Girls, Touch, The Fosters, and Sam & Cat.

        Herstand has played the majority of his shows solo. He spent the beginning of 2012 in Minnesota recording his new album with producer Paul Marino, drummer Dave King, bassist Jim Anton, guitarist Jake Hanson, keyboardist Joey Kantor and vocalists Alicia Wiley and Tonia Hughes. He funded this album primarily through his successful Kickstarter Campaign. The album was mastered by Bernie Grundman Mastering in September 2012. The album entitled, Brave Enough, was released at the Hotel Cafe on March 29th, 2014 with an 8 piece band.

        In Spring 2012, Herstand started the music business blog Ari’s Take to help independent musicians build careers without the help of a record label. The blog is based on Herstand’s experience as a touring musician (with 600+ shows)

        I trust him a lot more than some no name promoter from Long Beach… or an anonymous commenter on DMN.

  2. ABL

    Pay to play = lazy promoter… plain and simple. Shame on them indeed.

    • Tgsquier

      pay to play=lazy promoter…formula for band with no following, no money, no initiative, and no opportunities available.

      But the bright side is a career playing house parties and backyards!

      And you can promote those yourself.

      Who’s the lazy promoter?

      Answer: most likely the whining band that can’t even promote themselves.

  3. MBS

    Not a surprise, pay to play happens every day! I have heard of fees much larger than this to open for a national act.

  4. Band Mommie

    Most of the headliners for these events are one of the following: bands that were once famous and are way past their prime, bands no one has ever heard of or solo members of once famous bands. The only people I know of that go to these things are usually members of the other bands playing and maybe some press people. Now, you know why they have to charge bands to play.

  5. Entitlement Sucks

    Hey Ari don’t want to pay $1200? Then don’t play the festival

    You want to put up the cash and hard work making a festival like this then go ahead, otherwise stop whining about how unfair it is. They can charge whatever they want.

    • Promoters Aren't

      …said the president of Revolutionary Entertainment Group, who is a lazy ass who won’t promote his own event, and would rather rip off real entertainers.

    • Nonsense

      Would a supermarket expect a handyman to pay them to fix their broken lighting fixtures? Would a construction worker be asked to pay in order to build a new school? Would a plumber be asked to pay in order to fix a sink at a hair salon? NO! Then don’t expect a band (who has a ton of their own expenses) to pay to entertain guests at your festival, with all of their gear and time! You’re just greedy and lazy.

    • Me2

      Pretty sure Ari won’t be performing at this one. The point is that young bands don’t know any better. Thanks for the reminder that we all have free will.

    • GGG

      Let’s see, if he can’t front the money to play the festival, he shouldn’t play. Got it.

      Maybe if you can’t afford to put on a shitty festival you shouldn’t put one on. Use your own logic and stop ripping off bands.

    • ABL

      Yes, they can charge whatever they want.
      These practices will likely continue for years and bands that aren’t qualified will probably continue to have their parents front the cash so they get thrill of performing at an over-saturated festival.

      The fact is, Ari is CHALLENGING these practices and trying to prompt real positive change within the industry. Write better songs, build your story, and get ASKED to play a festival because you’re worth it. Nothing wrong with that!

    • Paul Resnikoff

      You’re right, the contributions of Snoop Dogg, Sublime, and other bands from Long Beach are totally negligible. Not to mention the Long Beach All-Stars!

      • Jimmy

        Sarcasm Paul? I didn’t know you had it in you.

        Anyway, you inadvertently hit the nail on the head.

        If the promoter booked bands that the folks in long beach cared about then he or she wouldn’t be trying the pay to play approach to fill the bill

  6. tgsquier

    Ummm…ok, I don’t want to start shit, but let’s say for a minute I was a promoter. I’m trying to do a huge 2 day metal fest thing that grabs a few touring bands and puts them with regional acts. To do the show costs x amount, for venue, staff, stage, sound, lights, permits, security, insurance, other shit…and now in order to do the show I gotta cover all that. That’s steep, and it happens every show you guys do. Let’s say this scenario happens for years. What you find is the basic tone of this article and many of your comments. I know you all feel strongly about your bands, as you should. But, in this hypothetical, why do you think that by doing a show like this I should front all the cost, and promote your band for you? See, what I hear so many of you basically making excuses for is committing yourselves to promote your own bands. You guys think the promoter is there to do for you what is truly more in your interest. Are you guys saying your bands aren’t worth a 20 dollar ticket? Or selling 60 of them, is that beyond your band? The gig counts on you to bring your crowd. You think your band is the shit, totally cool, but I can tell this simple slice of truth…no matter what, everyone else likes it less than your opinion. And what we need are numbers here, and if bands don’t promote themselves sombody is taking a loss. You don’t care. If no one was there, you’d call the promoter lazy. But who is really lazy here? How do you think it could work better? What ideas do you have? Because I have one. Why don’t you look into doing your own show? Book it, plan it, make it happen…and while my band does nothing but bitch about everything, promote us, give us a good time slot, sell our tickets, and give us the set time we want. Do a show. Impress everybody. No no no, a better idea. Write an article about it and don’t do shit.

    • TheDrizzle

      I agree with you to a point, but these types of festivals should really be paid for by advertisers brought in by the promoters and the rest of the crew running the festival. I think bands should definitely be able to pull their own weight and I know some of the bands on that list and they’re highly capable of selling way more tickets than that in a very short amount of time. However, they should still be getting some money out of it. If this article is correct in the amount of monies listed, then it’s definitely a scam to get the bands to play a festival without getting paid. Either way though, they will make some money on merch if this festival is promoted well.

    • GGG

      Same thing as I said above. If YOU can’t afford to put on a festival, don’t put on a festival. Don’t push the cost onto the acts, get an investor, go to business school, figure out that shit on your own. You’re literally just pushing the exact same argument you should be using for yourself onto the acts.

      • tgsquier

        Sounds like you expect the organizers to front the cost of the event and have all the responsibility of doing the show while the bands get paid for their efforts and have no responsibility beyond playing. That’s ok, but what if it was like this…ok, the shared cost of event divided by number of bands means each band pays 5000 dollars to have the event happen. That being said you can sell tickets for whatever amount you want, as many as you want, and keep all of the profits. Would that be better? The term promoter loosely means event planner or production coordinator. Promoting an event is marketing it, but who pays for sound, stage, lights, headliners, security, permits, insurance, parking, etc? No bands or artists have ever maintained a career touring by having good songs or talent. They are successful for one reason only. They put people in seats. They sell tickets. If a band doesn’t sell well they find a short lived touring career. Sorry I’m so scattered here.

        • GGG

          The recoupment of that sort of co-investing, so to speak, is too lopsided, though, as Ari’s math shows. If bands were able to act as co-investors and get a healthy return, then sure, make that happen. OR if all the bands were guaranteed to play to x amount of people, but that’s not the case. Some bands could literally be out close to a grand and still be 6 bands ahead of the headliner playing to 30 people if other bands did better.

          My biggest issue/point I’m making is that the argument used to attack people like Ari who point out the negative aspect of pay-to-play is so hypocritical. I don’t understand why if a band can’t afford $1000 to pay to play, it’s “how capitalism works, and if you can’t afford it then gtfo” while not being able to finance a festival on your own is no big sweat, just get the bands to pay for it. That’s retarded. Get a bank loan, get an angel investor(s), sell a shit ton of advertising/sponsorships, fund the festival in a way people fund all sorts of business endeavors. Don’t double dip into the acts for both people to show up AND the bands to pay for it. That’s super shitty.

          I just got back from the Montauk Music Festival, and while I wasn’t directly involved in the planning, I know the people that put it together well. The bands all got comped rooms. The bands got free meals at the venues they played at. They didn’t have to pay a dime besides traveling from wherever. And that happened from hard work and relationships on the promoter end, not from charging bands to show up.

          • Tag squire

            Why would I do that? It’s not my career on stage. I’m not performing. I’m not trying to get fans. Why should I do any of that in order for your band to make money, look good, sound good, and increase fan base. What’s in it for me? Right?

          • tgsquier

            sorry…that last post was still me, it screwed up my name. The Montauk festival sounds exactly like what I consider a fair trade. I want bands to get what they deserve and organizers should make money, that’s why they take the time to put it together. Bands to often think these things are for them. They aren’t. They’re done to make money. Always. Being in entertainment is about how much you draw. Bottom line.

          • GGG

            Sure, so how is asking bands to front upwards of $1200 in order to get any kind of decent slot fair for the bands? Learn how to make money on your shitty festival first. Its the same hypocritical argument. Somehow lifting yourself up by your bootstraps capitalism only matters for bands, not bad festival promoters…

            If you can’t afford to run a festival, don’t run a festival. Same reason why you’re not driving a Ferrari and wiping your ass with $100 bills. You can’t afford it.

          • tgsquier

            I think instead what they’ve done is the other direction. Don’t bitch because your crap band is too lame to play our festival, which is ours to do with what we want. We book the headliners, we front the dough. You want in you buy in because we already know that if your band had any kind of draw we would have already booked you. But an unsigned local act that thinks they should play because they think they are so talented and worthy? Next! (keeping in mind that I have no festival and am not saying what I would do but guessing with an idea of their position. None of this is against you or your band personally.)

          • GGG

            Again, same hypocritical argument. If you plan for a festival that you can only afford to have, let’s say 2 headliners and 4 direct support, then that should be your festival. Don’t plan for more hours of venue/tech/hospitality if you don’t have the funding or don’t think you’ll recoup the cost. Plus, it’s not even about paying the bands, they could literally pay those early slot bands $0 and this wouldn’t be remotely an issue.

          • Tgsquier

            I guess I’m not sure what you’re saying then. Bands are willing to buy on to shows that mean something to them. Increasing fan base, establishing relationships with other acts, building business ties for future shows, all kinds of reasons. Many shows are purchased as a package and locals aren’t going to get on. So, my question is what is the problem? I guess the comments and the nature of this article that has me involved is the mentality that bands have that they should get paid, that they can tell a promoter what his or her job is, and tell festival or concert promoters how they should be doing their jobs. If none of us pay to play then they will change mentality is simply wrong. It means bands deny themselves opportunities to perform. For every band bitching about festivals there are others that would gladly seize the day and turn it into a beneficial moment. If you don’t want to play, don’t. But don’t sit in your basement and tell festival organizers what they should or shouldn’t do. They don’t do it for you. In fact nobody will do it for you.

          • GGG

            See my response to you below, under the Ash post you replied to.

            To add to that, the problem is a large chunk of pay to play “opportunities” are bullshit. I learned this years ago the hard way. People blow smoke up bands’ asses all the time promising this that and the other thing, you just have to pay to play. Most of the time it ends up being worthless.

            And yes, I am telling festival promoters how to do their job because I’ve been involved in plenty of things where me and the people I work with raises plenty of money in investors and sponsors, or at the very least run some favors to cut costs. It’s hard work, but possible.


      I agree 100%. Local bands should promote themselves, and also sell tickets to help the success of the show. But this writer Ari is extremely ignorant to acusse the headlining bands of wrong doing. Ari, NOT disclosing the fact that club promoters contract the headlining bands, and the headliners play the club as contracted. The headlining bands, have ZERO control on what local bands the local promoter adds, or under what terms? Also, pay to play has been going on since the earlh 80’s, when Motley Crue started plaging Hollywood.


      TGSQUIER, I agree 100%!!! Local bands should promote themselves, and also sell tickets to help the success of the show. But this writer Ari is extremely ignorant to acusse the headlining bands of wrong doing. Ari, NOT disclosing the fact that club promoters contract the headlining bands, and the headliners play the club as contracted. The headlining bands, have ZERO control on what local bands the local promoter adds, or under what terms? Also, pay to play has been going on since the earlh 80’s, when Motley Crue started plaging Hollywood.

      • GGG

        Yes, bands should promote to sell tickets. For people to buy at the door, not by shelling out $1200 first. The promoters could do their research and see what bands DO promote and draw well locally. Not that hard. There’s this thing called the internet… Or if that’s too advanced, this thing called a phone, where they can call local venues.

  7. lol

    Presale advice… LOL! teach people something that matters. If presale is difficult that means you have no friends and no fans and no business playing a show.

    Hear me out… If you want to end presale in your bands life… ill tell you with 3 words: Write. Better. Songs.

    Ps. Please educate yourself on current local music industry practices. Your information is stale at best.

    • Music Specialist

      Reality is something most bands and artist I work with never understand.

      It is GREAT to have a promoter pay you to perform, but if you aren’t building the crowd for the event then WHY should they pay you? What is your worth?

      If you want to be in front of the Festival audience (and most bands just want to fuckin play) then pay to be on stage. This particular method is WAY more humane and interesting than what has been going on for the past 50 years of my existence. Rap acts pay upwards of $2500 to achieve a 15 min spot on several festival / conferences that are currently being promoted nation wide. International conferences and festivals start at $3000 USD for a 30 min performance AND they have to authorize your music first. During SXSW there were charges up to $20,000 USD for performances and I’m not even talking about the charges the individual clubs put on top of fees.

      Ideally every musician should get paid whenever they are performing for an event. Reality is that we are living in a culture that TAKES money not one that easily MAKES money.

      • GGG

        I use an agent for my acts, and even the smaller ones (1-2K FB likes) consistently get gigs with guarantees ranging from $50 to $350. Sure, we do door deals and the random free gig, but you don’t have to be some huge act to at least get your transportation and some food paid for. Solid relationships go miles further than money ever can.

  8. Then DO it your self No One is Forcing You

    There is no one forcing you to be successful in life/music business, if you do not like the business practices practiced by every club on Sunset, and Music festivals alike then continue to play in your garage for free for your friends and like Entitlement Sucks stated go ahead and DIY own music festival. Be prepared to pay for sound, lighting, security, permits, travel expenses and guarantees for already proved head linning bands, and then you are more then welcome to let whatever band you want perform.

    As for your HANDY Man at the Grocery Store comment, mine would be you’ve obviously never talked to a Stripper who PAYS TO PERFORM on stage, PAYS the DJ to play her songs, and PAYS a large percentage out on any private Dances. WHY??? Because He/She would quickly tell you that the head ache and hard work of running a club is a lot harder then just simply , ” Performing “

    • GGG

      Glad you think of musical acts as strippers.

      Though, some of them basically are, I’ll be honest haha. But you still get my point, I hope.

    • Willie PSYCHO

      Couldn’t have said it better myself


    Get your presale tickets from us, ya scallywags!

    We be PIRATE entertainment. We are also one of hte skeevy promoters of these completely huge jokes of lineups. The shows are terrible and no one shows up, except of course the 40,000 bands we ask to play these shows! yargg!!

    Be sure to find us on facebook and tell us what a great job we’re doing!


  10. R.P.

    capitalism. you don’t like it then leave the country or come up and execute a better solution.

  11. Talesin

    There are simply too many bottom-feeders out there that leap at an “opportunity” like this.

    We have similar problems locally; bottom-feeder bands play for free – at clubs that typically pay other groups. In short order, these clubs don’t want to pay anyone. Yes, the music is lousy, but yes, customers still come in regardless.

    The problem is the bottom-feeder mentality, not the greedy promoters.

  12. Chris Standring

    The bottom line is every band has a market worth. Nobody is going to make U2 buy pre-sale tickets because they have such a huge draw. There is no risk on the promoter’s part. But the first year out it would have been very different for them. They would have had zero positioning and likely had to do what they could to get on a stage. Yes of course the promoter needs to promote, but with zero market worth, what the hell is he promoting?? So it comes down to the band to prove themselves. When they can do that, after a few years of gigging, drawing an audience and learning how to make great records and learning how to put an incredible show together, only then will they have any positioning to negotiate with the promoter. Until that point, get the best deal you can with any situation you are comfortable. But don’t blame the promoter, he has quite enough on his hands.

    • CharlesG

      It’s the promoters job to book a mix of talent that will draw the crowds along with new talent (who they love) to showcase amongst the lineup.

      Festivals should NEVER work this way. Bands shouldn’t play big clubs when they aren’t ready for it just to say they played a cool club. Play small (non pay to play) clubs and work to get crowds there first. Then work your way up

      • GGG

        Why is this mindset only for bands? Why should some scrubs with no financial backing be allowed to put on a festival on the backs of artists dime? How is that not a failed prospect from the get go?

        I’d love to open a music venue here in NYC, but guess what? I don’t have the money to rent a space for the enormous costs, nor do I think I’d make the kind of money I’d like to, based on my experience working with/at venues here. So I don’t open a venue. Not that hard a concept. If you can’t afford to run a festival, don’t run a festival.

        • Ash

          Agreed, GGG. A lot of people who comment on DMN seem to jump first and think later. No one is saying the bands should be paid to play festivals when they’re just starting out and don’t have a huge fan base. What GGG, Ari, Paul, and others ARE saying is that a promoter that is inexperienced like a new band should not expect to put on a huge festival by scamming other artists – new or otherwise – because they cannot obtain sufficient financial backing.

          So many of you who comment here seem to have such animosity toward new artists or anyone who dares to criticize the old way of doing things. All I ever seem to read are replies cursing Spotify, streaming, piracy, and the end of the old major label physical sales model pining for the old glory days of wasteful spending and excess. Then you have the cynical commentator who scoffs at anyone who dares try to make a living as a musician calling them “entitled.”

          The irony is, for the overwhelming disdain over what the Internet has done to the music industry, the comments here on Digital Music News are the epitome of the worst parts of the Internet. I see little sympathy for the musicians starting out today from people on here (other than the DMN staff). I’d like to give you a pass and assume you’re not actually a musician so you can plead ignorance, but the more probable reality is that the majority of you nasty little bottom feeders are probably old, angry musicians who just didn’t cut it and want to blame everyone else for your own shortcomings.

          No one is asking for a handout. No one is asking to be paid handsomely to play when they’re starting out. All any artist wants is to be treated fairly in business and treated like a human being. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

        • tgsquier

          Hey man, not trolling you I swear, but explain how it’s the artists dime? I see it differently. It’s an opportunity for the unknown bands to perform with larger touring acts. The touring acts draw. The locals are offered a chance to play on the same bill. That has a value of its own. You don’t have to do it. But other bands that see opportunity available will pay for that slot. If they are willing to do that chances are they will increase their audience, or at least attempt to. The band is awarded a chance to grow. How else can a local band grow? By promoting their shows, by selling tickets…by doing everything that festival organizers are trying to get them to do. Lots of bands out there. Lots to choose from. Nobody should be treated poorly. Not bands by promoters. Not promoters by bands.

          • GGG

            Because as Ari says, fronting $1200 to buy 60 tickets you flip for $20 nets the band $0. And the more you sell the better your slot is. Let’s say some band sells 35-40 tickets, that’s not bad. But they’re out a few hundred bucks still and could still end up 2-3 hours before the headliner playing to their same fans anyway since they didn’t sell a lot more. Where’s the value in that? You just gave some bad promoters money for nothing.

            And sure, you could argue they shouldn’t have done the deal anyway if they didn’t think they’d sell 60 tickets, though that’s a moot point to me because they shouldn’t do pay to play anyway. I work with a couple acts that draw 60 at doors easy, and yes they promote. I would still never do this out of principle. If the festival wanted them, they could do their research and ask. Again, where relationships and not being a lazy fuck comes into play. You need guaranteed heads? Go ask some local mid-level venues which mid-level acts draw 100+ regularly. There’s your 60 heads for some shitty 6pm slot.

          • tgsquier

            Yes, yes…that doesn’t work. And, for an out of town band 40 tickets at that price is not a small feat. So, what about the obvious comeback which is that some bands are better than others, and if your band isn’t popular enough to move more tickets, don’t play this show…or, play the show with the lame time slot. When you think about it the totally fucked up scenario would be if every band sold all 60 tickets. Then what? Somebody has to play first, second, third…but I bet in a way the tickets thing is at least fair by its nature. Those who sell the most tickets play the best slot. The upfront buy on screws it up. They should be given x amount of tickets and then return with unsold tickets and cash sales. So ultimately they aren’t charged for unsold, but still compete for sales and time slots. Then it doesn’t cost them anything. How would you suggest this system changes?

          • GGG

            I mean, look, I’m all for the idea of being realistic in cases like these. So I’m not really arguing at all against the idea of “if your band sucks and brings nobody you shouldn’t be treated differently.” I’m 100% behind that. I’m by no means saying these festivals should stick terrible bands with no draw in front of headliners, so if it sounds like I am I apologize for being unclear.

            As for your other approach, I personally don’t like that scenario either and most likely wouldn’t do it because competing for slots like that has always felt amateur to me, BUT it’s infinitely better so I don’t have nearly as much against it. Because at least then there’s still a competition of sorts that would serve the festival better. It also puts the concept of selling tickets in a different light; Now you’re aiming for a positive goal (selling more tickets to get a better slot), as opposed to a negative goal (rushing to recoup your money.) So yea, I wouldn’t do it, but I have nothing against that, I guess.

  13. Shawn

    From my ongoing experience in the midwest, when a decent national comes into town, this is the ONLY way to get on the show. All of the big bands know it is happening and they dont care, why would they? They’ve already made it through the stage where they need to worry about getting shows, now its just about getting paid. The promoter doesn’t care about the quality of the show as long as they can sell tickets, and the venue owner doesn’t care about ANYTHING as long as there are people in the building buying overpriced drinks. Outing promoters, clubs, and bands that use pay to play will only get you blacklisted, which only gets you further from playing quality shows. People still buy the tickets to the pay to play shows, so…it’s really tough to say that the best thing to do is refuse to pay to play. That’s the way it all seems to work, there are too many useless people (promoters) with their hands in the pot, trying to take as much as they possibly can without caring how much is left over for others.

    • Ari Herstand

      Send all requests to me. I’ll out them.

      As a DIY musician who has opened for huge acts (from clubs to arenas), I can tell you first hand that I have never been offered one of these opening spots on a pay to play basis (I’ve always gotten a guarantee for these shows). The promoter/artist/manager actually care about the quality of the show. If a national headliner gets a shitty local opener on the bill, they’re going to be upset with their agent and the agent is going to be pissed at the promoter. That relationship will be severed. It’s a very shortsighted business model.

      The headliners DO care that their openers are quality. It sets the tone of the entire show.

      The promoter should know his/her scene and know the acts of quality that draw and can help buffer the bill.

  14. Ryan

    This IS what makes the music industry continue to go. This is done in EVERY state by EVERY major promoter. STFU and deal with it. if you don’t like it move the fuck on.

    • GGG

      False. Don’t listen to this guy, artists. DO move the fuck on, because you can do better.

  15. My Little Pony

    Either way there is gone conflicting arguments and it seems the ones who’s band sucks horribly and can’t sell tickets are the ones who have no fan base and are in absolutely no fucking place playing a festival or a show. you are not entitled to anything because you are in a band. I don’t know where this attitude of “i deserve to get paid for my shitty performance” from.

    Theres 2 ways to look at this:

    1. **CORRECT** You book yourself on the festival. You get your pre-sale. You promote your fucking band. Sell said tickets. Play festival. Watch cool bands. Make friends. Gain new fans. Shut the fuck up.

    2. **WRONG** You book yourself on the festival. You get your pre-sale. The whole band sits at home until a week before and bitches about how you can’t sell your pre-sale. Re-posting maybe 2 event invites which we all know don’t do shit anymore, and bugging all their friends last minute to buy tickets. 2 days prior you cry to your mom and ask for $$ because you suck at doing your job which is promoting your band.

    As everyone mostly said, you don’t have to play these shows. But to complain after voluntarily agreeing to play a show with certain guidelines after the fact is outright stupid. Go home. The scene is dead and you all ruined it.

    • You Cray

      ^^^ this guy gets it. Pirate Entertainment makes me wet!

    • GGG

      Why are shitty promoters entitled to a successful festival?

      • tgsquier

        Well, a successful festival would imply a decent promoter. The promoter is not working for the bands. They can hire their own marketing people. Promoter is just trying to fill seats. That audience size has its own cash value beyond ticket prices. A successful festival means a decent turnout. That is part of what the bands are getting on their end. A shit type promoter would have a weak, empty festival.

  16. I Would Pay

    I would pay to play for the right opportunity. Just as I would pay to take out an ad to promote my band. If your expectation is exposure, then you know that going in.

  17. Pat

    Honestly, getting paid $280 for selling 50 tickets isn’t that bad. I don’t agree with pay to play, but the newer generation of kids and bands are generally lazy as fuck. They dont print posters, print flyers, and pass them out at other shows. they don’t post about the shows online even though their phones are in their hands all day,but then start promoting 2 days before and wonder why they’re shelling out money to promoters who make them cover unsold tickets. The road goes both ways in the promoter/band aspect. Bands selling tickets tap into a market place that promoters just can’t reach no matter what advertising or promotion they do.

    Start a band, and practice for months. record demos, then continue to practice for months. make yourself solid. go out and play some shows. play shows that require ticket sales, and some that don’t. After about 3, if you can’t sell 25 tickets minimum for ANY show, whether you’re the only band or you’re with a bunch of other good bands… then you know you need work. You need to make your friends into fans. If you don’t write music that creates actual fans, then you’ll always be relying on friends to buy tickets 1 day before and not really into your band or the show, which also can hurt the other bands on the bill because they’re playing to people who don’t care that they’re playing either. all these bands start and a month later start playing shows to be cool, draw people the first two shows cause they’re new, but they never reallly crafted the songs, thus creating people that will never be back to the venue

    pay to play can be a good opportunity if you are a good band, know how to hustle, and don’t sweat real opportunities. These bands aren’t good opportunites to be buying onto unless you’re from out of state and want to break into the market.

    a band is a business if you want to really play music past the point of just having fun. you have to spend money to make money in multiple areas, just as any other company in this world does. In order for McDick’s to sell you their shitty ass fast food burgers, they pay money to advertise and get in front of the people withe their product, pay to play in a sense, is no different, and just another avenue of of marketing a band can do.

    again, the lineups that are posted are not worth paying to play, but if you had the option with someone like Slipknot, Linkin Park, anyone who draws a ton of people, it is definitely worth your hustle IMO.

    This promoter didn’t check out the band before the show. Made that mistake before and not doing it again. I want talent on my shows… rather have a solid as show and make no money, but everyones happy, versus sitting through terrible bands just to make a hundred bucks.

      • Pat

        fuck facebook event invites. go out to shows, go to the mall, give people free cds and download cards. get them into your music, then actually promoter your shows and you’ll never have trouble selling tickets is what im saying. pay to play is stupid, but if its the right opportunity or you know you can do it, then do it.

  18. Jamie

    I would love to see every band say no to pay to play, but when bookers only care about money, the chances of your new band getting booked to play a fest, tour or even a single date in your own town, it could be the opportunity to get yourself in front of the right ears… Unfortunately today, DIY booking gets you nowhere… How do I know that? Been doing this for 15 years. If you want EFFECTIVE results, don’t expect them. This industry is fucked. You need to be lucky. That’s it. Get heard by the right manager, the right agent, the right president of a record co and they need to want you and want to see you succeed as much as you do. It’s going to take over a million dollars most likely to get anywhere with your band and the larger bands in the industry pull the same shtick (if you wanna open one show for counting crows it will cost you over 20k, unless of course you are Adam’s friend or on his indie label)…. You see, it is all about networking and connections. Stop listening to these dumb articles and just get out there and expose yourself regardless of whether it is pay to play or not. Paying to play a fest in Cali or NY is beneficial because there is a majority ofthe music industry there. You will have a much better opportunity for something bigger to come of it than playing a fest in Alabama because of the industry exposure opportunity. This industry is active and your voice will get drowned out without securing major fests and tours. Not saying to pay to play every show, but some are totally worth the opportunity and potential outcomes, but do realize this industry requires fans and proof of profit before they get involved (Damn greedy, so-called-music-loving posers)

    • Debbie Downer

      Man life’s hard isn’t it. You’ve clearly never read Ari’s Take about how it’s possible to make a living as a DIY musician (and book successful tours). It’s not about luck. It’s about your work ethic.