Almost everyone is against "Pay-to-play," but once you understand the reasons behind it, the more it makes sense. There are always exceptions, but when 1.9 million bands are wanting to be that exception and want to play for free and get paid to play, it is just NOT a realistic possibility.
Music artists have this misconception about the entertainment industry as a whole. I know, because I own a radio station at KGUP 106.5FM "The Emerge Radio Networks" and own a music awards platform called the Artists In Music Awards and I'm out there listening to artists complain about it. When I used to manage bands, I would moan and complain about it too, but then my eyes started to open and quickly realized that it's our responsibility to build a fanbase and promote ourselves to get fans out there to see my bands perform. The venue relies on you to bring in a crowd, otherwise, if they book just any act, then they put themselves at risk of closing down.
|Hillbilly Herald performs at Viper Room. Photo by Natalie Kardos|
Let's put things in perspective. If you want to display your art, you need to rent the space to display your art. The film industry is no different. The director has to rent the theatre to show his or her new film. People in these industries have to do the same exact thing the music artists do by sharing the financial responsibility of pre-selling tickets using their own resources. The rest of the sales are at the door and the success of that show is 100% dependent on how well your promoted your event. Absolutely nothing is done for free because you're awesome. There is always a cost of doing business. If it was free, then the venue is setting themselves up for failure and won't be able to pay their $30,000 monthly rent and won't be able to pay $75,000 in payroll to for security and staff. If there is no financial incentive to own a venue, guess what? It goes away. This is the hard reality check and bands have got to get their heads out of the clouds. It's not about how great your music is. It's about your draw. When we deal with venues, we are no longer in the music business. We're in the food and beverage business. If the club is not selling drinks and baskets of burgers and fries while you're playing, then you are probably not going to get a second invite until you can demonstrate that you have a draw.
|Crowd at Key Club in Hollywood. Photo by |
If you want to play the LA/NY game, it's best to bit the bullet, pay the bill at the venue and sell or giveaway the tickets for free, but don't do this a week before the show. Plan it months ahead, schedule radio interviews to do ticket giveaway contests, and promote like crazy. Find fanatic fans in the area that are willing to create a small street team to pass out flyers and post flyers on college bulletin boards, etc.
Let's put this scenario into another perspective. Los Angeles is vast and clubs are abound. Anyone can go anywhere they want and see some popular artist at any given night. Why would they go see someone from Small Town, USA they've never heard of and why would a venue book a nobody? These are some of the questions bands members and managers have to ask themselves. Most artists live in a fantasy world and cannot grasp why someone won't book them. Of course, there are always exceptions, but it's not the norm.
How are these so-called exceptions made? Well, a booking agent will look at your artist profile. They go to your Facebook page, your Reverbnation page, Youtube account, and your Twitter account and they look at how many fans you have and they look at all your activity. Are your fans active? Are they interacting with you? Are you interacting with them? Are they taking photos of you, sharing your posts, and retweeting your Tweets. Do the videos of you have a lot of people in the crowd? If you fit the profile they are looking for, then they begin to look at other aspects like, does your music fit the theme of what they typically book for their venue. If you meet the above requirements, it's almost irrelevant that you sound good.
While you're waiting, you really need to keep touring other venues to build up your fanbase and focus on social media branding. Don't wait for the perfect opportunity. The longer you wait, people will begin to forget you. Work on building your own draw, otherwise it's going to cost you.