Say no to ‘Pay to Play’

25 Apr

via youtube

By Allen Maddox

This is a promotional video made by Gorilla Music. They run a battle of the bands where bands compete by selling pre-sale tickets. This idea of ‘pay to play’ where bands sell all the tickets and reap none of the rewards is a problem I’ve noticed is spreading across the country.

But maybe we should all come up with a new system so that EVERYONE has a little ‘skin in the game’ Here’s my initial proposal: Venues pay the promoters. All advertising/promotion materials are paid for by bar (since the own the property, pay the staff, own the liquor they have the largest capital interest and the money to do this). Then they pay the promoter a commission on sales to promote.

This way the promoters only incentive is to sell out and they have much less financial risk. Bands are viewed as independent contractors for the evening and are not paid on draw or door sales, but instead a flat fee up front. On empty nights that will be good for them, on sold out nights it will suck but overall the pay will even out especially if they keep merch sales.

After that we all stop guessing on what people want to pay and instead of wasting street team’s time passing out paper flyers in the 21st century we get some real market data and find out what people WANT to pay for a show, when people want to be there, and how late they want to be there.

On nights the bar doesn’t have consumer interest in local music then do something else of just don’t be open. I’ve worked with almost every bar in Denver now and I can tell you Trailside Saloon is the only one with a built in draw.

I’m not sure if the owner knows exactly what he’s doing, but he has found a target market, markets to it, and develops the show at Trailside around it.

This is just an initial proposal, but i’d love to work with a group of venues promoters and bands interested in this. And just so I don’t look like I completely think the venue and promoter should put in all the work, here’s to the bands: If you haven’t put in the start up capital into radio quality recordings, gear, and practice time. Don’t even ask to get booked.

Bar’s can’t establish their reputation as a quality local venue if they’re booking whatever dropped tuned moron that drove down there. We ALL need to step it up, pre-sales don’t work, I have market data to prove that, everyone keeps telling me ‘Denver’s scene is so hot’ and they always quote the Lumineers, Churchill, Air Dubai, the metal scene is slow.

It’s slow because every talented metal band here sells the same 25 pre-sales every week to the same 25 people. No one is working on developing the cold market that this states indie/alternative scene has…

Gorilla music is just another contributor to this problem. To manage and market successfully in the local market, it is important to say no to ‘pay to play’ shows.


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