I’ve never been an advocate of pay to play venues. The majority of musicians I know believe that the bar should be paying the band members and drawing the crowd. The pay to play mentality insists that bands have bring a minimum crowd, whereby they collect a portion of the proceeds from the admission costs. The venue will in turn pay the band after the show a portion of the proceeds that the band originally collected.

There has always been a debate that bands starting out need exposure and have to grow their following. The pay to play advocates fully believe that if you want to play their venue, then you have to bring in the people.

The venue owners are not accountable for bands being paid and it is usually in the hands of the promoter that money is being exchanged. For the most part promoters are working with the venues and have a deal struck between them. This keeps the venue out of the equation, when dealing with the bands. Although this isn’t always the case, venue owners need to be held more accountable and ensure that the bands are being accommodated by the promoters. The problem is that promoters don’t always “keep their word” when deals are stuck with bands.

If a band brings in 20 people all of which that paid $10 to enter the venue, then clearly there is money and the band should be paid a portion of the proceeds. Unfortunately, bands don’t always get paid what they should. This can be a venue and promoter issue and is not the case with all bars.

It almost seems like a contract needs to be signed outlining exactly what deal is being stuck between the band, promoter and venue. It’s a lot of bullshit to endure when so little $$ is being passed around. We want to play music, entertain crowds and fill venues and put some cash in our pockets to help pay for all the time and money we have put into this craft, without having to get lawyers involved.

Just make sure that it is clear up front what the band is getting in exchange for providing entertainment for a venue that is profiting. If it is a portion of the door, count all your friends that came to your show tell the promoter and venue. That way it is clear to them what percentage you deserve and should be paid. To be a real stickler, find out how many drinks all your friends/fans purchased and use this amount when negotiating your payment. If bars are trying to stiff bands have hard figures available to back up your case.

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