Pay to Play is Not the Way!


Music is pretty much the best thing in this world, well at least to those of us who play it and listen to it constantly. We study it, put all of our time, our energy, our hearts and our souls into it, and so on. Now I ask you, why the HELL would we ever pay someone or some venue to let us play? That is ridiculous! Los Angeles is the only place where something so absurd and unfair would ever exist! If you go on the east coast, not only do the venues pay you, but you get free drinks and food most of the time as well. Actually, if you go anywhere outside of LA that is pretty much the treatment you get. That’s the way it should be and should always be.

In L.A., you’re lucky if you can find a place that doesn’t want you to pay them. If by some crazy fluke, you’re fortunate enough to find this, they certainly don’t give the band free drinks. Instead there is always some kind of fee involved. Let’s say for arguments sake, you find a gig where you don’t have to pay on the Sunset Strip. There is literally nowhere to park where you don’t have to pay the lot, and every meter in sight is still operated until 2am, so either way you are paying. It is bad enough that venues on the strip don’t have their own parking lots, or at the very least a couple of spaces for the musicians playing the venue to park. If I play a show and have to pay for parking out of my own pocket, then the venue most certainly should reimburse the band no questions asked. That is the very least they should do, I mean honestly, is it really so much to ask that the band members get one free drink?


I wish I could get every musician in this town to boycott the pay to play venues, and make them realize that if they would refuse these ridiculous gigs, then venues would have to pay them for their entertainment. It’s bad enough not getting paid at all, so why spend your own money when you are the one providing a service? I mean I can’t tell you how many bands I have met who have paid a crazy amount of money just to play The Whiskey or The Roxy. Now don’t get me wrong, those are two very great historical venues, but the thing that kills me is these bands always think that some big A&R guy is coming out to see them headline or whatever. A&R people are actually very savvy, they know that you paid a fee to play there!

I’ve just never heard of anything like this in my life. Musicians are artists, and it ought to be a privilege for people to come out to see them play and be entertained. Musicians are very well respected in other parts of the country. Los Angeles needs to wake up, smell the coffee and start paying us what we deserve. We spend hour upon hour rehearsing, putting projects together and arranging pieces of music that we love to play and it just doesn’t make sense for us to pay yet another fee to do something we love. So come on all you music cats out there, let’s make some friggin’ changes in this town and get the respect we deserve!

How do you feel about the notion of pay to play?

  • Mickey

    I guess it’s OK for teenagers who can grow from the experience to pay to play at the whiskey or whatever (as they can sell tickets to their friends at school), but for the experienced gigging musicians, hell no! It would cost me and my band mates $15-20 to park on sunset and lug our heavy gear from our apartment or studio to the venue and then to bring many of our friends, family and fans to their club…. we get no love! Plus, anytime they offered us a portion of the door, they would screw us over on the payout, bastards!

  • Jennifer

    Good article and you are exactly right! As long as there are musicians out there who are so desperate to play that they are willing to pay a venue, the rest of us are screwed. They are setting the standard here in LA. Everyone needs to boycott. There was a time when a musician could actually make a living in this town, but those days are over. Come on people, let’s make it happen again. DON’T PAY TO PLAY!!!

  • Frank

    I don’t mind playing some parties for friends for free, and I do just that quite frequently. I do stick to my guns with venues though. They are making bank on us and have to kick down or its a no go. My band has even gone as far as to only give partial song samples on our demo for clubs. They are not getting a free CD of us to play when we are not there either. Some clubs do the right thing- most don’t. Its a crapshoot. Abby doesn’t realize how deep the rabbit hole goes though. I know bands that pay thousands to open for headliners on the east coast. Its business. So when you see some band opening for a big time band that you never heard of before-its most likely they are paying through the nose for the exposure. The truth sucks. The industry is corrupt because we allow it to be.

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