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Should I Pay to Play a Gig?

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Question: Should I Pay to Play a Gig?
Answer:

In a word, no. Promoters who are out to take advantage of you can find lots of ways to set things up so that you actually end up paying to play a show, and you should never go for any one of them. Don’t pay a “fee” to get on a bill for a show (aside from application fees to appear at musical festivals and conventions), don’t cover part of the venue costs, and don’t pay a promoter back for their expenses if they end up out of pocket at the end of that night. That is the risk they take as promoters, and any promoter worth their salt will never ask you to chip in to cover the expenses of a show they are putting on. The only exception to this rule is if you have made an agreement with the promoter to “co-promote” the show. In that case, you are taking on part of the risk for the show and are responsible for helping the promoter cover the costs.

There are some costs involved in shows that a promoter is NOT responsible for, however. Unless you have an agreement stating otherwise, the promoter is not responsible for:

  • Travel costs
  • Accommodation
  • Food and Drink

There is one exception to the pay to play rule. Sometimes, bands "buy on" to major tours. For instance, if a top selling group is doing a big tour, a band may "buy on" to the tour to be the opening act, so they get a chance to play in front of a large crowd. Generally, these kinds of deals should be reserved for these exact circumstances - top selling acts, large venues, large money tours. Buying onto a tour should not enter the picture when you're just getting started in your career.

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