Orlando Promoter Ryan Pemberton Explains the Harm of Bands Paying for Play

Ryan Pemberton

Last night, Orlando promoter Ryan Pemberton posted a rant about bands paying for play. I say rant. Yet, I found his Facebook post very informative. So informative I think more people need to read it. School these suckas, bro.

Don't Pay for PlayUPDATE: This damned thing done went viral!  Recently, Mr. Pemberton has received many Facebook requests. Ryan and I are in Orlando.  Peter Kissane from Germantown, Wisconsin alerted Ryan to another sneaky game promoters pull with bands. It’s almost the same as pay to play.  Yet, this is an updated version of it.  Let’s go back to school, kiddies!

Don't Pay for Play 2


65 thoughts on “Orlando Promoter Ryan Pemberton Explains the Harm of Bands Paying for Play

  1. Sounds like dude can’t sell tix… maybe his band sucks?

    • He’s a promoter! A good one, too.

    • I’m a promoter. I’ve sold tons of tickets. It’s my job. I just believe in doing it the old fashioned, and sucka free way. If you’re dumb enough to purchase tickets from a promoter for a show you’re playing, it’s likely because your band sucks and you can’t get on shows any other way.

      • I completely agree with Ryan 100%. Those who do not work in the music industry have absolutely NO idea how things work. You don’t hire a DJ for your wedding and then charge him to play. How does that make sense? That’s exactly whats happening.

      • I have booked about 1,000 shows over a 12 year career and I can wholeheartedly agree with how pay to play sucks. But it is a two edged sword in a sense….while the practice sucks and I never did it,as a promoter,I can also say it sucks when bands call and beg for shows yet draw nothing but flies to the venue. No promotional efforts on their part,no fliers,no mailers,no college radio push. And this was 15 years ago….now there is NO EXCUSE why a band can’t draw a decent crowd,social media has made promotion so much easier. You can develop mailing lists,band pages,Twitter,blogs,etc…that the fact we even are still talking “pay to play” is telling me some clubs can’t get bands who either won’t promote or have overplayed the market to the point where a show isn’t special. As far as “your band must suck” is complete ignorance and no self respecting booker would EVER be caught saying that. It takes a lot of hard work for a band to develop a draw,very,very rarely does a completely new act draw a crowd at the start. As a booking agent,you have your part to play as well….like finding and developing bands you think have promise,booking them good shows,either as a opener for a national or main supporting a strong local show. A lot of bands don’t know how to promote themselves when they start out,as a buyer,its part of your job to show them the tricks of self promotion….just sitting on your ass and filling out a calender doesn’t make you a promoter.

      • I’m an entertainer… I entertain people. That’s the job description. As a promoter, you promote venues and entertainers (like me)… you get the word out to people and do the necessary marketing that draws them to the show. It’s my job as the entertainer to make sure that they enjoy themselves there and come back.

        Now, I don’t mind spreading the word on upcoming gigs and by proxy, generating a greater fan base. It’s not in my job description, though, to promote your event. I’m paid to entertain not be your marketing firm. If this is what you expect (as a promoter) then you had best pay me accordingly.

        Pay to play is bullshit and it’s an excuse for promoters to be lazy.

    • Justin Beiber isnt having any problems selling tickets…does that mean his band doesn’t suck? You sound like igmo moron and you are most likely part of the problem.

      • Goremaggot, I posted something nasty. Yet, I realize whom you referred to. My apologies.

    • Sounds like a bitter crybaby

    • Fuck pay to play. He has a great point. Times have changed and sometimes you have to deal with it unless you don’t. Wish there were more like him that dont then maybe the scene could get back to what it once was

    • if your an entertainer you should be payed

  2. 130 shows booked in 7 years and NEVER once have I done Pay to Play in any format … I’ve booked Dying Fetus/Aborted, Metal Church, Anvil, Master, Possessed, DRI, Shadows Fall, Kataklysm/Aborted, Onslaught/Artillery, Manilla Road, Sepultura/Destruction, Crowbar, Krisiun/Origin and more without making bands sell tickets or pay me upfront X amount of dollars … The few times that I did come up short I paid out of pocket with no issue … Big tours can be done without that BULLSHIT and I am proof of it !!!!

    • What the fuck is a “Traditional Church of Satan” ?!? I love all you pseudo Satanic asshats who couldn’t cut it in the actual Church of Satan because they don’t understand the difference between being an anti Christian reactionary douche and having one ounce of actual understanding of what being an actual Satanist entails. “Satanists are born and not made!” Everything else is just a bad photocopy!

  3. complete and utter bullshit pay to play is! i remember when i first heard about it; the amount of tickets you sold determined play order. so, you had shows with absolutely shit bands ‘headlining’ cause someone’s parent bought a fuckton of tickets. i hear more and more clubs are doing this shit, the fucking Whiskey in LA is. someone needs to shake this shit up, the music business is foundering and it makes me sad

  4. The venue/promoter need a split of the ticket sales regardless of if the tix are sold as pre-sale or if they are sold DOS. I don’t see a problem in handing in pre-sale ticket money to the venue as long as the band receives a fair and reasonable split. Now, paying money up front is a different issue..

  5. That same shit went on in the 80s. Not like it is something new. We did a show where they gave us tickets to sell but we kept all the money from what we sold. Don’t like that either really. But would not buy tickets to sell.

    • From Wikipedia: “The practice began in Los Angeles, California, during the 1980s. It has become common in many U.S cities at low-turnout all-ages shows where performers are required to guarantee a minimum attendance through pre-show ticket sales. Pay-to-play gigs are a contentious practice in the UK, and some of the largest pay-to-play gig organisers have generated large amounts of discussion and criticism”

  6. The promoters sound like don king! I’ve been playing professionaly for 35+ years, people will try to fuck you over in a mila second in this bizz…. Never believe what you hear, and only half of what you see!

  7. It is always pay to play if you have no audience for your music. Your talent has no value unless it has fans. if you have “fans” that do not want to pay to see you perform or buy your merch, then they are not real fans. Justin Timberlake SOLD OUT 3 nights at The Forum in LA. Who bought those tickets? His “fans”. Why? Because real fans pay to support their favorite artists!

    • “Because real fans pay to support their favorite artists!” Exactly.

      • Fuck N A. I do. I buy my bros presales to help him because they have forced this issue here and the scene was weak for a moment and they got away with this. But I am one of the few here in Denver that fully support the hardcore metal scene here in Denver. Myself, Denver Heavy Metal Society and a select few others go to shows every weekend and many week days due to the fact of our genres. I always buy merch and exploit the upcoming shows here, but we are far and few in between

    • On the other hand many of the greatest and most original artists of all time had little or no audience for their music early in their careers. People are often slow to recongonise truly unique talents. If real promoters with true entrepreneurial spirit had not assumed some risk, or asked those bands to “pay to play” (in any form of the arrangement) they may never have built a fan base and the world would have missed out. The Beatles did not pay to play the Cavern Club or even the shitty red light district clubs in Hamburg, in their early days of building a following. yes times have changed since then but I still believe no artists should “pay to play”.

  8. This bull crap about having to pay to play if you have no fans puts the emphasis on MONEY completely and discredits the artists, their talents and the propensity for new bands/artists to actually gain fans by playing in clubs and getting exposure. Playing for free when your first starting out is one thing, it’s acceptable and perhaps expected for a period of time. But “pay to play” This is another business plan for some middle man to bilk rich kids parents of money. I know of a club in Columbus Ohio that doesn’t even charge a door cover for people to get in and yet They still make enough money to pay the bands from the money strictly from bar sales. Ya have to give people incentives to spend money and let them make the choices to sort it out fairly. Bands get better the more they play out. Keep drink prices low. People will buy more, charge an affordable amount at the door if you need to. This pay to play just reinforces a rich kid’s bands only – sort of atmosphere. Paying a club or a middle man to play sounds like a sleezy mob trick. I’ve been playing music for over 25 years and would NEVER do this. And if you pay to play, support that sort of system, or are tempted to pay some asshole tickets ahead of time and then be forced to resell them, or any of these sorts of pay ahead systems, then your an fuckin’ idiot. This is the ultimate criminal music INDUSTRY con. And the bands and musicians become the ultimate suckers. We don’t need sleazy, greedy, musick INDUSTRY types meddling in the affairs of rock n roll. We need decent honest people who have a knack for how to handle their own business, not greedy BIZNEZZ (eh fuhgetabout it types running and ruining everything.

    • Amen. Unfortunately this door has already been opened and the party is well underway. It will be hard to turn it around. Even more unfortunate is If my bros want to open for big bands like Exodus, Cattle Decap, Death just to name the most recent, that are booked at the pay to play venues (which most here are) than they are forced to do the presales. And as a true avid supporter and in many cases lifelong friend, I buy their presales because they need them sold. It sucks and its wrong but thats “how it is now”. Last week one of my friends bands opened for Hatebreed. I bought presales from him the day before the show. Ticket said show starts at 8. The day of the show my friend posted on fb event listing that the time changed and they were going on at 7. THIS PISSED ME THE FUCK OFF so I posted for him to have the venue music promoter (who I also went to school with 20 years ago) to make one of the touring bands go up at 7. The fkn ticket says 8. My buddies band – being the only local in the line up- were the only band having to sell presales and it us hard enough getting lame shit local people out to see the local metal (which in my opinion blows the national bands off the grid) & now the want to put them up an hour before the ticket says??? Fuck that. Support your local music first or just stay the fuck outta all my mosh pits period. I paid $109 to go see Slayer ST and Exodus last summer because I did not purchase my ticket within the first week. Trust this… the rant I threw up on that fb event page was all but a book of how fucked up the music scene is now. I fkn work my ass off for Denver Heavy Metal Society to get people to go to see the local metal here and I am way less than satisfied especially when I get jewed for a national show because I was not prompted to purchase my ticket right away

  9. Anyone know where I can buy some tickets?.. I never leave my studio.

  10. And what bout bands paying for a slot in a tour? They feed the headliners, play in front of few people and are treated like garbage. And as they get home they’ re proud of “having toured with….”

  11. I’ve thought about exploring this option but I think I’m convinced to give it a miss now.

  12. Via: Julian Vomit from Black Lung, Denver, Co
    the bands that sell the presale tickets are allowing venues and promoters to take advantage of them while ruining the once flourishing music scene. Once upon a time My band was paid large guarantees to play the venues paid well When I booked shows at my venue downtown every single band got paid every time I threw a show they got paid fair my guarantee for myself was a $200 and everybody else got more but I got paid a service charge. This free and pay to play shit has Got to STOP being a musician is a living for a lot of people I never worked my entire life all I ever did was music but me as a musician would walk away with a minimum of $200 so I got paid putting on the show and all the bands got paid always and fed and partied but everybody one when It came to me putting on a gig Facebook is not any help inviting people to events on facebook doesnt work first of all most of the people arent in the are second of all facebook charges you to post if you want everyone who follows you or likes you to see the event if you dont pay then only one percent of your friends/followers will actually see your event other than the people you actually tag in the invite facebook will also begin to charge you for event posts if too many people ignore your invite I have seen a friend complain about it. anyone who promotes events solely on facebook is a joker. This is a lie to everybody will say they will be there but then you dont see their faces Its all fucked up you can see which bands are doing it too they all huddle together and play together and they try to leach off of each other istead of trying to build a name for their own band it almost seems to be a fag fest going on as you can see I wont ever huddle like this and I will never ASK to be put on a bill or to play with these bands a band needs its own clientele and fans a band needs to develop on their own this huddling is all bullshit if your a true musician after the gig and sometimes during Id get my dick sucked or laid by a fine chick not hanging out with a bunch of dude I hanged out with the chicks bj’s in the corner or backstage You dont see me on any bills with anyone because I dont build my reputation off of other peoples bands everybody sees these same bands over and over its so stale already I cant see how anyone still goes to see them it takes the fun out of music and promoting shows. Its not my cup of tea how they are doing now renting a venue and putting on a real show is the only way to go and not playing the same bars with the same band over and over I have never played the same venues over and over. This is another thing that ruins it for the scene different gigs at different places playing bars all the time is cheesy and lame already wanna be scenester bands you see the flyers every week a good band you only get to see once or twice a year. One day I am gonna rent me a big venue and put on a show and you will see how it is done. I can afford to rent a venue now if I wanted to but I will only book certain bands to make a draw If I cant make a draw of people I am not doing a show because I pay the bands if there is no draw there is no show because I cant pay the bands but when I used to put shows on downtown I had a job to cover paying a band even for a poor draw I always had food for the bands because I knew they were hungry from the road I was feeding them I did it for everybody I am serious about music if you got to see my band play you are lucky because I wont play with these new scenester bands they are a joke destroying everything that bands like mine built many years ago we are a guarantee band sell out the house no ticket pushing just pure underground with real promoting No bending over for me as I would say fuck you bud… not for me have a good day thanks for the nice post Have a good day Holly there is a band gonna play by my house if you want to go to a show next month MDC is playing a couple blocks away from my house a little underground show at seven circle place it think let me know if you want to go I might want to go to this show its coming up i feel comfortable because its not at a bar let me know I like underground shows especially ones at houses the real underground I want to see some real underground are you down I will pay if you want to go i can even pick you up if you need a ride. Let go if you want to go to a show i am ready to go see a show 😉

    • Is there a point here? Not so far. Slow down. Buy some punctuation. Put together a thought. Then try to use your words to say something coherent. We’re all very impressed that you “got bj’s from a bunch of dudes hanging out backstage….” But that’s pretty much the only information that made it out of your big bag of rant.

      • JefG, I am not a journalist, reporter nor a groupie. I do not know you and you do not know me. If you did you would know this and if you were into metal here in Denver we would more than likely be friends. Even if you were a dick to me because I help and support this scene as much or more than anyone. You have the choice to read my comments or not. What exactly is the point of you being rude to me here? Nothing, except to harp on me. Go ahead, I need to toughen up. I’m too sensitive lately about ridicule and I need the practice.

    • Buy yourself some punctuation and maybe a paragraph or two before you tour, FFS.

  13. If you can’t sell tickets to a show, don’t agree to do it in the first place. Having bands sell tickets assures their crowd will show up, for a discounted rate. Anyone disagreeing with this is just plain lazy. More people means a better show, more bar sales, more merch sales, everyone makes more. You don’t build an audience or a band by “HOPING” people show up. Doesn’t “harm” a local community at all. Lame excuses!

  14. Reblogged this on WhyNotBeMe's Blog and commented:
    A rock band union would rule, but a good start would be the truth:

  15. Most bands need to watch Joe Bonnamassa How one Man beat the Industry on youtube. Everyone in some whay pays to play. I am a musician who also owns stock in a promotion company. Which has one client… my band. Our company rents the theaters hures sound and lights and handles all expenses ticket sales promotions etc. We are small time. However. I feel that its the only way to play in a quality venue pay our musicians fairly and not have to throw a fit about pay to play or the nonexistent scene in my remote farmland area. The pay to play has been around for years. I have never done it… well I pay now buybon my own terms.

  16. “Fuck Pay To Play”

    Translation: Fuck you for not paying for our unsigned band to play when we do not have a reliable established fan base that will buy tickets to at least cover the basic expenses of putting us on stage. We give our CDs and merchandise away because nobody will pay for them. We don’t promote ourselves unless we are playing a show and then we have maybe 1 or 2 guys in the band that do all the promoting. Nobody knows who we are. We have shitty equipment. We are not played on the radio. We lie to promoters about our draw and then make up excuses as to why we only had 8 people show up after having 2 months to promote our rock star band. So fuck selling tickets and paying to play, you should be paying us because we deserve it! Oh wait, we can’t play the show anyway because we are going into the studio to record.

  17. We’re a band from Orange County, CA and a lot of the Venues out here are “Pay to Play” and we have been against it for the longest time. Denying big shows especially when it comes to greedy promoters who will just ask you to play and don’t do anything else to promote the show and walk away with the money the bands brought in, receiving little to no cut from it. A group out here has started to book venues and show for bands where they don’t have to pay to play and actually get paid to play. We’ve written a song called “Pay to Play” to raise the awareness of this and sleazy promoters. Check us out “Dreams of Vertigo” on Spotify or on this BotB page: http://www.battleofthebands.com/u/dreamsofvertigo that has our songs it. Fuck Pay to Play! We work hard on our songs, we use our own funds to record and travel, and all we want is to play shows and share our music and thoughts with the world.

  18. These are some of the reasons I started Orange County Music League with my friend. We are going to war with Pay to Play right where it started in SoCal. I also write articles about it occasionally on my blog http://www.JohnSafari.com
    Check out what we do at http://www.OCMusicLeague.com

  19. 20 years as a promoter and never once done a pay2play show. Any band that has to pay for a show is encouraging this nasty practice- but they think bookers will be impressed f they have a big name they have supported – or a certain venue on their list of places played. We are not!.

    However – I am talking about the Underground scene for the most part – where some bands have a fan base of 20 or less – so all I am really doing is showcasing their music – BUT they still think I owe them something (fee, petrol, food, guest list, back line supplied etc) – Sorry but nobody owes you anything and that tired old argument of “we are the talent,you pay for us to entertain” really doesn’t wash when even if the promoter hired an air balloon with your name it it – you still wouldn’t attract numbers that justify me “investing” in your band further that I have already by giving you a show (as an independent promoter who has to hire venues I have huge expenses and already take the all risk).

    Until you have enough of a fan base to commend a guarantee you are on your apprenticeship (and you need to build up the interest in you as a product with your own marketing, P.R, management etc – not just rely on playing small shows and hoping you can poach a few fans).

    I have also booked some huge shows across the board (Orange Goblin to Adam Ant and bigger – and every genre in between). The bands who get to open these shows are the ones who I personally see have treated their band as a business investment, understand its a two way street, remember that I gave them their initial platform and have acted in a professional manner in the short and long term. THEY get these shows , they dont pay a penny to get on them and usually – as they climb the ladder they remember the good promoters and venues, recommend and return.

    Pay 2 play should be made illegal – but so to should a part time band playing for fun (with no real ambition (or talent) unless they are handed stuff on a plate) expecting to be treated like rock stars to their fan base – who all fit in one car.

  20. My post about this back in 2013….

    Don’t sell yourself, your fellow musicians, or your talent short.
    Take a stance and say NO to Pay to Play!!! You have far too much to offer to essentially become a non-paid employee of any establishment.

    What the bar owners are NOT realizing is that they’re putting their entire business in the hands of the artists that are being booked. If the bar expects the artists to promote the show exclusively, they are effectively controlling the success of the venue. That means the bar has to re-invent its clientele EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. And when that band, with that crowd, moves to another bar the next night… they’re taking the audience with them. You’re letting the bands call the shots. Which ANY businessman will tell you is a stupid business model.
    The venue has to be sustainable on its own two legs. You don’t see Sports Bars blaming the NBA or the NHL for not having enough fans come out to watch sports games on their big screen TVs do you?
    Music is but one element of the decor. The fact that the bar has chosen live music over canned music should not change the expectations of the bar owner. You don’t ask the DJ to call up all is friends to come out do you? If the DJ’s good they will come. If the band is good, likewise.

    What has stopped happening is that bar owners no longer vet their talent because they automatically expect the band’s to bring the people sight unseen. The most successful music venues have survived because they have the equivalent to a record label A & R man on staff. He/she is someone that has their pulse on the music scene and books groups according to city-wide popularity.

    Wanna consistently put butts in the chairs? Then your music menu has to be as rich and diverse as the food/alcohol menu. It will lead to regular customers…and you will no longer have to rely on the risky business proposition of inconsistent band audience turn outs.

  21. “Fuck Pay To Play”

    Translation: Fuck you for not paying for our unsigned band to play when we do not have a reliable established fan base that will buy tickets to at least cover the basic expenses of putting us on stage. The only reason we don’t want to sell tickets is because we can’t. We give our CDs and merchandise away because nobody will pay for them. We don’t promote ourselves unless we are playing a show and then we have maybe 1 or 2 guys in the band that do all the promoting. Nobody knows who we are. We have shitty equipment. We are not played on the radio. We lie to promoters about our draw and then make up excuses as to why we only had 8 people show up after having 2 months to promote our rock star band. So fuck selling tickets and paying to play, you should be paying us because we deserve it! Oh wait, we can’t play the show anyway because we are going into the studio to record.

  22. Music is art and everyone’s a critic. The real issue is there’s no money in it anymore and everyone wants their piece of the pie. When you walk into a “pay to play” venue and it has a cobbled together POS sound system with a couple disco lights and some schmuck behind the sound board that can’t figure out where feedback is coming from (helping to provide exposure for your band), you need to remember you’re paying for this service, you’re paying to provide this venue with a customer base… If they can’t afford to pay entertainment a stipend for their services, maybe they should spin discs instead (they pay for these, unless of course they pirate them). I see these same venues using your recorded material, pictures, etc to promote their business. Your talent, your fan base, your time = their $?? Think about it…

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