Passing on Pay-to-Play

By: Bruce Wawrzyniak

Handing credit cardRecently I submitted a client’s music to a number of online destinations that stream original songs from indie musicians.  It’s nice that there are so many out there that basically operate from the “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” perspective.  In other words, “Hey indie artists, you have songs that you want aired and we need songs to play.”  It’s a nice, simple exchange.  Many of them even take to Twitter and tweet when your song is being played and you get tagged in the tweet.  So, in that case, hopefully listeners discover your music and, in turn, follow you on Twitter too (if not click through to find you on other sites).

The problem becomes when a site makes it appear as though they’ll happily take your song submission, but then pull back the curtain after you send it in.  This was the case with a site that I encountered that makes it seem as though sending them your music is as simple as an introductory email.

When you land on a website and they tell you upfront that there’s a mandatory submission fee, you know what the parameters are.  Granted, I don’t agree with them charging you to submit, but at least you can see that’s what they’re after before you send it in.  However, when they let you submit and then email you saying, essentially, ‘Great, we love your music and want to feature it – now just PayPal us (insert amount here),’ then you learn you just wasted your time.

Quite simply, there are so (so) many sites out there that do want you to pay to submit music, in one sitting you can spend all the money you just made at your latest gig.  Why would you do this when there are plenty out there who will let you send your song(s) in for free?  Furthermore, while some detail exactly what you’ll get for your fee, the scenario described at the end of the paragraph above does not, which means that maybe they’ll play your song ten times, maybe they’ll play it once, or maybe they won’t play it at all and you just got taken for ten bucks.  Now, multiply ten bucks by the number of people who are duped into thinking, “Wow, they want to feature my music?  Okay!”  Unless you sit for 24 consecutive hours listening to every song they play, you’ll never know that they did or didn’t play your song.

Disappointingly, pay-to-play extends to other areas too.

A club telling you that you have to pre-sell a certain number of tickets in order to participate in a showcase is another area where I suggest you take a pass.  (A spinoff is, ‘You sell the first xx tickets and then anything after that you keep the proceeds from.’  If it looks like and smells like pay-to-play, it is.)

I even interviewed someone recently for the episode of “TASCAM Talkback” that will come out next week and we talked about online shows and podcasts that want guests to pay to be interviewed!  I don’t think so.  Again, there are far too many out there where you don’t have to pay a penny to be a guest.  I have certainly never asked anyone for a cent to be interviewed on “Now Hear This Entertainment” and I have no plans to start.  I will practice what I preach, which is, just say no to pay-to-play.

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