Another Problem with Pay to Play: The Death of the Local Scene

Musicians Against Pay to PlayDamn have I been wanting to review some local music lately. Sure, there are benefits to doing reviews of decade old, multi-platinum selling records, but I miss saying “Hey, check out this awesome NEW band!” While I enjoy writing about Weezer’s blue album or In This Moment’s “Blood” (and of course the hits that they bring from people in other area codes and countries) there is something to having a band write and say “Hey, thanks for the awesome review!” or “Fuck you asshole! You’re an ignorant piece of shit that doesn’t understand my art!”

Ah, the good old days. I was definitely keeping my ear closer to the ground this time last year, but that was before In Case You Haven’t Noticed…

I’d hoped that by now some of the problems I was having would have passed. I’d thought that more bands would rise to replace the ones who broke up and the scene would be getting ready for summer by now.

I was wrong.

So I tagged along with a buddy to a Pay to Play show his band was doing. And while I’ve grown so jaded and cynical in the past months I though noting would surprise me, this show shocked me with how pathetic it was.

I missed the first band. I haven’t been in Kent, OH for nearly 2 years and I wanted to take a stroll around the newly renovated downtown. But it was just a guy with an electric piano and a floor tom. I don’t think I missed much.

The next group were high school kids whose set consisted of 4 songs. Two were Avenged Sevenfold covers and one was a Black Keys cover. Their original was the only song where the rhythm guitarist played his instrument instead of singing. I’m not sure what the female singer was doing on the stage. She just kind of stood there. Musically they have some potential.

After they finished with their 15 minutes we had to wait for the organizers to find the next group. Usually events like this are packed at the beginning. Every band shows up, loads in and finds out when their set is. Then they hang around until they play and leave. At this event everyone found out when their set was, left, then came back and played, then left again. As such, when one band finished early, there was a lot of dead air while we waited for the next band to return from their stroll around beautiful downtown Kent.

I liked the next band. They were a pop-punk group with a nice amount of snarl and a necklace of safety pins. When they were done my friend’s band started setting up. There was supposed to be another group between them, but they cancelled last minute. It’s crazy how much the lineups for these shows change. Of the 8 bands advertised on the flyer, 5 were given set times on the list at the door. Of those 5, 4 actually showed up. I don’t know where the other 2 bands came from.

I like my friend’s band. They have good energy and a unique sound. It was sad that they only had about half a dozen people to pay attention to them, but then again, that’s the largest crowd that was gathered that night.

The next band was an indie rock outfit that didn’t want their set to be cut short by the microphone problems that made their sound check run longer than anticipated. Then when they were given adequate time to perform their set they couldn’t decide which song to play.

The only difference between the “headlining” act and the rest of the bands is that they had a lot more money. Their equipment was better and they had stage props. They didn’t have any more creativity or talent than anyone else. It was the same melodic metalcore I’ve heard countless times before (and sadly, will hear countless times again). They had the same tired riffs. The singer who sounded like Chester Bennington from Linkin Park was new, but I can name at least 2 other bands I’ve seen who have a song called “Let Go.” I was just glad to get out of there.

Aside from the fact that your view to this scene is provided by a malcontent, what’s wrong with this picture?

I was shocked by the fact that at any given time there were no more than 20 people in the building. Shouldn’t musicians be interested in seeing other musicians? I was there because I wanted to see some live music, isn’t that why people form bands? To head out and jam with their friends?

I think the best way to do a show is to have your band and a few of your friends’ bands play. I was hoping to find a few new friends or other bands to play with at this show but all I found were a bunch of narcissists who expect the world to be handed to them.

Ticket sales totaled 24. But that’s what you get when you book bands from Cleveland to play in Kent. I don’t know why they didn’t book any bands form Kent, I know of a few from that area that are OK. Maybe they just couldn’t find any that were willing to sell tickets.

In the end, I suppose the biggest problem with this show was that it was put on to make money. The promotional company that organized it exists to make money. I know every company exists to make money, but I don’t see why we need them involved with local music. Sure, the bar needs to make money to stay afloat and bands need to bring people in so they can continue to have a place to play, but why do we need promotional companies between band and venue? This isn’t the type of pastime that leads to a lot of excess cash to begin with and promotional companies are only there sucking the little bit out of that band would make.

pay_to_playThe amazing thing is that they manage to do that while producing a product much worse than it would be without their involvement.

If you liked this post you may also enjoy The Problem with ‘Pay to Play‘ or Bridging the Music Presents Local Band Showcase


2 thoughts on “Another Problem with Pay to Play: The Death of the Local Scene

  1. Yeah this whole method sucks. I remember when I did stand up, they had this same principle. So shitty. I remember my sketch team just didn’t pay one time, and came back under a different name. They didn’t even notice.


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