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#GeniusUpMusicDailyNews!: Is Afton “Pay to Play”?

Pay To Play

The Ugliest Words in the Business

Three of the ugliest words in the music industry are “PAY TO PLAY”.

For a new musician or artist, or even seasoned veterans, finding out a potential show falls under the umbrella of a “pay to play” gig causes concern.

What is “Pay to Play” Exactly?

If you want to get down to nitty gritty details, technically every show is a pay to play performance.

Whether it’s the sold out arena show or the mom and pop coffeehouse, someone is paying for that show to happen.

Often times, it’s a promoter or manager, sometimes it’s the act themselves (if it’s a DIY rental). Sometimes it’s the venue.

The hope with every show is that whatever money is paid out is recouped at the end of the night.

Booking shows can be a risky business if you don’t know what you’re doing. That’s why tickets sales are so important.

But what we’re talking about, of course, is not your average show (whatever that means). What we’re talking about it is the dirty three-word “pay to play” gig.

If you’re not familiar with this concept, it’s pretty straight forward. Someone charges an act a fee (PAY) in exchange (TO) for a chance to perform (PLAY).

Often times, the gig is an opening slot for a larger nationally-touring act. Or it’s simply the opportunity to play an esteemed venue.

The Most Common Tactic

The most common tactic involves charging an act a flat fee for a specific time slot. This fee can range anywhere from $100-5000 or more! These arrangements usually don’t involve selling tickets (as the promoter has already made their money from the act’s payment).

In these scenarios, the artist isn’t compensated. No matter how well the show did. This is the age old “exposure” gig. “You’re playing to get your music out there”, they’ll say.

Often these deals are not in writing, there’s no formal contract, and it’s a cash-only transaction. In the worst situations, some acts are swindled completely.

They find themselves locked out of the venue the night of the show. They have already paid a ton of cash to perform. The “promoter” is nowhere to be found. The show manager has no record of them on the bill, and the act never even gets to perform!

This type of pay to play situation goes on at all levels. From the small local shows all the way up to large national tours. When it happens on national tours they call it a “buy on“.

In virtually all cases of pay to play, the act who paid to play doesn’t see a dime in payment.

Is it Illegal?

There’s nothing technically illegal about pay to play. Some see it as the way the industry works.

But for many musicians and artists out there, it’s just an ugly deal they’d rather not engage in. Respectfully so.

So, Is Afton Pay to Play?

That brings us to the $10,000 question: Is Afton pay to play? 

Some people, websites and media outlets have certainly labeled Afton as such. But the reality doesn’t live up to the charge. 

We have never been pay to play.

Here’s why: The artists we book never pay to play our shows. No artist ever pays us anything out of pocket to book with us, ever.

Our booking services are FREE. We don’t charge any artists to perform any of our shows. We never have, we never will.

There are no up front fees to play Afton shows. We don’t require acts to pay up front for a block of tickets. No one pays us back for any tickets that they didn’t sell. We don’t charge any hidden fees.

Everything we do is completely free to the artist. Every cent of revenues come from the FANS, not the artist.

We’re There Every Step of the Way

We do exactly what is agreed upon in writing and are always honest with our artists. We don’t just book the shows and check out.

We’re with the artist every step of the way to help them succeed. We supply advice and promotional support on multiple fronts. From flyers and handbills to social media spotlight ads, featured posts and featured artist blogs.

When an artist wins, we win. We take the risk on every artist and show we book. It’s in our best interest if that artist succeeds. If they lose, so do we.

To ensure success, we work directly with our artists. Our booking reps are available anytime for one on one support at all points, before and after the show. 

Show Management And Support

The night of every show, we have a show manager in person, at the venue. They are in constant communication with support staff at our headquarters and working with artists on the ground.

The show manager runs everything from artist check-in and soundcheck to locking in set times.

They are there working with the sound engineers, club managers, hosts, DJs and artists to ensuring ticket sales are accurate. They report all artist/DJ/club payments.

Show managers stay on site through the end of the show, making sure it runs smoothly and without a hitch. 

Afton wants every show to go well. We want the artists to sell as many tickets as possible and give everyone involved the experience of a lifetime.

When this happens (which it does 98% of the time), it’s a triple win. We win, the venue wins and the artists win.

We all make some money and we all have a great experience to look back on.

Accountability and Follow Through

When we make mistakes or something doesn’t go as planned, we hold ourselves accountable. We work diligently to make it right.

We aren’t taking anyone’s money and running. We’re always available to work with artists, venues. We’ve been in business for a long time with our approach and we’ve grown every year. 

If we were pay to play, we wouldn’t succeed for as long as we have. We wouldn’t have worked with tens of thousands of artists all over the country. We wouldn’t have expanded as large as we have if we were a shady, corrupt pay to play operation. 

Here’s something to know about how we work that’s important to this issue. Artists get paid even if the show is a loss for us.

We take on all the risk, pay all show costs up front. Our cut is never guaranteed. But the artist’s cut is. They are compensated as promised, no matter how the show sells, if they uphold their end of their eContract.

It’s disheartening anytime we get mis-labeled. We are adamantly against pay to play. The company was founded to be strictly against this business model and approach.

What’s the Catch?

All we ask is for an artist to sell some tickets. If the artist does, they make money!

Here’s a link to our artist payment structure. 

That’s the catch that we are always asked by skeptical artists. 

We have learned that selling tickets does matter. The catch is that we ask the artist to sell tickets. Which is not so out of bounds, when you realize that’s the catch of any show an artist would play! 

No venue wants to open their doors to an empty room, and no one wants to play an empty room. 

That being said, it’s very clear in all of our communications with artists they are never paying for the tickets. There are no financial penalties if an artist doesn’t sell tickets. 

If an artist doesn’t uphold their end of the eContract, the only penalties they receive are shorter sets or last pick on their set time. If they don’t sell ANY tickets, their set can be cancelled or rescheduled. All of this is explicitly stated in our artist agreements. 

We send weekly emails and texts, blogs, help articles, one-on-one correspondence and a plethora of perks and incentives to help artists sell tickets. 

In the end, we pay the artists to play our shows. We are proud of what we do, and we always act with integrity and honesty at all times.

Don’t Just Take Our Word For It

Thousands upon thousands of artists can attest to this. You can see that for yourself: 

You can also read some of the recent success stories from some of our artists here: 

It’s very understandable to be a bit skeptical, especially in our industry! 

But we are NOT Pay to Play. We never have been, we never will be and we stand behind our business model 100%. 

Our goal is first and foremost to help artists launch their music careers. We help artists achieve their musical goals and we are with them every step of the way. Afton was was founded on that principle and it’s what we strive to achieve every single day. 

We don’t hide from criticism, as evidenced by this post. And we welcome a dialogue from anyone who still has objections to our business model.

If you’d like to touch base with us drop a comment below, hit us up on social media or drop an email anytime at