Canadian Musician


Canadian Musician’s Pay-To-Play Survey Results

Monday, July 11th, 2016

Canadian Musician surveyed musicians across the country to find out their experiences and opinions regarding pay-to-play gigs. Here are the results…

Pay to Play survey infogrpahic

Have you or your band ever received a pay-to-play offer for a gig from a venue or promoter?

Yes 57%

No 43%

Would you ever consider to accepting a pay-to-play offer to play a gig?

Yes      7%

Maybe 25%

No       68%

Do you think there are situations in which it is acceptable for a venue/promoter to expect an artist/band to pay-to-play?

Yes      2%

Maybe 32%

No       57%

Not sure 9%

Broadly speaking, do you think pay-to-play devalues live music and/or the service musicians provide?

Yes      86%

Somewhat 13%

No       2%

Do you feel musicians who pay-to-play are undermining other musicians who refuse?

Yes 52%

Somewhat 30%

No 16%

Not sure 2%

Speaking Out

What is your experience and/or opinion regarding the practice of pay-to-play? Have you ever accepted or refused a pay-to-play gig and, if so, why?

Selected responses 

“It is a near rite of passage here in Halifax for “all age shows.” The upstart bands not yet worthy of asking for appearance money are made to feel this is their only option. Promotion is the promoter’s job, the musician’s job is to get good and perform well, period.”

“Pay to play is what keeps being a musician from becoming a valid career. Musicians who do this are killing the industry and keeping their fellow musicians poor. We are trapped in an endless cycle of silly music teachers selling tickets to their students and calling it a music scene. It’s ridiculous and unsustainable.”

“Pay to play is mostly affecting acts that are trying to get a foothold in the business and create a buzz. Older, established acts don’t have to face that scenario as much. However, there seems to be a new trend where even large venues want the performer to take out liability insurance. We’ve been hired by them to play at their venue and somehow we’re responsible if someone acts disruptive, causes someone harm, or a patron slips and falls. And it’s not a small amount! I’ve been told I had to take out $2 million in liability insurance. Don’t venues carry insurance for this sort of thing and why is it being passed on to the artists?”

“I’m a hip-hop artist out of Midland, Ontario. Every time I have performed in or around my area, I have had to sell my own tickets to cover costs for the promoter throwing the event. At times it can be pretty difficult, as an artist we already have many other costs, etc. just to make it to the event. It has even made me take a break from performing due to the pressure and obligation of feeling I have to sell these before a certain deadline, then basically hand over all the ticket money (making a little bit of drinking money personally). It puts a lot of un-wanted stress on an artist.”

“It’s the reality of the local music scene in most cases, unfortunately, if you want to play/promote your original music, often times, your only choice it to participate in pay-to-play events, and also in most cases venues want more than one band to fill an evening slot all with the expectation that the bands will cover some of the venues costs (sound man or percentage of the cover charge goes to the venue), and the band is forced to sell a minimum number of tickets at a price the venue dictates.”

“I have refused all pay-to-play situations. It is NOT the musicians’ job to drum up business for the bars and to ensure that bar staff is paid on the nights the bands perform. If the venue doesn’t have enough faith that you will bring a crowd, then don’t take the show.”

“We would NEVER do this with an established group but can (possibly) understand a new artist trying to get established considering this.”

“I’ve had some offers of a “showcase” that turned out to be a show where we had to solicit our fans and friends to come out and pay admission. We were not offered any money for the gig, and there were supposedly going to be several industry professionals in attendance. Professionals who were never named, even when I asked. I could hear the music from Jaws playing in my head….”


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