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PAYOLA !

By Ronnie Shapiro Stoeckel

When you are the ultimate superfan of independent artists worldwide , you deserve your own page . Welcome to the SUPERFAN page and the newest edition to our team , Ronnie Shapiro Stoeckel .
She is going to bring you the independent music scene from the fan perspective .
Payola : the paying of cash or gifts in exchange for airplay . Although the term was first used in 1916 in an article in Variety , the idea of using money and other bribes dates as far back as the 1880s , when publishers would try to entice popular singers to sing their songs . This was a common occurrence in the music business throughout the years . Even Al Jolson was monetarily persuaded in the Vaudevile era to record some songs . In the late 1950s , disc jockey Alan Freed was caught accepting payments from record companies to get him to play their records . This practice was highly controversial at the time , and ended his career .
Fast forward to today ’ s world .
There ’ s a different type of pay to play that
happens , and that ’ s selling tickets to open for national acts , or “ buying on ,” if you will . For those not knowing , ( which shouldn ’ t be many of you since we ’ re all in the music scene ) you sign up to be an opening act , usually one of about 4 or 5 , 6 , 7 , 10 …… many bands . However you don ’ t get paid ( or you get very little pay ) and you have to sell a minimum amount of tickets to play on that stage . Some promoters actually have you just pay a fee to get on that stage . For some musicians , this is a big horrible no no . “ You don ’ t want to do that !! You ’ re demeaning yourself !! It looks bad for all the other local indie bands who are trying to make money !!! You ’ re selling out !!” Blah blah blah . You get the hint . They don ’ t like it . For a bit I was leery too . Who was I to think otherwise ? I was new at the managing thing , and used to people from all angles telling me how they think I should run my band . This past September , my band StillCraft decided to take the plunge and join the list of openers for Tantric . I had seen them back in February and they put on a great show , so we thought this would be a great first experience . I mean , if Rush could sell tickets in 1974 to buy on the stage as an opener for Kiss , we certainly can do it , right ? ( I know I know , we ’ re not Rush .
Sadly , there are many bands , that won ’ t make it out of this . Too many to count ,
Tantric is not Kiss . Just go with it …..) What if we sell the tickets , then go on stage and get sprayed with silly string and water guns full of urine ??? ( ok , we ’ re not the Raskins , who paid $ 1 miliion to open for Motley Crue in 2016 only to have their equipment wrecked and actually get sprayed with urine . Thank goodness !) We had to sell 20 tickets . At first it didn ’ t seem like a lot , but it was still during the pandemic , and some people were still leery about going out , but we gave it our all . We sold a few right off the bat , then the sales stopped . Completely . At 6 sold . I was panicking and trying to rationalize how we will pay for the ones not sold . ( Yes , for this gig we had to pay for all 20 .) “ There are 5 of us , we can each pay for a couple … we can take some money out of the band fund … we can give a free tshirt with every pair of tickets sold . Which one of you guys want to sell yourselves on the dark web ???” The people who we thought were 100 % absolutely going to make it , weren ’ t going to make it . Ok , who else can we get to buy tickets ? ( Here ’ s a tip – those close friends you think would definitely support you in times like this most likely won ’ t .) We were attempting to cash in on any and all favors we could so we would meet our quota . We had one month to do this , and time was ticking away . Getting people to spend $ 20 to drive over an hour to spend all night at a rock show of mainly local indie bands was a challenge , and we were highly frustrated . Although the venue and other bands wouldn ’ t know if we paid for the tickets ourselves , it wouldn ’ t look too great if we had no fans in that audience if we wanted to be invited back . My anxiety level was sky high . Some musicians still think we ’ re crazy for participating in the pay to play “ scheme ,” but there are many that will agree it ’ s a good idea . I decided to pick the brains of some musicians , starting with Jon Loree , drummer for Tantric . He said “ Selling tickets is a necessary evil because the demand for a live show is not what it used to be . It ’ s a pain that a local band has to sell 50 tickets for a show , but the connections that are made from opening for a national act is priceless . So while I understand a lot of the frustration regarding ticket sales , it ’ s also
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