For the last few weeks or so I have been seeing posts regarding the practice of pay2play. I just wanna offer some insight from my personal view.
I came to Central Texas in 04 to attend Texas State and graduated in 09. Around that time, San Marcos’ opportunities for hip hop started dying so I wanted to branch out to Austin, live music capital of the world. A few months later I came across a company named Afton that offered me a chance to get paid and perform. Thing is I had to sell tickets at around $10 per ticket and I would get $1 per ticket. I wasnt sure if my friends would buy these tickets since some either went home for the Summer or were broke or too cheap to ( I’m a cheapskate myself). Fast forward to the show I sold 2 tickets. $2 made. Spent more in gas traveling from San Marcos. A few more times over the years. I dealt with them and I sold tickets by small amounts (most I sold was 4) but nothing big ever came out of it.
In between my stints with Afton I hit up a few open mics and showcases. But one showcase I went to actually put me on to something I never thought about. I cant remember who told me about it but there was a showcase that had a big time A&R. So me and my crew decided we could not pass this opportnity up. Thing was, we had to pay a fee to perform. So once again i drove to Austin to pay my $15 or $20 only for a chance to get with this A&R. Well on the day of the show everybody and they mama wanted a chance. I got to perform a short set (maybe less than 10 min) and all I got from the A&R was a “the promoter got my number”.
That wasnt the last time I did Pay2Play. There were a few more times after that. Last year not at all but they were there. A few people i hit up about showcases advertised were saying it cost this much to get a spot, that much to perform for only 10 minutes. And these prices were from 50 to 100.
Then last month the story broke out about the practice and my immediate reaction was embarrassment. The story was written with the feel of an expose and nobody wants to feel exposed. But it was like in the back of my mind I felt that pay2play was wrong but not by any legal standards. Hell even before that, last year someone sent me a website detailing how Afton was actually a scam. I figured as much because I never sold my goal set with them and they continually asked me to come back.and perform.
So where is the damn sweet I mentioned in the title? Well given that I essentially “invested” in those opportunities, I learned how important the underground live show is to hip hop. It is the business and pleasure of a rapper. You have fun on stage and you connect with fans and potential collabs after. Something I practiced with other shows ive done. Also your live performance is everything. I only had 10 minutes to wow a crowd. For $20 I bet on myself I better do it.
Pay2play is not good or bad but a learning experience. I’m gonna go ahead and say it. Every artist has done it. Thats why I see opinions on it from a wide range of people. Both negative and positive comments. Everybody has had sex at one point and took something away from that experience: it was favorable and worth it or it was the opposite.
The music business is struggling with a lot of things so things are changing and money is the driving force behind many of those problems. And the music business doesn’t just orbit around the Def Jams and Interscopes in the mainstream. It’s also in the neighborhoods and streets of towns of local rappers who are finding ways to carry their dreams out by any way possible. Gone are the days where an artist gets paid to perform in front of a room full of strangers and showcase their talents. So local rappers and promoters are finding ways to make their money. Especially local artists who have fewer revenue options. I can tell you that pursuing a rap career and working a full time job is not an easy task. More to it than punching a clock and writing a rhyme. But as the old saying goes it takes money to make money. And in the case of pay2play I guess if you have the shine make sure you bring the dime.