Navigating the new 'Pay to Play' as an indie artist.

When I lived in LA I belonged to a group called Players Against Pay To Play, comprised of professional musicians working to get the message out to new musicians; starved for a ‘break’; that you should not have to, and should not – pay to play in bars on the LA strip. During that time it could cost you up to $500 for 15 minutes on a stage on Sunset Boulevard. There was no guarantee that the clubs would have anyone in the house that could escalate your career. It was up to the performer to get them there.

Eager musicians have been targeted for decades and in today’s online world of music distribution a new industry has been born, at the expense of the independent artist.

Although the liberties today are astonishing – I can publish something and distribute it internationally in virtual seconds, the vultures are still there. Independent artists should get really clear on what they want out of their art, because it can become an expensive venture. Since I finished The Legend of The Free, I have had many opportunities presented to me. At least half of these came with a price tag.

Here are my thoughts on this topic:

1) Musicians spend a FORTUNE honing their craft. I would estimate in my career as an independent artist I have spent upwards of $100,000 on lessons, equipment, touring, recording, publicity, manufacturing, management and distribution.

2) As an independent artist I provide a service to the public – as an entertainer.

3) Someone wishing to become a successful club owner, radio programmer or promoter needs to make similar sacrifices to live their dream and this should not be at the expense of the person providing an enhancing service or product to them. After all, what is a radio station without music and a live club without entertainment?

In today’s world the temptation to spend money on exposure is even greater. It is an infinite landscape of ‘opportunity’ and for most, this means a lot of $$ with no tangible return on investment. The respect for art, process and for development is lost, just like it was on the LA strip. The indie artist is being taken for a fool. The irony in all of this is that no one is really buying music with anywhere close the frequency of 10 or 20 years ago. So what are artists paying for these days? They are paying for you to hear their music, knowing that you’re not likely to buy it. That to me is a very sad state of affairs.

As an artist:
I will spend money on my craft to be the best artist I can be
I will spend money helping others and helping the earth
I will spend money on great services online that make my life easier as an artist
I will partner with professionals to gain a mutually beneficial outcome
I will not be taken for a fool

If you’re an artist trying to navigate the current online distribution landscape, don’t pay to play – award yourself the dignity of being a developing artist and I can assure you, you will have listeners that appreciate what you do, and you won’t have to buy them.

If you have happened upon the little dirt path leading to my studio, then I am enormously grateful for your presence.

Thanks for looking out on the world with me.

Looking Out On The World by Carrie Armitage

1 comment

  • dankitti


    My kitty Spot likes your music. She meows a lot, but when I play her your music she lays still and she goes to sleep. When it's over, she starts meowing again. Silly kitty. =;=

    My kitty Spot likes your music. She meows a lot, but when I play her your music she lays still and she goes to sleep. When it's over, she starts meowing again. Silly kitty. =;=

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