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Bleeding the Artist;
The Exposure Carrot Exposed

After too many years to count, it's time to expose the dark industry secret that is anything but. Anywhere an artist performs, with few exceptions, choices about artist selection are being made based on how many resources can be extracted from the artist without paying for them.

Before I elaborate, I insert a disclaimer. I understand that monetary issues are the primary concerns to anyone who creates art or owns a venue.

That said...How many times have you performed at a venue under the concept that you'd be getting "exposure?" Second question. How did that work for you? I'm not talking about honest opportunities for exposure. To be clear, it's venues that fill their pockets while you do their advertising and possibly sell their alcohol, that I have a problem with.

The history of P2P
In California, specifically LA, during the 1980's, the concept of "Pay-to-Play" became a major issue, especially in respect to bands / musical artists. This was / is a practice of charging bands fees to play, which made it nearly impossible to make money on a gig, and relieved the venues of their event responsibilities and risk. On the East Coast artists balked and tried to fight the scourge from surfacing in the East, and proliferating in the West. Unfortunately the regional nightmare scenario is everywhere.
Click here for an informative "Pay to Play" article from the UK

Many have said and will say, "What's the big deal?" The big deal is this. If I was discussing venues that are on the financial edge and required this operating model to function, it would be no "...big deal." What I am talking about is venue management that have created a primary operating model of exploiting artists to do the work that should be done by the venue. This maximizes their profit and leaves the artist with "exposure."

Some might be unaware, but the dirty industry secret is many venues DO NOT PROMOTE the independent / small artists, which means most of you. They promote larger artists because the artist's management demands it and they must promote to cover the performance guarantee. For others, they just figure that you'll do the promoting.

That means; YOU trying to getting flyers everywhere (that your allowed to), put up posters, and sell tix. On the other hand, the venue might add your name (in a font size 60% of the "headliners") to the weekly ad they have in the local art paper.

Promotions should be done by the artists and the venue. Optimally this introduces the artists to a new audience and the artist's audience to a new venue. This wishful symbiotic relationship is, for all intents and purposes, dysfunctional. Currently and for the foreseeable future, the artist is left in a helpless, codependent relationship, kissing the various asses of industry...if the artist wants to perform in front of people.

It's important to remember why you create art, what your objectives are and to also comprehend the industry that enables / allows you to present your work to others.

DIY (Do it Yourself) shows enable you to present the exact art you want, but it requires you to take on more responsibilities than artistic creation. Not all people can do this. But everyone should and must have control or at least a deep understanding of the business of their art.

To rap it up, it's really important to assess what shows are really in your best interest to play. Some people believe that all art should be free or else it's "corporate." This foolishness is fine if you live at home and don't mind that someone else is making money off of your sweat, labor, talents and time.

Remember the facts - ART ISN'T FREE;
- You have to learn your craft (time is money)
- You have to buy instruments (singers excluded)
- You have to pay for rehearsal time (even if that means you pay rent to live where you can rehearse)
- You have to pay extra on your electric bill
- You have to create your art (time is money)
- You have to transport your gear to your gig (laptop artist & singers kind of don't apply here...but even without equipment transport, cabs, gas and tolls are expensive...you have to get there somehow)
- And...you must promote the hell out of yourself, which costs you money to go to places, usually events, where you can meet prospective audience members.

When you buy food or clothes, the costs of every step during its creation and distribution is included to make a profit. If you go to the movies, the same applies. So why should your art be any different?

If you devalue your art, others will do the same.

Click here for our DIY show production guide
It was designed primarily for people who work in the electronic experimental genres, but it has helpful tips that are widely applicable.

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