Holy shit, your band just got offered a show! The biggest show of your bands’ young life, in fact. It’s a band you’ve heard of and they even had a hit song on the radio! All you and your bandmates have to do is sell 30 tickets. Each.
Before you get too excited let’s examine some things. See, between shady promoters, social media bots, and snarky advice listicles written by failed musicians, local bands need to be wary of scams on all fronts. “Pay to play” is when your band is required to sell a prerequisite number of tickets in order to play the show. In most cases, the band buys their own tickets. Unless you’re some kind of weirdo with friends and a supportive family, but if that were the case you’d be playing lacrosse or some shit.
These scams can be hard to pick up on if the show is good enough. Sure, you’re forced to sell tickets at $15 while pocketing a cool $2.50 per ticket (after the venue takes the first $500 of course), but think of the exposure you’ll get to all the headliner’s fans. Think of all the new people who will discover your band! That is, until you arrive at the show to realize the entire audience is made up of all the people who came to see the other 6 local support acts who also had to harass their family in order to capitalize on this amazing “opportunity.”
We at The Hard Times will not let this happen to you! Here are 5 red flags to look out for in case the one-hit-wonder band you’re paying to open up for is secretly washed up.
Your shitty band is opening for them – Let’s get this one right out of the way. If your band is opening, it’s not a good sign. This doesn’t mean the band with every band from the scene opening up their Tuesday night show is washed up. Maybe they’re just not big in this town anymore?
This isn’t terminal but we’re not off to a good start. Sure, your band has some pretty impressive accolades in the central Ohio scene, but you should keep checking for warning signs just in case the headliner who personally chose you over any act on their label or bands they’re friends with or any other method of booking that bands partake in when they’re not 100% certain they can’t draw anymore.
The promoter is more concerned with your ticket money than the headliner’s absence minutes before the show – Venue employees are dicks. I’ve always said that. Granted, it’s usually under my breath and definitely out of earshot of that gigantic door guy. But I stand by it unless someone calls me out. On a good day, they will borderline threaten your band for your presale ticket money. And God help you if one of your unsold tickets went missing. That’s fraud and the top legal minds running the Weeknight shows at “Roadie Joe’s” will be quick to tell you.
But the transparent scam some call “the scene” is not the red flag we’re looking for today. What you’re looking for is the look of sweet relief upon collecting your presale money, especially if doors have been open for an hour and the headliner hasn’t shown up yet. This likely means the promotor has long since realized their headliner is washed up and every dollar you give them goes towards paying off a band who hasn’t yet realized they can’t afford to charge what they did in their prime.
They didn’t get to use the secret green room – Any band that has reached any level of local success has experienced the thrill of getting to use an iconic venue’s green room for the first time. Usually, it’s a tight hallway or standing room space with cold, bare walls and the stench of state beer on the floor. Any band that’s reached any level of success beyond that knows that’s not the real green room. Any real band knows that the green room is the large hallway or standing room space with cold, bare walls and the stench of stale beer coming from a cooler of skunked beers. Lucky fucks.
They’re Aaron Carter – If they’re Aaron Carter, just say so and drop the show. It’s okay if you agreed to open for Aaron Carter. It really is. We’ve all been in some dark places and no one will judge you.
If they’re not Aarong Carter, and you’re still not sure if the headliner is a bunch of scamming fucks (or at least are willing to go on a tour run and promoted by scammy fucks), write down and consult this checklist for an “on the go” assessment:
1. Are they Alien Ant Farm?
2. Are they Red Jumpsuit Apparatus?
3. Are you absolutely sure they’re not Aaron Carter? He’s tricky.
They Saw Your Set – Wait, they really did? Woah. This is new territory for us. Okay, upon further assessment, it’s clear they are really good people. Unfortunately, no band worth its salt would watch a local opener on any level. Why did you agree to this show again? No offense, but this makes you come off as pretty desperate. Tell you what, we have a “band development” program at The Hard Times. So, send a check to our very real office and we’ll take your band to the next level! Just make the check out to “Aaron Carter.”