Is This A New Low For ‘Pay To Play’ Gigs?

18 May 2023 | 2:41 pm | Ellie Robinson

“These guys want you to pay to maybe get a gig at their venue.”

Hochatown Saloon via Facebook

Hochatown Saloon via Facebook

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A country music venue in the US is facing backlash after it announced a new process for “shortlisting” performers, whereby they’d have to pay a fee in order to be considered (not booked) for a show.

The venue in question is the Hochatown Saloon in Broken Bow, Oklahoma, which announced its ‘Shortlist’ membership program yesterday. According to a breakdown of the service shared online by one disgruntled user, a membership will cost “only” $100 USD (or $150 AUD) per year, and artists that opt in will be “SIGNIFICANTLY more likely to be booked as an opener” for shows held at Hochatown.

The venue also boasts that it will help members “build [their] artist profile[s]”, as well as share links to their EPKs (electronic press kits) and Spotify or YouTube channels. Members will also be paid for any billing that might be offered to them – $150 ($226 AUD) for solo acoustic acts, and $650 ($978 AUD) for bands with multiple members. In additional information shared on the Hochatown website, it’s said that members will receive “professional photos” and “HD video” of their set, and will be featured in promotional materials like event posters and social media advertising.

“Forget paying to play a gig,” writes the Melbourne-based Facebook user that shared the post, “these guys want you to pay to maybe get a gig at their venue. Disgusting behaviour.”

A post on the Hochatown Saloon’s own page hasn’t fared much better with the public. Comments on their official announcement post were limited shortly after it went live, but one fast-acting user was quick to call the venue out. “So basically,” they wrote, “you’re trying to weasel money out of bands on the chance that they MIGHT get to play your facility. Is that correct?”

In Hochatown’s announcement, venue organisers wrote that they “are finalising details regarding a paid membership option”, which they claimed “will come with loads of extra benefits both before, during and after performances on the Hochatown Saloon stage”.

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In another post hitting out at Hochatown, local country artist Seth Reid wrote: “I been fuming about this all day yesterday and this is not cool. Literally trying to get bands to pay to play your venue? Hochatown Saloon is 1000% out of their minds. What a pathetic way to feed on bands trying to get their name out there. This establishment has lost all sense of credibility in my meager [sic] eyes. Being a musician ain’t an easy go and then they do this. Straight trash. I hope they never get another musician or fan of music walking through their doors.”

Reid went on to write that he’s “embarrassed that this is from [his] home area”, and suggested Chiggers and The Watering Hole as an alternative venues for budding local artists. “This is not acceptable by any means,” he added, noting that “paying a venue to play there does not prove you are a serious musician as their website states”.