Submitted by Peter Astedt
It never goes wrong. Every time you release that you are opening up artist submissions for a showcase you get the idiot that doesn’t understand the process. You don’t pay the musicians!?
Many artists question why they are not paid for performing at a showcase. However, paying performers for a showcase can attract many uncommitted and unprofessional artists who are only interested in getting paid. On the other hand, a showcase is a valuable opportunity for serious artists to elevate their careers by networking with industry professionals and gaining exposure. Therefore, showcases are typically reserved for emerging artists who are willing to invest in their future.
It’s important to distinguish between a showcase festival and a regular gig. When playing at a local bar, the venue benefits from the entertainment and should compensate the artist accordingly. However, at a showcase festival, new acts are being presented, and there’s no guarantee of an audience. Showcases are a risk for the festival organizers, who often cover expenses such as travel and accommodation for industry professionals to attend. Therefore, not paying the artists is a fair tradeoff for the opportunity to be seen by the right people as well as network on a one on one level.
It’s also worth noting that showcases are not all created equal. Some festivals do pay the artists, but others may use creative accounting methods to skirt the issue. For instance, a festival may offer a small fee and accommodation, but the venue could be far from the action, and the artist may not receive a pro badge to access industry seminars or workshops. Therefore, it’s essential to research a showcase’s reputation and what they offer before committing to it.
A good story is this one. I had once had an export office point out that a big showcase festival was giving each artist 50 dollars and a night at a hostel. The problem here was that this export office actually paid 10000 dollars in sponsorship money to the festival since their artist was not good enough to get in and they needed several to play there. Of course, it’s simple then to pay out 50 dollars for each band and give them accommodations. By the way, the hostel was so far away that they had a hard time networking at the festival since the transportation didn’t go out there late at night. In this particular case also the artist didn’t get any pro badge to get into the seminars where the music professionals were. They just got a ticket for the shows. That is kind of useless. You have no chance to grab people in the noise of the bar. Or how would you even find them if you don’t know what they look like?
Instead, they had to purchase the pro passes, and yes you guessed it, each pro pass cost 50 dollars, for each person. So, with the math that they got 50 dollars that would have gotten one person in for free, still if you are four in the band then the festival would have gotten another 150 for the rest. The export office guy couldn’t figure out this method. Someone should really fire that export person, let’s say they still haven’t got any artist coming out from that country.
The other trick is to have so few artists that you can pay them a fee. Let’s say your festival just has fifteen acts. Then it’s no problem to pay them each 100 dollars. On the other hand, the artist still has to find a hotel, travel for an entourage of four people. In some of these cases you can trade your 100 dollars for a pro badge, in some cases they are fair enough to give you one. At the same time at a festival with that few artists, you don’t get that many opportunities to network with other artists, and that could be as equal a benefit to be on a showcase.
Ultimately, the value of a showcase is not in the money paid to the artist but in the opportunity to network and learn from industry professionals. Therefore, the focus should be on the quality of the showcase, not the compensation. While it’s understandable that some artists may expect to be paid, it’s crucial to understand the unique nature of showcases and the risks involved for festival organizers. If an artist is serious about their career, investing in a showcase can be a wise move.