Sando Owner Defends ‘Pay To Play’ Policy
News posted Wednesday, November 25 2009 at 08:00 AM.
Related: Sandringham Hotel.
The owner of Sydney’s Sandringham Hotel has vehemently defended the venue’s "pay to play" policy, saying that bands who can’t bring in the numbers, shouldn’t be playing gigs.
The venue, colloquially known as “The Sando”, has come under fire recently for charging bands a flat production fee if they fail to reach particular quotas. Acts who don’t draw at least 60 payers to the Sando’s 150-capacity “Old Room” on a Friday night, for example, will have to pay a $200 production fee for use of the room per night. Play the 300-capacity “New Room” on a Friday and you’ll need to draw 120 punters to avoid a $300 charge.
Owner Tony Townsend said the policy has been a success in the five months since its implementation, despite “all sorts of flak” from some quarters of Sydney’s music scene.
“This has worked well now for five months with only four shows not making their targets,” he told M+N in a statement, adding that bands needed to “get serious” about promoting their gigs.
“The attitude that bands do not have a responsibility to draw crowds when they play in a live venue is the reason why the live music scene has been in trouble for some years now. It’s the reason why The Hopetoun and venues like it are shut. If you can't do the numbers, don't do live gigs, or latch onto a [crowd] drawing band to help build your following.”
Townsend said that bands who draw less than the minimum 30 payers for a mid-week gig might as well stick to a rehearsal studio.
“What gives any band that draws 10 people the right to displace a band who can draw 100 people to a venue?” he said. “This is a selfish attitude and just doesn't help anyone, least of all the bands who are working hard at their craft, building a fan base and contributing to the live scene. Bands that draw only a few people, contribute to the demise of the live scene.”
Townsend said other venues in Sydney, including The Annandale, The Caringbah Hotel, The Bald Faced Stag and The Mona Vale Hotel, had been forced to charge production fees plus a percentage of the door to cover shortfalls in costs. But, unlike The Sando, those costs aren’t determinant on quotas, much to the detriment, he said, of Sydney’s live music scene.
“The thresholds should have been introduced a long time ago in all live venues. This way there would be more of them left. The bands have to look at themselves, what product they have, what promo they are doing and [show] a real genuine drive to get people off the couches and in the venue to see them do their stuff ‘live’. Isn't that what a live gig is all about: having people see you perform?”
Townsend was also quick to point out that the Sando’s so-called “pay to play” policy doesn’t necessarily mean a band will be out of pocket if they fail to draw the requisite punters to a gig. On the contrary, he claimed that bands would earn more under the Sando’s quota system than they would at most other venues.
“If you had a show in the small room at The Sando on a Friday or Saturday night (the threshold figure being 60 payers) and brought 65 payers on a $10 door, the bands would walk away with $520,” he said. “If you didn’t break the threshold and did 55 payers, the bands would walk away from The Sando with $320.”
Ultimately, said Townsend, it’s about a band “knowing its limitations”.
“The new venue at the Sando has a Meyer Sound system and 40 cans lightshow and is designed for bands that draw 150-plus people. It costs us $800 to open the door. I would rather use the smaller venue and see the larger room empty than have 30 people in it on a Friday or Saturday night contributing to the demise of the ‘live vibe.’”
The Sandringham Hotel, located in the heart of Newtown, was purchased in 2005 by Townsend, a longtime music industry promoter, manager and agent. It recently underwent an extensive renovation, culminating in the opening of the aforementioned “New Room” upstairs.