This is Ryan Kintz, the owner of Afton Shows and MyAfton. For many years, there have been dozens of bands, rappers, and musicians on the internet that claim Afton is a scam, or pay to play, or a battle of the bands.
Today I’m going to dive into this, openly and honestly, and give a few concrete examples of some of these misleading posts and what I have to say about them.
Considering that we’ve booked well over 200,000+ acts since we started in 2004, and paired with the fact we have thousands upon thousands of positive testimonials and 3rd party verified reviews – it still may seem concerning to some that there is this much hostility about what we do.
What’s interesting is, the hostility and hate from these posts, for the most part, are coming from people who have never actually worked with us or played on our shows.
Even more disappointing, is that I see claims about us in these “bash posts” that are either:
- Not true at all.
- Mixing us up with a completely different company.
- Or, False rumors about who we are, what we do, and how we operate.
So this makes you wonder – what’s really going on? Are these rumors true? What actually is true? That’s what I want to talk about.
Ultimately, if our shows don’t fit your needs, that’s ok. Don’t play them. We never want an artist to play our shows if they don’t feel it’s the right fit.
So let’s get into an example, I saw this post recently:
When I saw this, I direct messaged this person but as of yet have not heard back. As always, I like to dialogue and discuss any issues directly.
Here are the facts and some clarity regarding this post specifically, and excerpts from the message I sent this person.
WE NEVER HAVE BEEN PAY TO PLAY OR A BATTLE OF THE BANDS.
You claim that we are the “definition of pay to play.”
There could be nothing further from the truth. Since day 1, we have never made a band pay for unsold tickets, or pay us up front for a face value block of tickets. Period. There indeed are a few dozen bands over the last 16 years that have “claimed” this, but anytime I’ve talked to them directly I find out they confused us with another company entirely. 1 band swore we made them pay to play, and after going back and forth they realized it was with a battle of the bands company that went out of business years ago.
We work on the HONOR SYSTEM, meaning when an act books with us, they agree to sell 15 or 20 tickets in advance. But if they sell 1 ticket, they do NOT owe us for the other 19 tickets. The band is not on the hook for the tickets not sold. All of our booking is risk free to the artist. We never require an act to pay us $200 up front for a block of 20 tickets.
Furthermore, sign up and membership at MyAfton.com is free, and all booking services are free. Acts don’t pay us to book them. We just book them on the show they want, they do the eContract and either agree to the terms or choose to cancel the show and not do the agreement – and then we provide them online ticketing, cash tickets, and other promotional tools so they can effectively promote the show. If the show loses money, acts do NOT pay us anything. The only revenues coming in are from the Fans who buy tickets for the show.
Pay to Play means you are PAYING someone to book you either up front, or you are on the hook financially for tickets you did not sell.
We are clearly neither of those things. We have an honor system requested ticket requirement, and if a band books and draws 0 fans we simply do not book them again.
If you want to call us Promote to Play, I guess you can. It’s true that we are not interested in booking acts that refuse to draw fans and refuse to promote their shows. But honestly, I have yet to meet a venue owner that is stoked to book an act that will draw 0 fans to their club. From my experience, any show you’re booked for, the Promoter or the venue is going to ask you to draw more than 0 fans…
We have never been a battle of the bands, a contest, a meet the A&R rep type gig, and we never have made wild promises to our artists.
$1 PAYOUT CLAIM.
Payout – To say “you MAYBE get to keep $1 you sell and the rest goes to Afton” is misleading and not the whole truth. Maybe you are referring to our pay scale from 14 years ago when we were a much smaller company barely struggling to survive, but even then most acts got paid much more than that. I think in 2006 we had $7 tickets and acts earned $1 to $4 per ticket sold.
This means we payout what the eContract states even if we lose money on the show. If an act does not abide by the eContract it can void their pay (if they barely draw any fans) or they may get $1 per ticket sold if they fall short of their contract agreement and draw 15-19 fans. Our artists know where the pay jumps are, and acts are very aware that if they have 18 tickets sold, 2 more ticket sales increases their total payout by $32. Or that having 48 tickets sold means that 2 more tickets sold increases their total payout by $67.50 – we also invest more and more into the promoting the artist as they get more tickets sold myafton.com/perks
Many times acts are also getting an additional $1 per ticket sold bonus pay on top of that base pay scale, and acts that draw well a few times are going to a larger flat pay scale where they always make 40% to 60% of what they sell no matter how low their draw is. The majority of fans buy their tickets at advance discount price with Promo Code which comes out to $9 to $10.
A more factual statement would be: Afton pays out about 20%-25% on the low end as long as you draw 20 fans, and pays upwards of 60% if you are drawing 75-100 fans. Though the % can vary, because fans pay different prices if they buy way in advance or not, if they use a promo code, etc.
Another factual statement would be: If you completely breach the eContract for an Afton show, do not do anything you agreed to do, and draw 0 fans, your pay will be voided and they won’t want to book you again. Chances are, the venue won’t want you back either if you drew out 0 people to their club…
We talk with our artists a lot, and most of them tell us that our pay scale pays out better than most of the venues they talk to. But hey, it varies – we tell acts if you can get paid more elsewhere then you should go play those shows. We are always here on a month when you need a gig, we are just another option.
Unfortunately, no matter how much we love an artist’s music, we don’t have the budget to pay them $500 to draw 0 fans.
AFTON DOES NOT POCKET ALL OF THE MONEY NOT PAID TO ARTISTS.
I feel that it’s very misleading that you claim that “AFTON keeps the rest of the money.”
You are a Promoter yourself. You know firsthand that there are show expenses, and a lot of them. To say that Afton pockets all money except the money paid to artists is not only untrue, but impossible, unless the venue donates the venue for free, and all their staffing.
You know, as a Promoter, that after paying the artists you have to pay the sound tech, all venue staffing, a DJ if it’s a hip hop show, a possible Bar Guarantee if bar sales fall short of what was agreed, actual venue base rent, etc. We also have to pay our onsite Afton show manager. Even after that, as any Promoter knows, we have to use what’s finally leftover to pay our booking staff, support staff, software developers, office lease, server hosting, internet bill, event insurance – the list goes on and on.
Just like when you Promote shows, we are left with a fraction of gross sales when everything and everyone is paid out from the show. But with Afton, the artists and the venue get paid first. They are guaranteed their payout based on the eContract no matter what happens.
I feel that a more factual statement would be: Afton pays the venue and artists first, per the contract. Then they pay the rest of the show expenses, their booking staff, and all of their internal costs as a company that operates in 70 cities, and they pocket whatever is leftover after all of that. Just like with any show, the Promoter gets paid last (if money is leftover at all), and the Promoter is stuck paying out of pocket any losses that are incurred for the show.
TICKETS ARE MUCH LESS THAN $15.
The vast majority of Fans are paying much less. Advance Tix are usually $9 to $12 depending on the show. In addition, we setup $1 to $3 off Promo Codes for online and cash tickets. Most Fans choose to buy a $10 cash ticket from the band before the $2 off promo code expires, so they pay just $8.00 total – far less than the $15 price you claimed.
$15 door sales make up less than 5% of our total attendance. The majority of fans buy advance tickets which are cheaper and many use a promo code.
We tell our acts that if they’re moving advance tickets because of the promo code incentive, when it expires we will give them a new one. The whole point is to incentive fans to get in gear and buy a ticket so they actually show up to the show. Especially since over 80% of Fans that “promise to buy at the door” flake out last minute and fail to show up.
A more factual statement would be: Afton advance tickets range from $9 to $12 typically, day of price is $14 or $15 depending on the show. Afton gives promo codes to every artist, usually several codes to help promote for $1 to $3 off tickets. Fans can buy cash tickets from the artist or buy tickets online, their choice. The majority of Fans end up getting the discounted advance tickets with the promo code discount applied, so most fans are paying $8 to $11 to get into the show. Fans that miss out on promo codes, don’t help the band they like by buying tickets early, and wait until the last minute end up paying the $15 door price – but that accounts usually for < 5% of the total attendees.
ARTISTS DO NETWORK AT OUR SHOWS, AND IT USUALLY LEADS TO MORE GIGS.
Contrary to what you claimed, many artists tell us that they have great success at networking with and meeting other acts we book them with and that leads to more shows. They also have the opportunity to meet the venue staff and venue booking person, and many of our venues end up booking the acts that we bring in if they are impressed with that act and they draw well.
To say that our acts “won’t make any real connections” is just not true. Time and time again, we see a rapper that sells 60 tickets for us and shortly after they’ll get booked directly by the venue we just had them at, or the venue will put them as opener on a tour.
We never over promise anything. We are not a battle of the bands, we are not a contest, there are no grand prizes, we do not promise an A&R rep or record labels will be there. We just book live concerts, to perform, gain new fans, and meet other acts and showcase your music. That’s it. So while we do encourage acts to meet the other artists so it leads to more shows, and impress the venue manager and meet them for future bookings, we never ever try and tell bands “hey if you book with Afton we promise it will lead to big connections.” I learned many years ago it’s the scammy fly by night booking companies that make wild promises like that.
THE REST OF MY MESSAGE TO THE AUTHOR OF THE ABOVE POST:
I saw your post about us and wanted to reach out. To be honest, many points you made are either very outdated or just not true. I’m all about freedom of expression, but it feels a bit unfair that your post says things that are false and misleading. I would appreciate a response so we can dialogue, and am open to hearing your thoughts. My goal here is to address each act that is upset in Denver so I can make sure that:
1. Their account gets deleted from MyAfton.com and we remove/block any contact info we have for them.
2. If any of them feel wronged in the past, that I can hear their story and look up which show it was and see what happened. Our software allows us to look up everything including our show reps notes about the band, show they played, draw, payout, etc.
So if you want to let acts know that, they can email us at Denver@myafton.com and I will make sure I personally reply.
Above all, we don’t want artists to be unhappy or upset with us. It’s very easy to unsubscribe from our MyAfton booking platform, delete your account, or just email us to tell us to never contact you again.
We’re a small staff, and the manpower behind keeping track of which bands have broken up, gone on hiatus, changed their name, etc. is not feasible with the 280,000+ artists on our platform. For every band that replies “we broke up 7 years ago, so remove us” we get 4 other acts replying to that same check-in email saying “Wow I haven’t seen your emails in years, yes we want to book now,” or, “Yes! I have a new project now I’d like to book with you.”
So that’s why we rely on our artists to communicate with us if there has been a change, so we can quickly and easily update their account or remove them completely.
I agree, over the years I have seen a lot of predatory booking companies (all out of business now) and looking through the comments on your post, it looks to me like several people that commented literally have us mixed up with someone else.
There is a lot of misinformation, rumors, mixing us up with other past companies that I don’t feel is a fair representation of what it is we really do.
Bottom line, if a band hates Reverb Nation or CD Baby they should not work with them. Same goes here, if our shows don’t fit someone’s needs they should instead book with someone like you, a local Promoter, or contact the venue’s themselves. We are all for doing what’s right for your project. But, we can’t read minds, we need artists to communicate their preferences to us if they previously signed up for our artist roster and booking platform.
Each year tens of thousands of acts play our shows, give us great feedback, love what we do for them, and continue to rebook more and more shows – so there is definitely a need for what we do and a large segment of the local music community that would disagree with the claims that you made.
That’s why we are so transparent and up front about how we work, what we do, what we ask bands to do, and why our eContract and booking platform always lists every single term of the show. No artist goes into booking a show with us, without knowing absolutely everything expected of them, and the commitments we are making to them.
I hope you take the time to read this and either amend the post or encourage bands to reach out if they have legitimate complaints. If we didn’t care about our artists, I would have ignored the whole post and not taken the time to reply to you at all, I hope you can see I am open for discussion and value feedback from every perspective.
A FEW REPLIES TO SOME COMMENTS I’VE SEEN:
Commenter: The typical “battle of the bands” scammers.
The truth: See above, we never have produced a battle of the bands. Makes me think he is thinking of one of the battle of the bands company that went out of business.
Commenter: They seem to prey on green folk and from what I noticed religious songwriters.
Commenter: Yes they definitely prey on younger artists hungry for their 1st gig.
The truth: The majority of our artists are over 21 and have played many shows. Less than 10% of the acts we book are religious. It’s extremely rare that an act we book has never played a show before.
We just work with artists who are committed to self promotion and effective marketing of their shows. They have seen the benefits of drawing 25, 50, 75 people on a show and that it’s more fun to play with other like minded artists that are focused on drawing as many fans out to the show as possible – and not complaining that “the venue is making me draw fans to my show.”
So many artists have this backward mindset of, “It’s not my job to promote the shows my band plays,” or “I’m not going to work hard to draw 100 people to my show.” But the best way a local unsigned act can go onto the next level is by growing their fan base, learning how to sell 100+ tickets to every show they play, and showing up all of the “veteran” bands in their city that only draw 5 people whenever they play a show. I don’t get it. The primary goal of a band or rapper aside from making great music should be maximizing their draw at every show and putting in the work to grow their fan base as large as possible. Ask any venue owner, would they prefer the best band ever that can draw 3 people? Or a decent band that can draw 100 fans. There is power in being able to draw a lot of fans and knowing how to effectively sell more tickets than any other local act in your region.
Commenter: Slots are determined by ticket sales.
The truth: To be most fair to the acts drawing the most fans, the prime time slots, longer set lengths, and higher payouts go to the acts that are drawing the most. It makes no sense to reward an act that drew 3 fans and letting them play for an hour. The only acts that would love that format are the acts that don’t promote their shows. Artists like working with Afton because we are fair and if you promote effectively and draw a lot of fans, you get everything you want. If an act is lazy or doesn’t promote at all, they get a short set and last pick of time slots.
Be honest. Who truly deserves the longer set, prime time slot, and more payout? The band that drew 2 people or the band that just drew 55 fans?
Commenter: Don’t forget the 10 piece drum kit for a 20 minute set.
The truth: If a band gets a 20 minute set on our shows, it’s because they did not honor the eContract agreement and they sold 2 or 6 tickets, or 0 tickets. We are very clear that set length is shorter if your draw sucks, because we want to give longer sets to the acts that are actually drawing fans out, abiding by the agreement, and helping to support the venue by bringing people into their club.
Why should a band get to play a long set when they were lazy with promotion and did not contribute to the show attendance? All of the other bands on the show WORKED HARD to promote, sell tickets, and get their fans out. Why should a band drawing 0 or few fans get to ride on their coattails? Typically artists that book with Afton ask us NOT to book them with acts that won’t draw anybody out.
Commenter: Don’t do it – they’re bad news pay-to-play leeches.
Commenter: Pay to play model it’s a no go for me.
The truth: As I discussed above, we’ve never been pay to play. Other companies have employed that practice, we have not. If an act books and sells 3 tickets they don’t owe us any money and they are not forced to pay us for the 17 tickets they didn’t sell.
Commenter: They have tried to recruit me for years.
The truth: Any act that tells us to remove them, block them, unsubscribe them – we do it. We don’t want to spend time contacting acts that don’t want our shows. We have an unsubscribe link in our emails and acts can delete their MyAfton.com account themselves as well. If we reach out and you don’t want our shows just communicate that to us, it’s as simple as that.
If we are contacting you in any way, shape, or form and you don’t want our shows please communicate that to us and we’ll make sure we never contact you again.
Commenter: They insist they aren’t a battle of the bands or pay to play but everyone’s comments disproves that.
The truth: If dozens of people say something, it doesn’t make it true. We have never been pay to play or a battle of the bands, and despite people claiming we are those things it doesn’t make it true just because people are spreading the same false rumor…
There are lots of options to book shows. We’ve never claimed to be the only route to go. Our sign up process at MyAfton.com is clear and up front, so are the show details and the eContract for our shows. We go out of our way to be so up front and transparent because as musicians ourselves, we never wanted to “slip things by” artists or try to “convince” artists to book with us.
The way we book our shows is the same way I booked shows for my band back in the day. We sold tickets because we knew it was the best way to maximize our draw.
Over the years we have been able to vastly increase our pay scale, the payout at lower draw ranges, invest more in promoting our shows and our artists, and we routinely launch new tools, features, and services that help unsigned musicians navigate this crazy, cutthroat, backwards industry. We will continue to put the artist first, and treat artists the way we’d like to be treated. There are a million easier ways to “make money” than by helping smaller, unsigned, local artists book shows where we take on all financial risk… But we’ve done this for 16 years because I remember being a musician, I remember when the ONLY option to play the legendary Meow Meow in Portland was through a 1-girl production company that demanded a $300 up front pay to play contract just to get booked on the show.
Play the shows you want, if you feel you need to tell acts that Afton shows are not awesome, or not something they should play – that’s fine. We all have the right to make our own opinions.
But I do ask that people get the story straight. Don’t just believe a rumor you heard, and don’t judge a company or a person harshly if you don’t have the whole story.
SO, NOW WHAT?
We keep learning, we keep growing, we keep improving. We fix mistakes when they happen, we dialogue with our artists when something doesn’t go the way it was supposed to.
We keep listening to everyone’s feedback, from the artist that absolutely loves us to the DIY purist that believes we are horrible. Because I believe listening to every perspective is valuable and helps keep myself and my staff accountable in the decisions we make and how we run this company.