Regarding Ian Martin’s Aug. 30 column, pay to play is not a system unique to Japan. Ticket sales, space and equipment rental are a fact of life for musicians everywhere. Of all the performance-level musicians in the world, only a very small percentage make their living with music. And, by and large, they’re just scratching it out.
Anyone who has ever owned or run a live-house will attest that many times the only customers in the place enjoying the music are the band with possibly close friends and family members.
A live-house goes about the business of promoting the venue. It generally has a website with a calendar listing the bands that will play, sometimes with a short bio for those interested, but the promotion budget is limited. There is very little to spare for focusing on individual bands.
Amateur musicians, in particular, have no idea how to properly promote themselves and, in many cases, have no interest in doing so. They expect the venue to provide a house full of adoring music-lovers along with all the equipment that is provided.
The musician live-house conundrum is only one aspect of the problem in the live-music scene in Japan, or anywhere else for that matter. It’s not a problem so much as a symptom. The problem is finding a solution to how to build a regular customer base for either the band or the venue. Until that happens, the band will have to either pay to play or play for free.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.