Pay What You Want

I’m currently sat on a train back to London after a very eye opening couple of weeks. There is a kid crying manically behind me, so if there are a few mistakes, forgive me. As you may know, my friend Dave Giles and I were booked to play on a tour with an Irish singer-songwriter called ‘Bry’. Bry then got offered a support tour with a band called ‘Twenty One Pilots’ and had to postpone our tour. That’s completely understandable, but it left Dave and I with 2 weeks free, which neither of us liked. We decided to book a mini tour around the UK. People had already bought tickets for the original Bry shows, so we didn’t want to put tickets out again so we decided to do a Pay What You Want tour. The response has been amazing, but ‘more on that later’. 

The whole ‘Pay What You Want’ thing has been around the industry for some time now. The first artist to take it to the next level was ‘Radiohead’. They released an album called ‘In Rainbows’, I believe, and it was completely Pay What You Want. This shook the industry at the time. It’s a well known fact that the music industry is in a decline since the increase of illegal downloads and people having less expendable income. To me, it was a genius idea. Radiohead are a massive band and have been for years so they knew that their album would sell thousands, but in turn would also be illegally downloaded a lot. The fact that you could go on their website and download their album for free would surely mean there’s no reason to illegally download it. You’d have to put how much you want to pay for the album and it was on your hard drive. I suppose there’s an element of guilt of putting £0.00 in that little form. I remember downloading it for somewhere in the region of £1.50. It wasn’t an album that I would’ve bought, but due to the nature of the release, I had to give it a chance. There must have been a balance of people putting in £0 to those supporters that would’ve paid over the odds for it. It’s genius. 

15 minutes later, the kid is still crying. 

Dave and I in McQueens, Knaresborough

Next thing I know, there’s a site called Bandcamp about. I’ve used Bandcamp for years and I love it. I never put my main releases on it, as they are on iTunes, Spotify etc (hint hint), but I do use it for special releases. I can’t remember my first release but let’s use an EP I released called ‘Sholly’ as an example. These were songs that I recorded with my band ‘The Peacemakers’ whilst recording the ‘Saturday Nights/Sunday Mornings’ EP. It was a choice out of releasing the two EP’s, which left me with a solid EP just lying around on my hard drive. I loved that EP, but it was not what I was about at the time. After SNSM had been out for a few months, I put Sholly on Bandcamp as a Pay What You Want EP. I received a great response, obviously some people downloaded it for free, and one lovely person paid £30 for it (Thank you Ashley).  To me, it didn’t matter how much people paid, it was there for free. The fact that people wanted to pay for it was amazing and it helped fund my next EP (which never got released, but is on Bandcamp). When I did my ONTAW challenge in 2015, the main place you could stream/download the track every week was Bandcamp. I’ll leave a link at the bottom of the blog with these sites, there’s a ton of music on there. 

Verve, Leeds

Onto the tour…Dave and I were left with 2 weeks in our diary that needed filling. We knew that we had to keep expenses down, as we were expecting the worst. Truth be told, we put the tour on sale expecting nobody to turn up. We searched high and low for venues in the cities that we were originally playing to not much success. We also had a gig booked with Bry in London at the time that was still going ahead, and a covers gig in Manchester which was helping us fund the travelling around. We ended up with this schedule: 

DAY OFF, Norwich, Leeds, Manchester, London (With Bry), Cardiff, Covers gig in Manchester, DAY OFF, Newcastle. 

We didn’t like the look of those days off. The first day off was the day after Dave had just done a 10 hour gig to raise money for a charity called Mind. He still wanted to do something on that day off. We ended up booking a few house shows. Down to Portsmouth we went, and in true style of the rest of the tour, the house shows were ‘pay what you want’ rather than our usual fee which we charge for house shows. On the drive down, there was fear that we were making a big mistake and might have to scrape together to try and make our rent at the end of the month. All 3 shows of the day were great and they all gave us money to help fund our travels. This was such a great feeling. We didn’t ask for money, we didn’t suggest that we wanted money, they just gave it to us. Incredible. 

Kids still crying. 

Supporting Bry, Borderline...Photo by Rachel Kiki

Just going to do a brief side step here. Yes, I know that Music isn’t about Money, but when it’s your only form of income, it kind of is. Dave and I play covers gigs all the time to help pay our rent. When we started doing that, we never got paid. You’d play charity gigs and free gigs to learn your ‘chops’ and get a reputation. But it gets to a point when you’re bringing 50 people to a gig that are paying however much a ticket, that you have to think that you’re worth more than ‘exposure’. Especially when you’re playing Wonderwall. Covers gigs help fund our original music, which at the best of times, we breakeven. I realise this blog is very Money Heavy, and I wanted to stress that I’m not a greedy S.O.B, I just need to pay rent and other expenses in my life. 

Norwich the day after was our first proper gig of the tour in a real venue. The money was free to hire, and we’d ‘pre-sold’ around 12 tickets. (We set up a bandcamp page to buy tickets if anyone wanted to pay up front). When we turned up, we were told that if we didn’t have 15 audience members at the gig, the gig would be pulled. This was because they’d need to make £200 behind the bar to help pay the staff. This was understandable but also the same time, a bit nerve racking. Dave and I devised a plan, we would drink £200 behind the bar and sleep in the van if need be. Luckily, I believe 25 people turned up and we’d made enough to cover our expenses thanks to the generosity of the people who came to see us. In Leeds the next day, more people turned up and put money in our bucket, and this continued for the rest of the tour. About halfway through, Dave and I realised that we were onto something special. There were so many more benefits to this tour than we originally thought. 

Jumping Jacks, Newcastle

One of my biggest hates of being a musician is the text you get from a friend, ‘Can you stick me on the guest list?’. When I first started playing gigs, I loved having a guest list and putting a girl that I fancied on it, it made me look cool. It was only on my headline tour last year that I started notice a flaw. The people who I had on the guest list were the ones by the bar chatting over my set and the support acts. Also, I’ve never really had ‘Industry People’ to put on the guest list. I don’t see the point in coming to a show if you’re going to stand at the back with a pen and paper seeking out flaws in my performance. The greatest thing about this tour is that there was no guest list. It was technically a free gig. The weirdest thing happened, people who would’ve usually been on the guest list would come to this tour, put money in the bucket and appreciate the performance. If you put a value on something, you’re going to want to pay attention. 

When you’re doing a ‘headline’ tour or a multi band bill, the ticket price is usually somewhere between £6 and £10, this makes it difficult for our supporters to bring a friend. Why should they take a chance on something if they’re going to be out of pocket and disappointed if they don’t like it? That’s completely fair. I’ve never had so many people come up to me and say ‘I came along with my friend, I’d never heard you before but I’d definitely come again’, as I have on this tour. It was a really nice feeling. This idea has blown my mind a little bit, and the support that we’ve received from people has been amazing. Thank you so much if you came out the shows, whether you paid or not. The fact we had full rooms at most of these shows is incredible for our level. 

Cowboy in Converse, Sheffield

The tour ended up with a few shows with band called Room 94. It feels like I’ve known these guys for a few years because Dave’s toured with them a few times. I have no idea how long I’ve actually known them for but they are a bloody delight. I’ve never supported them until now, and I was super excited. The thing I love most about them is that they are exactly the same off stage as they are on stage. It’s just onslaught of ‘Bare Banter’…or is it ‘Bear Banter’, can’t imagine there being many Bear puns around these days. Dave and I combined our sets to perform a 40 minute long set of playing each other’s tunes. It’s quite terrifying being on the same bill as bands who are good looking, and then Dave and I come on stage, with our cowboy shirts and acoustics looking a little bit rugged. It was great fun though, the crowds were great and I met some lovely people doing it! 

Supporting Room 94 in Birmingham

I’d also like to thank the following for the past couple of weeks. 

Dave: For being a pain in my arse. But a supportive pain in my arse. 

The Venues: B2 (Norwich), Verve (Leeds, and also Mick for helping us sort it), Gullivers (Manchester), Borderline (London), Four Bars (Cardiff, and also Sara for helping us sort it), Wharf (Manchester), Jumping Jacks (Newcastle), Rainbow (Birmingham), Corporation (Sheffield) and also The Ashcrofts, The Hambreys and The Debnms for hosting the house shows. 

Bry: Thanks for putting us on the bill with you in London. The show was so much fun, good luck with the Twenty One Pilots tour. 

Room 94: Thanks for putting Dave and I on your short tour. Was so great finally getting to support you. You guys smash it constantly. 

The People who let us crash at their house: Josh, Pam-e-la, my Mum, Heather, Anni and Richard. 

McQueens: Great little Cafe in Knaresborough run by the Jones’ who are one of my favourite families. Check it out. We ate there twice on this tour. Lovely food. 

Kid on the train: Thanks for stopping crying. 


My BandCamp:

My ONTAW Bandcamp: 


Room 94:

Dave’s Charity Fundraising Page:

1 comment

  • Alan

    Alan Knaresborough

    We miss you already!

    We miss you already!

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