CMA Fest brings Country Music fans to downtown Nashville to see Country's biggest acts, as well as newcomers, perform throughout the city in celebration of Country Music, and the majority of the shows are free for fans, but some artists are being asked to pay in order to play around town during CMA Fest.
The pay-to-play stages are not affiliated with CMA in any way, shape, or form, but because of the draw that CMA Fest has on Country Music fans to Nashville, some people believe they can get artists to pay in order to play for the exposure.
“What a young musician has to do is really look at the pros and cons of what somebody is offering you, and if you’re so desperate that you’ll lose money to play, you need to be receiving something of tangible value, and just being in the vicinity of CMA Fest is not a very tangible thing because most people are going to be at the real CMA shows," Dave Pomeroy, president of the Nashville Musicians Association, said. “It’s one of the oldest tricks in the music business.”
Pomeroy said that pay-to-play is nothing new, but it has never been prominent in Nashville.
“Paying to play goes against the basic concept of respect for musicians that Nashville was built on," Pomeroy said.
For some, the exposure can be worth a lot of money, but Pomeroy doesn't believe musicians should have to pay in order to play in most situations.
If a musician does decide to pay in order to play, Pomeroy suggests they do plenty of research on the person they're booking through to make sure they're reputable, because most people in Nashville have a reputation and are either seen as good to work with, or someone to avoid. He also suggests that a musician work out a contract before paying any money to play in order to protect themselves.
“You have to inform yourself and make these decisions because there are many, many people of all sizes, shapes, and descriptions who are going to try to take advantage of you," Pomeroy explained.
Again, none of the pay-to-play venues or stages are affiliated with CMA. All CMA Fest shows are free, except for the Nissan Stadium shows, and all of the money raised through CMA is either donated to charity or used to promote the advancement of Country Music.