Sonicbids: SCAM or Genuine Way for Indie Bands to Get Gigs?
Is Sonicbids a Respectable Middleman for Booking Music Events, or a Rip-off for Independent Bands and Musicians?
by Paul Diamond Blow
Sonicbids is an online booking service for concert promoters and independent bands. For the price of $50 a year an independent band gets a one year membership with Sonicbids and gets an EPK (electronic press kit) and is able to submit online for playing festivals and other events which are listed on Sonicbids by the promoters. Sonicbids has been in operation for several years now and many big name festivals such as Bumbershoot and SXSW book exclusively through Sonicbids. The question is, is Sonicbids a respectable middleman for booking gigs and events, or is Sonicbids a scam that rips off independent bands and musicians, or at least takes advantage of them?
I first heard of Sonicbids several years ago when I wanted to submit my own rock band to play at Bumbershoot -- the biggest music festival in Seattle. I found out that Bumbershoot was booking exclusively through Sonicbids, which meant I had to sign up with Sonicbids to apply for a slot. The deal didn't sound too bad -- there was a $15 submission fee and I got a free six month membership with Sonicbids as part of the deal. My band didn't win a slot at Bumbershoot but I checked out Sonicbids for the next six months to see if it was on the up and up and to see if it could be a useful tool.
The way Sonicbids works is a band or musician creates an EPK (electronic press kit) which is a pretty cool looking web page with a band photo, a bio, press reviews, music samples, videos, etc. The EPK can be emailed, and the idea is that you email your EPK to concert promoters and bookers to try to get gigs instead of mailing off a press kit via the U.S. Postal Service. Sonicbids also has a large listing of open opportunities that bands can submit to play. Promoters sign up with Sonicbids to have their events and opportunities listed on the site. However, each submission has a submission fee -- anywhere from $5 to $25 -- and all the band is guaranteed is that the promoter of the event being submitted to will at least check out the bands' EPK and you will eventually get a "yes" or "no" response regarding the gig. This means the promoter simply has to click on a link and look at a band's EPK for a few seconds, then send off a form email later on once the event has been booked
The problem with the "opportunities" listed on Sonicbids was that most of them were either lame or shady. Many of them were simply "opportunities" to be in some sort of "battle of the bands" contests or just to be on a compilation CD of some sort. I even found several Seattle area dive bars listed on Sonicbids, charging a $5 fee just to be considered for booking, which was a laugh because I knew all it really took to book a gig at these dive bars was a phone call. My feeling, and the feeling of many other independent musicians and bands, is that these so-called "opportunities" are basically a big money maker for both Sonicbids and the promoters, and a scam for the independent bands.
Say, for instance, a promoter lists an opportunity to appear on a compilation CD that will feature 15 bands. If their submission fee is $5 and 1000 bands submit for it, that's five grand in their pocket to produce a CD that costs maybe $2000. Say another promoter lists an event that has two slots open for Sonicbids bands and the submission fee is $15, and 1000 bands go for it... that's 15k in their pocket! That's the main problem with Sonicbids -- you get a lot of bands paying submission fees for events, bands that really have no chance of even winning a slot. Even with the big name festivals such as Bumbershoot and SXSW that book exclusively through Sonicbids, they charge a high fee ($25 for SXSW) to apply for a slot playing the festival and many of these festivals actually only give a couple of the slots to Sonicbids bands... I've been in this business long enough to know that the bands that do get on these big name festivals are mainly well-known bands with connections, and without the right connections you will NOT get on a big name festival or event. So why do the promoters for these big name events sign up with Sonicbids? Because it's a gosh darned cash cow!
I let my Sonicbids membership expire after six months even though they offered me another six months for free. In the six months I was a member I submitted to only three events (we didn't get on any of them) for $15 a shot. As I said, most of the other "opportunities" were shady or down right lame and after six months I came to the conclusion that Sonicbids is basically a cash cow for promoters and it takes advantage of independent bands and musicians. That is also the general consensus among independent bands and musicians -- just google "sonicbids scam" and you will find scores of articles, blogs, and forums full off complaints.
Some bands say that with Sonicbids they at least get a cool EPK that they can email to clubs around the country. But why pay $50 a year for this EPK when you do it for free elsewhere? On sites such as Myspace and Reverbnation you can do the same thing -- display your bio, band photos, music samples, videos, and more -- and you can email links to your page to a promoter. I myself have booked plenty of real gigs on Myspace over the last few years, and it cost me nothing.
All in all, my opinion of Sonicbids is that it is a waste of money for bands and should be avoided. The only way I would sign up with Sonicbids again is if I had real connections at an awesome event or festival that told me they wanted my band on the gig but I would have to submit through Sonicbids to make it official. And that is how real gigs are booked -- with real connections, not through a scam site like Sonicbids.
Sonicbids rating: three thumbs down.