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Pay to play SXSW scams continue to crop up

Deborah Sengupta

Editor’s note: This article was originally published February 5, 2014

In addition to this online analysis of pay to play and the Austin hip-hop scene, we ran a story in print today that centered around how pay to play events are affecting this year’s South by Southwest Music Festival. The story is behind our paywall, but the bottom line is that South by Southwest organizers say they’re seeing a significant uptick in the amount of unofficial side events openly soliciting money from bands this year.

“It’s troubling because a lot of the bands really think they are real showcase slots, but obviously they are not,” Brad Spies who works on brand development and special projects for SXSW told us.

After reading today’s story Fred Nelson who owns the family-friendly South Austin restaurant Freddie’s Place contacted us. Nelson, who hosts a free open mic at the restaurant every Wednesday from 6:30 to 9 p.m. had received a few confusing emails from musicians. In one email a young artist from Sacramento, Ca explained that he had already paid $250 for a 15 minute slot on the venue’s SXSW showcase and booked his round trip ticket to Austin. He was concerned that he might not be able to access the venue as he is only 18 years old.

When a slightly savvier artist emailed the restaurant asking for information about the event promoter for his SXSW showcase, Nelson decided to investigate. He uncovered a flier for a showcase advertising set times for sale on an event called Wednesday with Freddie scheduled to take place during the regular open mic. The flier advertised a $250 15 minute “gold package” and a $150 8 minute “bronze package.” Nelson contacted the Austin Police Department. We forwarded the emails to our South By Southwest contacts who say they are investigating.

Please feel free to forward any other SXSW scams you’ve seen our way.