ChirpFest officials are being accused of "scamming" local artists and DJs wanting to perform in the upcoming concert.
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This year artists who want to perform have to go through an artists submission process, which includes a nonrefundable fee of $55. This fee is just for artists to be considered for the show, not including any guarantee of making the show or being paid. Artists instead will get paid based on the number of tickets they are able to sell.
"It's a pay-to-play gig," said Cameron Michael, a full-time DJ from Indianapolis. "Instead of highlighting the cities best they are only booking people who pay and will sell tickets on their behalf. They are scamming young DJs that are eager to play that event."
After learning about the terms and conditions of playing for ChirpFest, Michael, along with many other local artists and DJs, have used social media to voice their concerns, some using #scamfest.
But ChirpFest has been quick to address concerns.
This is the first year artists are being charged to perform since the festival started in 2015.
Dimitri Putney, a junior telecommunications major at Ball State said he performed last year without having to go through an application process or fee. But after the performance he was not paid.
"All of the local artists walked away with a free energy drink," he said. "That was pretty much it. It was an 'exposure only' show but I haven't seen any growth from that festival."
Putney said he believes festivals set up as a 'pay-to-play' are "screwing over" young artists.
"Anyone who's established knows to stay away from these events, so the only applications they're going to get is small guys who may not have the ticket draw," he said. "$55 is a lot of money too – most of the smaller guys probably won't make their money back on that application fee. This system benefits the promoter, not the performer."
While it may not be popular among performers, the pay-to-play system is legal and not uncommon.
Lavonte Pugh, head of the Muncie Electronic Dance Music Collective, a local group of DJs and producers, said many shows are set up this way.
"From an artists standpoint, the ability to 'buy' into a show may sound like an easy road to recognition and maybe in a perfect world it would be, but from what I have observed, these sorts of things end up being very impersonal," Pugh said. "You'd have to think: 'How can we trust that he promoter has put together a solid lineup if money was the first thing on the table?'"
From the promoter standpoint, Pugh said, the system has its benefits.
"People will send you money and applications ... so you can cherry-pick who you like and put your show together having made a little money to offset production costs," he said."
Pugh has organized shows himself and said Muncie EDMC does not run on a pay-to-play system. The group personally hand selects and pays artists according to the show. Without doing that, Pugh said the show runs the risk of all the artists "sounding exactly the same."
Not everyone feels the same way about the pay-to-play system. Some artists and DJs aren't opposed to the fee because of the opportunity of exposure.
Local DJ Como Negrete has performed for ChirpFest in the past without pay and said his career benefited from the experience.
"It (performing) helped me expand my name and get gigs in Chicago," he said. "What they are doing is not a scam for many venues that I have countered in the city do not pay you until you build a name ... we all knew that we would not get paid but performed for the experience and exposure. Just because they are trying to expand and charge now to limit the applicants does not mean it's a scam."
After reaching out to ChirpFest on its official Facebook page, an official said they "don't have much to say on the topic." The Daily News is waiting for further comment.
This story will be updated.