Pay to play

Pay to play

Pay to play, sometimes pay for play, is a phrase used for a variety of situations in which money is exchanged for services or the privilege to engage (play) in certain activities. The common denominator of all forms of pay to play is that one must pay to "get in the game," with the sports analogy frequently arising.[1]


In politics

In politics, pay to play refers to a system, akin to payola in the music industry, by which one pays (or must pay) money to become a player.

Typically, the payer (an individual, business, or organization) makes campaign contributions to public officials, party officials, or parties themselves, and receives political or pecuniary benefit such as no-bid government contracts, influence over legislation,[2][3] political appointments or nominations,[4][5] special access[6] or other favors. The contributions, less frequently, may be to nonprofit or institutional entities,[7] or may take the form of some benefit to a third party, such as a family member of a governmental official.[8]

The phrase, almost always used in criticism, also refers to the increasing cost of elections and the "price of admission" to even run[9] and the concern "that one candidate can far outspend his opponents, essentially buying the election."[10]

While the direct exchange of campaign contributions for contracts is the most visible form of Pay to Play, the greater concern is the central role of money in politics, and its skewing both the composition and the policies of government.[11][12] Thus, those who can pay the price of admission, such as to a $1000/plate dinner or $25,000 "breakout session," gain access to power and/or its spoils, to the exclusion of those who cannot or will not pay: "giving certain people advantages that other[s] don't have because they donated to your campaign."[13] Good-government advocates consider this an outrage because "political fundraising should have no relationship to policy recommendations."[14] Citizens for Responsible Ethics in Washington called the "Pay-to-Play Congress" one of the top 10 scandals of 2008.[15]

Incumbent candidates and their political organizations[16] are typically the greatest beneficiaries of Pay-to-Play. Both the Democratic and Republican parties have been criticized for the practice. Many seeking to ban or restrict the practice characterize pay-to-play as legalized corruption.

The opposite of a pay-to-play system is one that is "fair and open"; the New Jersey Pay to Play Act specifically sets out bid processes that are or are not considered fair and open, depending upon who has contributed what to whom.[17]

Because of individual federal campaign contribution limits in the wake of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (McCain-Feingold), pay-to-play payments of "soft money" (money not contributed directly to candidate campaigns and that does not "expressly advocate" election or defeat of a candidate) donations to state parties and county committees have come under greater scrutiny. This method refers to money that is donated to an intermediary with a higher contribution limit, which in turn donates money to individual candidates or campaign committees who could not directly accept the payor's funds.

Pay-to-Play practices have come under scrutiny by both the federal government[18] and a number of states.[19] In Illinois, federal prosecutors in 2006 were investigating "pay-to-play allegations that surround Democratic Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's administration."[20] The allegations of pay-to-play in Illinois became a national scandal after the arrest of Gov. Blagojevich in December 2008, on charges that, among other things, he and a staffer attempted to "sell" the vacated U.S. Senate seat of then-president-elect Barack Obama.[21][22]

Many agencies have been created to regulate and control campaign contributions. Furthermore, many third-party government "watchdog" groups have formed to monitor campaign donations and make them more transparent.

In music

The term also refers to a growing trend, where venue owners charge an up-front fee to performing artists for the use of their facilities. The practice began in Los Angeles, CA, during the 1980s. It has become common in many U.S cities at low-turnout all-ages shows where performers are required to guarantee a minimum attendance through pre-show ticket sales.[23]

Pay-to-play gigs are a contentious practice in the UK, and some of the largest pay-to-play gig organisers have generated large amounts of discussion and criticism.

The term "Pay to Play" is also used as the title to a song by the band Nirvana and as the title to a song by the band Cringer, in which they denounce the practice.

Music Supervision is a booming field in the music industry, whose professionals place music in many kinds of film, television, commercial, web-based and other live and recorded media cues. While some music supervisors are paid only by their employer or per-project, some companies use a "pay to play" model wherein artists "pay" to "submit" tracks for consideration to a variety of media concerns, only to have to pay the Music Supervision intermediary again at a cost of half of its earning for the track placement should it win a placement. It is a matter of reinventing the square wheel because by introducing complex intermedial services, self-interest may cloud the artistic judgment of the supervisor in simply selecting the right track for the right job. And because the music supervisor may opt to not use any tracks at all, and refunds are not issued in those cases to the musicians, it may be regarded as an unethical practice.

In stand-up comedy

In a pay-to-play gig, the performer will either pay the promoter some money to be allowed to perform at the show, or will have to offer some in-kind payment. In a conventional comedy club, the promoter will pay the acts for their performance, and will raise the money to stage the gig by charging the audience. Some clubs offer open mic slots, where newer acts are allowed to learn the craft, unpaid; this is not the same as pay-to-play. Many comedians are against pay-to-play schemes, which they consider exploitative. [24]

Pay-to-play was cited as a cause of major damage to the quality of the New York comedy scene. [25] In economic terms, a pay-to-play strategy elevates those people who can afford to perform for nothing, or can afford to pay for their stage-time, which has nothing to do with their quality as an act. The pay-to-play promoter is able to profit from the goodwill and desire to perform of the acts, while discouraging appearances by higher quality acts who make a living from their performance, and thus cannot afford to perform at a pay-to-play gig, or who would seek out only paid work.

In some shows, the performer is asked to bring a certain number of paying audience members. As a payment in kind policy, this has caused similar controversy to pay-to-play. [26] A show where the acts are obliged to bring the audience is called a bringer. [27]

In broadcasting

The term also refers to a growing trend in which individuals or groups may purchase radio or television airtime, much like infomercials, to have their views heard on broadcast stations. While these types of shows are typically shows that have little sponsor support and have no substantiated audience, some major program producers do purchase airtime to "clear" their programs in certain major markets.

In the visual arts

Similar to the trend cited above in music, Pay to Play is the practice of visual artists paying gallery owners, dealers, curators, publishers, festival and contest sponsors, and better-established artists to critique, review, judge, exhibit, collect, or publish works created in such disparate media as painting, photography, video, and sculpture. Pay to Play is a mild form of vanity publishing. Pay to Play is characterized by cash flow that moves away from visual artists. Pay to Play is sold to visual artists and justified by visual artists as "an investment in future sales"[28] and may be self-victimization.[29]

In online gaming

The term is also used as slang to refer to Internet services that require that users pay to use them. Usually, it refers to MMORPGs, where players must pay to maintain a playing account, as is the case with EverQuest, Warhammer Online, Aion: The Tower of Eternity, or World of Warcraft. This is in contrast to free-to-play games. The game RuneScape features both free accounts for no money or pay-to-play accounts, with a much larger list of features.

The term may also refer to something like the online game Habbo Hotel, where there are games inside the game, which you may "pay to play" to join into a game whilst it is in progress.

In the game Second Life, many virtual arcades use Moo Town Games' player rewards system called Pay For Play to actually pay players of virtual arcade games for playing.[30]

In corporate finance

Pay to Play is a provision in a corporation's charter documents (usually inserted as part of a preferred stock financing) that requires stockholders to participate in subsequent stock offerings in order to benefit from certain antidilution protections. If the stockholder does not purchase his or her pro rata share in the subsequent offering, then the stockholder loses the benefit(s) of the antidilution provisions. In extreme cases, investors who do not participate in subsequent rounds must convert to common stock, thereby losing the protective provisions of the preferred stock. This approach minimizes the fears of major investors that small or minority investors will benefit by having the major investors continue providing needed equity, particularly in troubled economic circumstances for the company. It is considered a "harsh" provision that is usually only inserted when one party has a strong bargaining position.

In sex work

Pay to play refers also to prostitution.[31]

In insurance

In auto insurance law, No Pay No Play refers to the principle that an uninsured driver is not permitted to recover money for property damage or bodily injury damages caused by an auto accident, even if the uninsured driver is not at fault, because the lack of pay into the system results in the revocation of the uninsured driver's right to play when compensation is collected.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Terry Golway, Nothing Innocent About Pay-to-Play, The New York Observer, Aug. 26, 2001.
  2. ^ J. Nesmith, Execs Pay to Play with GOP, NewsCenter, Jan. 7, 2004, retrieved 2007-12-12.
  3. ^ Chicago's Pay-to-Play Zoning (linking to series of articles from Chicago Tribune), retrieved 2008-01-30.
  4. ^ L. Riscalla, Pilot shows way to end pay to play, Home News Tribune, Nov. 1, 2005, reprinted by Common Cause at, retrieved 2008-01-31.
  5. ^ Pay-to-Play, Fletcher-Style,, February 27, 2007, retrieved 2008-01-31.
  6. ^ Governor Giving Carte Blanche, Special Access to Major Donors: Pay-to-Play Abuses Aimed at Derailing Public Employee Unions, Jun. 6, 2005.
  7. ^ H. Hausemann, Politicos should return money from casino owner who admits trying to buy their support,, July 18, 2006 (contributions to university and schools).
  8. ^ St. Clair, Stacy (2008-12-11). "Criminal Complaint Reveals Extent of Gov. Blagojevich's 'Pay-for-Play' Scheme". Los Angeles Times.,0,5341798.story. Retrieved 2008-12-23. 
  9. ^ Mori Dinauer, Pay to Play, The American Prospect, Jan. 23, 2008, retrieved 2008-01-31.
  10. ^ M. Schmitt, New America Foundation, Pay to Play: Why a Billion-Dollar Election Isn't a Bad Thing, The New Republic Online, Mar. 16, 2007.
  11. ^ C. Canary and E. Wojcicki, Dollarocracy: Pay-to-play culture still has a chokehold on Illinois politics, Illinois Issues, May 2007.
  12. ^ Clean Money, Clean Elections.
  13. ^ Jonathan Fine, president of Preservation Chicago, quoted in D. Mihalopoulos, R. Becker, & D. Little, Neighborhoods for Sale: How cash, clout transform Chicago neighborhoods, Chicago Tribune, January 27, 2008, retrieved 2008-01-31.
  14. ^ J. Rood, On Heels of 9/11, Clinton Fundraiser Raises Eyebrows, ABC News: The Blotter (quoting Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight).
  15. ^ Top Ten Ethics Scandals of 2008, 2008-12-16.
  16. ^ Soraghan, Mike (2008-12-16). "Experts: ‘Pay to play’ is the SOP on Capitol Hill". The Hill. Retrieved 2009-02-01. 
  17. ^ N.J.S.A. 19:44A-20.4.
  18. ^ Public Citizen Pay-to-Play and the Federal Government, 02-03-2004, retrieved 2008-02-09.
  19. ^ Public Citizen, Pay-to-Play and State Governments, 02-03-2004, retrieved 2008-02-09.
  20. ^ Chicago Tribune, Nov. 1, 2006, retrieved 2008-01-31.
  21. ^ TPR (2008-12-09). "Criminal Complaint Reveals Extent of Gov. Blagojevich's 'Pay-for-Play' Scheme". The Public Record. Retrieved 2008-12-23. [dead link]
  22. ^ Johnson, Carrie (2008-12-13). "Blagojevich aide resigns amid 'pay to play' scandal". Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-12-23. 
  23. ^
  24. ^ Comedians Rail Against Pay to Play
  25. ^ Chortle
  26. ^ Chortle
  27. ^ Comedians Rail Against Pay to Play
  28. ^ Harlan Ellison -- Pay the Writer, retrieved 2008-04-10.
  29. ^ Artist & Art Competitions, Contests, Opportunities, Gallery Show Scams, Pay to Play, retrieved 2008-04-10.
  30. ^
  31. ^

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Pay to Play — can refer to several different concepts.In politicsIn politics, pay to play refers to a system, akin to payola in the music industry, by which one pays (or must pay) money in order to become a player. The common denominator of all forms of pay to …   Wikipedia

  • Pay-to-play — Pour les articles homonymes, voir P2P (homonymie). Le terme pay to play est employé avec des sens différents selon le domaine. Performance et industrie musicale Article détaillé : payola. Dans le domaine de la musique, le pay to play est la… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Pay To Play — Pour les articles homonymes, voir P2P (homonymie). Le terme pay to play est employé avec des sens différents selon le domaine. Performance et industrie musicale Article détaillé : payola. Dans le domaine de la musique, le pay to play est la… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Pay to play — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda No debe confundirse con P2P. El término Pay to play (conocido también como Pay 2 Play) o pagar por jugar en español es un método de servicios online, específicamente a los juegos, que requiere que los usuarios paguen …   Wikipedia Español

  • Pay per play — (PPP), also known as Cash per play (CPP), is an online advertising method that plays an audio advertisement on websites. The term pay per play comes from advertisers paying for each audio ad played. Also, the web page playing the audio ad is… …   Wikipedia

  • Pay to play — Pour les articles homonymes, voir P2P (homonymie). Le terme pay to play est employé avec des sens différents selon le domaine. Performance et industrie musicale Article détaillé : payola. Dans le domaine de la musique, le pay to play est la… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Pay to play — Die Bezeichnung Payola setzt sich zusammen aus den Worten pay (engl.: bezahlen) und Victrola und steht für den Vorgang des “pay for play” (engl.: „bezahlen für das Spielen“). Dieser Vorgang beschreibt die Bestechung von Disc Jockeys und Programm… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • pay-per-play — /ˌpeɪ pe pleɪ/ noun a website where the user has to pay to play an interactive game over the Internet …   Marketing dictionary in english

  • pay-to-play — adjective Requiring payment from the player …   Wiktionary

  • pay-to-play — Attempts by municipal bond underwriting businesses to gain influence with political officials who decide which underwriters are awarded the municipality s business. Bloomberg Financial Dictionary …   Financial and business terms

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