Pay-to-play used to mean performing at a space for a price. But now in the digital age, it means so many more things. As Covid came along four years ago, actors and industry folk were forced to do everything online. Places like Clubhouse and Zoom became extremely popular.



But with that, came people trying to earn a living. Even after that, our union went into a deep strike that forced everyone to create their own content or brush up on coaching and lessons.

Without jobs. In a depression. Without a paycheck. Even celebrities were selling their apartments and homes to make ends meet.



Now, you should always be creating your own content. It would help if you were always learning and growing. But when it comes to the price of thousands of dollars, that is when you need to sit back and think about what is truly worth it and what is too good to be true.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  


Or lack thereof. If it’s all five-star reviews, you might need to be a little suspicious. Odds are, the company has been deleting the negative reviews. And honestly, some companies do deserve five-star reviews. But if you feel a gut instinct that it is not a safe bet, don’t take it.

Go with your instinct. It will always benefit someone to take comments and complaints from disgruntled customers and actors with a grain of salt–until they start to build up.

Word of mouth. Social media. Entertainment forums are great sources for honesty and warnings to some of these pay-to-plays. If companies have long histories of being abusive, associating with abusers, and do not listen to honest and well-meaning victims, then there is a problem.  


If a business starts a live post or a video post with ‘I saw a post today from soso that I detest with the fire of a thousand suns but won’t name’, there is also a problem.

Just starting with negativity should be a red flag for anyone involved or viewing the content that it’s not a good idea. If you are a professional, then you know if you have a dislike for someone and their views, you defriend them.

You block them. You do not let them into your positive space.

If you have to trash highly respected representatives, industry, or past customers, you need to check yourself. Why are you getting this negative feedback? Why are there droves of people terrified just to speak a company’s name?

Why are there so many angry people? You might need to take a good look in the mirror and see what the real problem is.

The company. Look at the comments as well. Are they all agreeing with the post in a uniform manner? Are they going off-topic completely? That is the behavior of someone who has been suckered into the scam.  Is the company demanding things from their clients in public?


If you are seeing things like ‘Here is my best advice for casting directors/ auditions etc ‘ for thousands of dollars? That is also a terrifying red flag.

The fact that someone hasn’t booked for four years, or even a month and you got them the job is extremely insulting to the actor and to their work.

No one got them that job.

THEY GOT THE JOB. They were the right type. They just checked all of the boxes that the project needed.

Of course, companies help coach and recc professional scene creations and better headshot photographers, but in the end, it’s your talent that gets you the job. No one can take credit for something you did.


Why on earth would you trust a company with your money and talent when the company has trashed people for years? When the price even goes higher than one can afford? It is enough for a down payment on a house, or half of your Los Angeles rent.  


Have you seen the same behavior from this company in the past under a different name or company? They will rebrand. Either under a different name, a company, or even involving new industry people for extra validation. Essentially fooling you into thinking it’s a new program or organization.  


If a disagreement or a refund request ruffles some feathers, that is understandable. However, as a professional business, they should never call the client names, should never forward things to other clients to prove a point, and last but not least–deny any obvious wrong-doings.

What companies should do is try to solve the problem.

How can we make this better? What are your views on what you have learned or seen so far? Is there anything we can do to help make your experience better? And sometimes, people just don’t click.

And that’s fine. But if your terms of service state 90 days, or a week, or even less to receive a refund and they do not honor it because of petty or personal differences–you have been scammed. So remember actors. You can be coached.

You can have lovely representation and you can have all of the technology and professional headshots and clips in the world.

But, in the end–YOU get that job. YOU get that audition.

All anyone else can do is put in good words or give you a little push, but the rest—you do on your own.

If you need to claim someone hasn’t been doing something for a long time or isn’t getting cast and that the company is the reason behind it on a public social media or website?

WHEN ACTUAL PROOF IS PROVIDED, OWN UP TO IT. Screenshots. Receipts. Emails. Colleagues. Always own up to your actions.

That’s behavior to avoid. Words to live by, never piss off journalists.  


RELATED: What actors unions need to do about pay-to-submit sites. (lorettemag.com)

Lorette Magazine
  • Save

About the author: Katie Harden is a professionally repped New York-based/bi-coastal musical theater, entertainment journalist, and indie film actress. She is proudly part of the Actor’s Equity Association and frequently interviews colleagues, friends, and celebrities, along with reviewing television and movies. Find her at the bottom of a can of Arizona sweet tea or in the ocean! @KHardenOfficial

Share via
Copy link