December 2011

Reality Show?

December 17, 2011 09:12

A friend posted a comment on one of my posts on Facebook saying that (and I’m paraphrasing) keeping up with the Jones’ would be an interesting reality show for one of the music channels. I like this idea! Gene Simmons is already a very popular and wealthy man whom I thoroughly respect and admire, but I think he is also “out of touch” with the regular working musician. His reality show about his family and career are about the success he has received later in life and are a reflection on how he got there. Yes, I find this interesting, but not a reality for an average joe who can make a decent living in music without having to hit it big. I think my show (if it does happen) would reach a broader audience of people who can relate exactly to what I and my fellow musician friends are doing to make a career in music.

Topics and focus could change every episode, but still all tie together since it is real life. No writers, no producers telling us what to do; just a camera crew following us around and WE are included in the editing process of what is important to learn for an aspiring musician. My husband and I work very closely together every day to make the band a success. He is not a musician, but I know I could not do this without him. He handles the audio, visual, web presence, recording, mixing, engineering, photography, videography, and just about anything and everything technical with the band. I handle the music, music choices, work with the arrangements, wrangle the musicians for rehearsals and performances, bookings, productions, show development and design, costuming, musical direction, wrangle the musicians, contracts, business matters, wrangle the musicians, accounting and bookkeeping, wrangle the musicians, communications, educational program creation and design, wrangle the musicians, scheduling, etc. Although we do have paid professional agents, accountants and attorneys who deal with some of my responsibilities, I still have to oversee all of them. I have to protect the company since every band member is a part of it and they are trusting me to make sure it’s all done correctly.

Of course, those listed responsibilities are only related to one specific group of musicians with whom I work. As a freelance musician, I also perform with symphony orchestras, other rock groups, the multitude of weddings and other chamber music opportunities, and churches. The holidays are an extremely busy time for musicians and we are all thankful for it. For example, on Christmas Eve day, I am performing with my trio for 3 church services in the afternoon, and as part of an orchestra at another church for a midnight service. The next day (Christmas Day) includes three full-blown Christmas shows at Walt Disney World with a 55-piece orchestra and 400-voice choir with celebrity narrator for EPCOT’s Candlelight Processional. I literally have dozens of other smaller gigs leading up to New Year’s, too.

I cannot stress enough that if anyone wants a career in music, he/she MUST be willing to work holidays. The musicians who will be working with me on Dec. 24 will be some of my first call musicians for the rest of the year, and I know many contractors who feel the same way. The musicians who said “Ummm, no, I really don’t want to work that day so I can have dinner with my family” will not be my first call. Of course, I specifically asked “What time is your dinner?” and when I justified that each one would be home EARLY enough to be with their families, then the response was “yeah, well, I really don’t want to work that day.” True story. You can tell each of these musicians is still a student and don’t understand what it is really like to be a working musician.

On the topic of wrangling the musicians, this is probably where I spend most of my time. Currently, I have 26 people with whom I contract regularly for gigs. I know contractors and personnel managers who deal with many more, and it multiplies in difficulty the larger the ensemble. Plus, I have to determine who is the “best fit” for a particular gig based on many criteria: classical or rock? Show or background music? Who is the audience – conservative or hard-core? Fans or corporate clients? I have to make those decisions, and that includes understanding that there may be some hurt feelings from other members of the group as to why they were not chosen to do that gig. I know I cannot put a musician with lots of visible tattoos on a classical corporate gig unless he/she can cover them up. I have to follow the “Disney look” when I’m selecting musicians with whom to work at any of the hotels and locations at or near Disney. I specifically approve each clothing ensemble before I allow it on a gig. I have even had a musician show up in black jeans and shoes with no socks when I specifically told her and put it in writing to wear a long black skirt with black hose. I had a spare of these in my car and made her go change.

Good grief! I really could create an entire reality show just based on the day-to-day dealings with other musicians! Plus it might be interesting to record some of the interactions with the “celebrity” musicians I encounter on a regular basis, including when I do tours with larger name acts. For the technically minded, I think there is a HUGE audience for what Jerry deals with on a daily basis. Setting up the sound, running the mixing board, recording, etc. And, of course, his dealings with the musicians. Now to find a producer…

4 replies

Corporate Gigs - A Different World

December 5, 2011 09:08

Just when you think have it figured out, there is always something surprising about corporate gigs. The key for doing these successfully is to be flexible and patient. This applies for every musician, regardless of experience and role. As much as possible should be clearly spelled out in the contract, but there are always last-minute changes. Corporate gigs are a completely different genre and audience.

At many corporate gigs, there is usually something else that is the focus of the event - dinner, reception, awards presentation, etc. The musicians are the entertainment that is either background or supplementary to the event. Rarely is the entertainment the focus as it would be in a performing arts theatre. I think this is why the meeting planners feel they can change everything on a whim. They are reading their audience and trying to fit the entertainment to them. They have no clue who will actually be listening or interested. Again, it's not like a fan coming to see their favorite band. It is actually very rare for the audience to even be interested in the music, let alone take time to video the group and want to pose for pictures and autographs (yes, this happens almost every time I perform as the Vinylinist). I cannot stress enough how the band members have to be flexible in these scenarios.

Recently, I performed for two corporate events where this mindset HAD to be included. We got there more than thirty minutes prior to our scheduled setup time, and discovered the physical stage was not even set up! By the time the stage was actually put together so we could actually set up our instruments and monitors, etc. it was an hour after our original setup time. That gave us only one hour for setup, sound check, and trouble shooting before we were to start performing. Then the meeting planner changed our start time at the gig to EARLIER. We were ready and did as we were told, but it was very rushed. Then the meeting planner decided to wait another 15 minutes for our start time, change our playing time, change our break time, change what they wanted - all while the event was happening. Yes, we try to accommodate, when possible. Thank goodness our agent was on-site and could field many of these changes.

Sidenote - USE AN AGENT! AND MAKE SURE THEY ARE PRESENT ON-SITE AT CORPORATE GIGS! This prevents the musician from being the "bad guy" and allows them to focus on their job of entertaining.

Although we did do our job of entertaining, and the guests and meeting planner were very happy, it is up to the leader to make sure that all the musicians in the group are informed of changes, and that the appearance and professionalism of the group is evident. When it is "break time," the musicians are still on the clock and must be able to be reached in case of other last-minute changes. We learned the hard way that cell phones do not work everywhere, so two-way radios must be used when possible. But it is still up to the musicians to WATCH THE CLOCK and be near or at the stage before the original scheduled call time. When a musician arrives to join the group AFTER the scheduled time and AFTER the group has already started, that is a terminable offense. Period. If that person was you, then you just cost that group and every person in it future gigs ($$$) and possibly a decrease in payment from the client for that gig.

Each musician is responsible not only to the leader, but to every other musician in that group. The leader can field any problems through the agent, but it is up the leader to make sure everyone is doing their job. It is a team effort to put on a show, and everybody has to work together to make it a success. It is a job, and it's about time most musicians started treating it like one.

2 replies

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