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Michelle Jones

Corporate Gigs - A Different World

December 5, 2011 at 4:08 PM

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.

From Elizabeth Elliot
Posted on December 5, 2011 at 8:39 PM
I once played a corporate gig on cello where I was the "opening act", and I had stage hands setting up the stage, testing mics and bumping into me while I was playing. And it was unpaid. There's a lot we put up with for money, but this was inexcusable.
From elise stanley
Posted on December 6, 2011 at 7:29 PM
I think I would have got up and left - and if anyone said anything told them to half my pay...

You have to value yourself - and from your description they could have damaged your instrument.

The real problem is that people usually don't value anything unless they have to make some sacrifice for it - even if thats just showing respect.

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