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Michelle Jones

Reality Show?

December 17, 2011 at 4:12 PM

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…

From Hannah Frey
Posted on December 18, 2011 at 10:44 PM
I would respectfully disagree that freelance musicians must work holidays. I have never worked on Christmas day (actually never been asked to) and would only consider it if I were on the verge of homelessness. Then again, I am enough of a working musician that I would never tell a contractor why I wasn't able to take a job or what time my family commitment was, if they had the audacity to ask! Some things are nobody's business. Just my two cents!

I agree that many musicians are ridiculous in their inability to dress properly or follow instructions. It's not that hard to read an email to see where to be and what to wear!

From Ian Stewart
Posted on December 19, 2011 at 9:26 AM
I agree with Hannah. One year there was a one week residential holiday job starting on Christmas day, that paid several times the going rate. None of the experienced keyboard players, myself included, would accept it.

As for dress, I have no concept of a musician disobeying the stated dress code. They are told what to wear, they wear it. All musicians I know do this!

Regarding why a musician is turning down a job I think you have to be more diplomatic. A few times I have even been cross examined when I turned down a job, which I thought was wrong and I found it unpleasant. It is a contract between the fixer and musician. Of course musicians need work, but fixers need good musicians, it is a mutual arrangement.

Finally I would say if people turn down a job for not working Christmas it is wrong to move them down your list as everyone has different reasons. I have honoured engagements after attending my grandfather's funeral and a few hours after the news that my father had died. I would find it hurtful to lose first call status purely because I like to spend Christmas day with my wife. It is the only day that I definitely try to keep free, particularly as I am a Christian as well.

From Michelle Jones
Posted on December 19, 2011 at 3:36 PM
Great comments, Heather and Ian! I do like reading the differing reasons for not working on holidays, too. I think a lot of it depends on your geographical location, too. I live and work in Orlando, and everything goes 365 days here with Christmas to New Year's being the absolute busiest time for any and all those involved in the hospitality industry, including entertainment and musicians. Between the theme parks being filled to capacity, college bowl games, and the perfect weather, every hotel and venue is scrambling for live entertainment. And it is also a common practice among the contractors here that those who are willing to work holidays get first call the rest of the year. The contractors do honor that, regardless of how "good" another player may be. We respect the decisions made by other musicians, but as a musician, I also understand the value of working year-round and make that personal sacrifice to do it. It's also about putting in your dues when you are young and realizing that the real world is not like college and having every summer off, and several weeks off in December and January. At least I'm only gone a few hours on Christmas day and am home in the morning for brunch and home in time for late dinner instead of on tour far away from my loved ones.
From Ian Stewart
Posted on December 21, 2011 at 9:15 AM
I don't want to perseverate on this Michelle but you seem to be saying that even though:

I honour jobs only a few hours after the funerals of close family members

A few hours after I have had news that a parent has died

When I have serious flu and need to drug myself up to even leave the house

you would then hold it against me because as a Christian I want ONE DAY ONLY a year off to celebrate the birth of person we believe to be God.

Are you this hard on Muslims who take Eid off, or Jews who take Yom Kippur off, or Hindus who take Diwali off? And you cannot compare summer holidays or taking time off in December or January with religious festivals. Celebrating an important religious festival is not being like a student who refuses to "pay their dues".

By the way, I have been a professional musician for 33 years; if I have not "paid my dues" by now, when will they be considered paid?

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