Tips for posting a string gig in Los Angeles

December 14, 2017, 8:28 PM · Hi Everyone,

I have recently been hired to help organize auditions and help put a string quartet/multi-media presentation together here in Los Angeles.

My background is in narritive film production. I know right where to turn when I am looking to cast actors but I am currently at a loss when it comes to hiring session/live string players.

My first thought was to go to the musicians union (AFM), but would prefer to ask here first before venturing there because I do not know if this will be a union gig or not as of yet. The goal is to post an add (somewhere with more cachet than Craigslist...) where interested parties might submit for the job.

Any thoughts or suggestions are greatly welcomed and appreciated.

Thank you so much!


Replies (9)

Edited: December 14, 2017, 9:35 PM · Go to the union. If this is a professional presentation, then you should be hiring professionals. The AFM local will most likely refer you to a contractor, and the contractor will hire the musicians.

I can't think of a single good reason for this sort of event to be anything other than a union gig.

Edited: December 15, 2017, 2:08 AM · Hi Mary Ellen,

I am grateful that you took time to reply and share your valid professional opinion. I agree that the union sounds like a great source for talent!

Any one else like to chime in?



December 15, 2017, 2:40 AM · Translation: "I want good players but don't want to pay fair prices for them. Would anyone like to undercut the union?"
December 15, 2017, 4:03 AM · Mary Ellen is correct. You would not normally run an audition for something like this. You go to the union with a list of requirements, you work with a contractor, and they hire the musicians. It simplifies your life significantly, and you get professional results. In Los Angeles, there are a ton of experienced session musicians, and the contractors will offer you proper legal agreements that handle things like rights management and whatnot.

If you don't need that sort of professionalism, I suggest advertising on the student bulletin boards of the music departments of places like USC and UCLA.

December 15, 2017, 5:51 AM · Just curious -- are you casting the actors without going through a union? In LA?
Edited: December 15, 2017, 7:48 AM · With regard to Lydia's second suggestion, I will point out that though the students at such institutions may not (yet) be union, very often their professors are.

Few things irritate me more than large-budget events trying to cut corners on the backs of musicians. It's similar to when a bride (or her mother) argues that I should lower my already reasonable fee when I know they are spending tens of thousands on an expensive venue, a sit-down dinner for a few hundred guests, open bar, flowers, etc. Nickel-and-diming professionals does not go over well.

Obviously my comments apply to professional presentations. Students or amateurs doing class projects or hobby presentations are a different matter. If that is your situation, then I will defer to the students and amateurs.

December 15, 2017, 11:51 AM · Thank you all for your thoughts. It seems that somehow you got the impression that I am looking for "cheaper", which couldn't be further from my intentions. It is a pity that upon first glance at my post, without knowing a sliver of what this project entails or what it will pay, some of you immediately attacked me with sharp accusations and pointed questions.

FYI, our composer asked that I try and find unique, talented players that think outside of the "classical box". I was directed to this site by a colleague of mine and thought that maybe there was possibly a website you could kindly recommend where I could peruse local string talent BOTH union and non-union as there are (many such websites) with actors. The producers are choosing to not be “given” players by a contractor because they have certain traits that they are looking for in players that far exceed whether or not they can play their instruments adequately. Plus there is possibility for tour and/or out of country temporary residence.

@Mary Ellen Goree I know that string players work their entire lives to be able to make the beautiful music that you do so well. It sounds terribly disheartening to hear these stories and I am sorry that you’ve been through it, so I understand your skepticism.

@Lydia Leong Thank you for your suggestions and kind and friendly tone.

@Paul Deck Often we do projects outside of the actors union (SAG) because we find that there are many talented people who want to be independent and participate in projects that couldn't get made otherwise. The film industry is built on relationships and friendships and sometimes we do things just because we enjoy being on set, around creative people or seeing value in the material. Making good money is often nice too, but a high rate is not the “be-all and end-all” of our interactions with each other. (Many of these non-union situations often leading to higher paid union work I might add).

Thank you all for your time in replying! I am sorry if I was misunderstood.

December 15, 2017, 7:22 PM · Union contractors can hook you up with musicians who play in pretty much any style, or combination of styles. This is especially true in LA, where session musicians abound, and flexibility is a hallmark of those doing recording sessions.

Any project that's got enough money to pay someone to hire musicians, presumably has enough money to pay musicians a fair wage for their work, under fair conditions -- i.e., a union rate with union contractual provisions.

December 15, 2017, 7:52 PM · I'm not an AFM member either, but that's mainly because Blacksburg is just not a union music town. However, I do have an AFM fee schedule for our local and I only play below scale in circumstances where I feel it's acceptable. And I think I have a good sense for knowing what those are. So if Lydia is saying that non-union musicians can be hired so long as they are getting equivalent compensation, then that's okay with me.

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