Can the Union Help You Get Gigs? Yes!
A Look at 802's Referral Service
Volume CIV, No. 5May, 2004
Some musicians know that many years ago, Local 802 used to have a “hiring hall” where members could show up, meet contractors and try to get gigs. Eventually, this practice was discontinued because we learned that it’s not something we can do effectively. What we can do effectively is organize, negotiate and represent musicians where they work.
That said, Local 802 does offer a referral service for all members. We also run a teaching registry.
For instance, sometimes a mother of the bride will call the union asking for a wedding band. Or a secretary from some corporation will call us because he’s been asked to find music for a corporate event. Or a father will call us looking for a cello teacher for his daughter.
We refer those calls to Angela Singh (ext. 115) for our referral service or Tara Donach (ext. 101) for our music teacher registry.
On average more than 500 calls come into the service annually. About ten percent of those calls result in actual engagements.
WEDDING OR PARTY GIGS
How does the service work?
All members in good standing are eligible to sign up for the service. Jobs are distributed on a rotational basis among members and signatories. When a call comes in, Angela Singh, our music referral administrator, matches the request with eligible participants whose profiles are kept in a database.
A minimum of three musicians or signatories are called to respond to the request.
(A “signatory” is a band or musician who already has a signed union agreement with Local 802. You don’t have to be a signatory to be referred a job, but if you are signatory, your contract with the union must be current.)
The administrator follows up with calls to both musicians and clients. Potential clients are advised that they must be willing to enter into a contract with the musician or Local 802. Aside from asking the client about their budget, money is not discussed – all musicians are free to negotiate their own rates above established club date minimums. Angela follows up to make sure a contract is filed.
What kinds of calls come into the service?
Generally speaking, clients are looking for musicians for private parties, and for the most part calls are received from the general public who have seen our ads in the Yellow Pages or have visited our Web site. To a lesser extent, calls also come in from other unions, TV and record producers, and theatre producers.
We have successfully placed members in movies, television, record dates, weddings, bar mitzvahs, rehearsals – even a gig playing for a marriage proposal on the observation deck of the Empire State Building!
The most frequent calls we get are people wanting established bands for parties, or for world or “ethnic” music (like Orthodox Jewish, klezmer, mariachi, polka or salsa). This limits who we can refer.
In many cases Local 802 is the first place people turn for their music needs.
Obviously, with the service providing only about 50-60 engagements per year there is not enough work to go around. Your chances are better if you have a set band or ensemble, or have an ethnic specialty. What we offer is a service to our members – and a modest one at that.
What about Broadway?
There are really only two ways to break into the Broadway pits. The first way is to call the outside contractors directly, the ones who directly hire the pit orchestras. There are literally less than a handful of these individuals, and they generally don’t respond to cold calls from musicians, since they undoubtedly have a huge pool of “known quantities” that they can utilize at any given time. The Theatre Department on the fifth floor of the union can provide members with a (short) list of Broadway contractors.
The second way is to get on a pit musician’s sub list. For some excellent info on the ins and outs of this process, see Paul Molloy’s article on Broadway subs in the February issue of Allegro.
The union can also provide members with a list of musicians who are currently playing in the pits. So if you need, for example, a list of all the trombone players playing on Broadway, you can come by the Theatre Department and get a printout. Using your membership book, you can then look up their phone numbers and give them a call to see if they could use another sub for their book.
As for the concert field, our Concert Department does maintain a list of contractors for various classical groups – both large and small – that may be helpful. There are many more contractors operating in this field than on Broadway, so the hiring is more decentralized.
However, as in Broadway, one’s best bet is to find someone who has tenure in one of the freelance classical orchestras and or smaller ensembles and try to get your foot in the door as a substitute player first.
If you are a music teacher and a Local 802 member, you should definitely call Tara Donach at ext. 101 and ask to put your name on 802’s music teaching registry. (You may have to come to the union in person and fill out a form.)
When a student calls the union asking for a music teacher, Tara takes note of where the student lives, what level the student is playing at, and whether the student is willing to travel. Then we try to give the student the names of three or four Local 802 members who fit the student’s criteria, so the student can shop around for the best match. Price is not discussed; that’s between the student and the teacher.
For more information, call (212) 245-4802 and connect with the following 802 staff:
- Referral Service (weddings, club dates, parties): Theresa Couture (ext. 115) or Jim Hannen (ext. 141)
- Broadway: Mary Donovan (ext. 102)
- Freelance/classical/concert: Jay Blumenthal (ext. 105)
- Music teaching registry: Tara Donach (ext. 101)
Jim Hannen, Joe Delia and Tara Donach all contributed to this report.