How to Pack a Room

Organizing Matters

Volume CIX, No. 2February, 2009

Joel LeFevre

Because we believe that a well-informed membership is key to assertiveness in contract enforcement and organizing, Local 802 is in the knowledge business. Knowing more about union benefits and contracts strengthens the union and the bargaining position of every musician.

To that end, we employed a four-touch process to reach out to musicians last fall. Our target was musicians who played over the summer for the New York Musical Festival and the Fringe Festival. We wanted to get them to attend a “meet and great” at the union on Oct. 15. (See Mary Donovan’s story in the December issue of Allegro.) 

First, we wrote, designed and produced an engaging video that focused on a musician’s career in theatre. The video also contained our previously-produced pension presentation. We burned the video to CD’s and inserted an invitation to the union in the CD case. The CD’s were given to musicians at the conclusion of performances during the festivals. The staff asked Broadway committee members to join them in attending performances and engaging musicians.

In conversation with the festival musicians we solicited contact information — which was often as easy as “Hi, what’s your name — do you have a MySpace page?” That was the first touch. We made that touch “sticky,” or memorable, by including our video/CD, which we encouraged musicians to watch every time we followed up with them. Remember, we were speaking to musicians in July and August for an event in mid-October. This long lag time meant that we had to be memorable in order to sustain interest.

Most younger musicians use the Internet to promote themselves, especially to stay in touch with their fan base. So our second touch was a follow-up e-mail. Using the Local 802 MySpace page ( — which is maintained by Theatre Rep Marisa Friedman — we were able to contact over 60 percent of the musicians we met in person through their social networking sites. Getting a message via your MySpace site is more personal than regular e-mail. 

The third touch was a general reminder e-mail two weeks out from the event. And the fourth touch was a phone call from an organizer one week in advance.

The result: a full room of musicians focused on learning all they could from the experiences of seasoned professionals. Being thorough and deliberate in building attendance worked. 


If you are a working professional musician and would like to have a 750 percent return on your investment dollar, the best way to get it is by working union and having contributions made to the AFM pension fund. We are a part of the history of union plans, which are a central part of the story of American retirement security.

Respect for your retirement income security was the focus of seven Wednesday seminars lasting 90 minutes beginning in the fall. For musicians working on Broadway, expanding their pension benefits by organizing their other work with union contracts can be an option.

The methods the union staff employ to engage members’ attention for the seminars was generally the same four-touch method. The effort to make a memorable message about respect is appropriate. Respect comes at a price and you are worth it! 

Joel LeFevre is the union’s organizing director and assistant to the president. Contact him at or (212) 245-4802, ext. 101.