Views from the board

Volume 119, No. 10November, 2019

Pete Donovan

Working on new musical theatre? Leverage your value as a musician and union member to get the benefits and guarantees you deserve!

I’ve worked on Broadway for nearly 25 years. During that time, I’ve been involved in dozens of developmental labs and workshops for production companies hoping to transfer their shows to Broadway. This work comes in various forms, and there are usually two possible outcomes: 1) You’re paid well, with benefits, and have the guarantee of a chair should the show move to Broadway, or 2) you’re paid poorly, receive no benefits, and have no guarantees at all when it’s over. What you may not know is that Local 802 has three different “developmental contracts” that you can use. They are for the most part uncomplicated; the rates are fair, and most importantly, they can help in securing your position on a show that you help develop.

Any worthwhile production company can easily work within these contracts. If they claim that they can’t, you’d best not waste your time with them.


Call Local 802 for the full details. (Theatre Rep Theresa Couture at 212-245-4802, ext. 115 can answer all of your questions.) Briefly, here are some highlights:

Reading Agreement. This contract covers what is widely known as the 29-hour reading. The rehearsal wage covers up to six days, no more than 29 hours total, and scheduled over two weeks. Protections are built in for overtime, and you also earn health and pension contributions. Overscale percentages are built in for music directors, associates, in-house contractors, doubles, and many other benefits you would expect from a union contract. The contract allows up to four invited presentations with a payment structure in place if they begin or go past 6 p.m.

Lab Agreement. This contract offers everything above with slightly higher wages and designed for a larger time commitment. You are paid for a six-day/40-hour week. In addition to all applicable rehearsal wages, performances/presentations are paid for individually. This contract also contains overtime pay, overscale percentages and pay for doubling.

Workshop Agreement. This contract contains everything in the contracts above, with higher wages for a six-day/40-hour week. Performances/presentations of three hours or less are also paid individually.

A special note on recording: All three agreements include right of first refusal for any cast recordings. All recordings (or capture on electronic media) are paid at the appropriate AFM scales.


All three of these contracts have the “identity of product” clause. Put simply, if the show moves to another venue – including Broadway – you move with it.

You are forfeiting a very powerful benefit if you choose to do developmental work on a show for a one-time payment with no contract. As an important part of the development process, you deserve this benefit and here’s why.

Anyone who has done this type of work knows that there are usually no fleshed-out charts, and orchestrations are rarely completed. At best, you have a piano/vocal score and are asked to create your parts on the spot. That is simply the nature of how these readings go. However, in making that accommodation, you are creating parts that usually become part of the show. In my own experience, I have been recorded without my knowledge, and the parts I had written were transcribed note for note and put into the final score. Beyond just creating parts, there is also a new process of score development emerging: with more pop artists coming to Broadway, some artists are insisting to have the band in development from the beginning. Please understand that if you are helping to orchestrate a show, this work may be considered music preparation and you may deserve additional protection. Call Recording Vice President Andy Schwartz at (212) 245-4802, ext. 110 for more info. When the lines are blurred in these cases, it makes even more sense to protect yourself for the contributions you make and have the production, at the very least, guarantee your place with the show should it move to Broadway.


Call the union immediately when you are hired for this kind of work. The more lead time the Theater Department has to work with the producers, the better. The union will work on your behalf to get your work under contract. If you’ve been offered a job like this, it means that your value has been established and you can leverage that. This is an important thing to remember: the musicians are the leverage. If you and your bandmates stand firm on getting the work under contract, that unity is incredibly powerful. Combined with Local 802’s help, you can potentially turn a one-time cash gig with no benefits into a chair on a Broadway show. You shouldn’t have to worry about “making waves” by asking for what you deserve: a living wage, good benefits and a promise to be with the show in the future. These are a fair exchange for your valuable contributions in making the show come to life. As a working musician and a member of Local 802, you deserve all of those things.