Sometimes I don’t understand other musicians.

There have been a couple of odd situations in the last few years that I am now trying to decide how to handle in the future.   For example, I was asked to play with an artist at a conference.   I learned the tunes, went to a rehearsal and at the last minute was informed that the bass player was available after all.   As far as I know there were no concerns about my ability to do the gig.

This year I was told a month or so before a gig that the music director had asked to use a different bass player.  This is a booking I had for almost a year.  In this case the explanation was that the guest artists had been working with their own bass player and felt that the performance would be more intuitive than using a different bassist.  It was essentially a chart reading gig of classic pop tunes.   Not a lot of intuition required.  The good news is I was able to pick up a two week theatre run so that lessened the blow.  Although you can’t help feeling like your ego had been dented.   Dented by other musicians in your community.  I have another booking with that group a year from now but I’m left wondering if that will happen.

I find myself between a rock and a hard place on issues like this.   I talked about this with one of my musical mentors.   His view is that if there is a contract in place then that should be honoured.  There is no union contract for any of my gigs these days. The contract is verbal or by email confirmation.   So that’s where this gets messy.   Do I tell someone that if they are going to cancel a long standing booking then a compromise of some sort should be agreed to?  Compensation perhaps?   What do I do in a situation where I am asked to sub in but the first call bassist decides they now want the gig?   I believe if I tell someone I’m not available and the artist finds another player then the gig is gone.   I can’t expect to get it back if I’m now available for that date.   I feel like if I push on any issue like this that I may alienate someone who may hire me in the future.

The best example I have of how to do things right comes from Lynne Hanson, an Ottawa based artist I’m lucky to work with from time to time.   She offered me a couple weeks worth of gigs in the Spring.  This was around the same time we were planning a trip to Scotland for a family wedding.   I wanted do the shows and the wedding but it would not have been possible.   The risk you run when turning down work is that an artist might hire that person for the next gig.   Lynne was great.  She gave me time to think about what I would do and she also said she would begin to look for someone else and if she found someone we would talk again and make a decision.  In the end I went to Scotland.    I also know that when Lynne books you for a gig, even if her first call ends up being available, she’s not going to switch the players.

What are your thoughts?

One thought on “Sometimes I don’t understand other musicians.

  1. Hi Steve, I’ve been there too! Lately, whenever a contract is agreed to, I ask for half the fee up front, and the other half on the day of the performance. Basically a deposit on all the work you’re going to be doing in preparation for the gig.

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