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November 1, 2023George Fiddler - AFM Director of Touring/Theatre/Booking Division and Assistant to the President
Last season was exceptional as we had 12 full Pamphlet B shows and 10 Short Engagement Tours (SET) on the road in the United States and Canada. It is unusual to have more full Pamphlet B shows than SET shows on tour. Typically, one-third of the shows are full Pamphlet B and two-thirds are SET. Last season, there were three touring Hamilton shows and two touring SIX versions. This season there is one of each.
In cities where local hiring was contractually demanded, the tours used up to 72 local hires, depending on the length of the engagement. That is about 40% of the number of touring musicians that were laid off to allow for local hiring. Some shows hired locally everywhere. For example, Ain’t Too Proud hired seven local musicians in every market.
While the base salary for SET musicians is lower, the participation in the producer’s share of profit called “overage” increases the total wages. The prospect of higher wages is not guaranteed, though many shows had weekly earnings that turned out to be higher than Full Pamphlet B salaries. The overage amounts were disparate. Some shows averaged less than $100 as an additional payment for overage and some garnered an average of nearly $1,000 per week.
The new touring show season will be traditional, yet slightly different. We have 13 returning shows from prior seasons that will continue for the 2023-2024 season. Among the shows that are returning are three Disney shows: The Lion King, Aladdin, and Frozen—all having a full season. The Broadway League’s returning shows are Ain’t Too Proud, Moulin Rouge, Hadestown, Hamilton, Les Misérables, Jagged Little Pill, Tina, Beetlejuice, SIX, and Wicked.
There are seven new shows, five of which are using sizeable local hiring complements, along with touring musicians, in all stops on their routes. Out touring now is the pre-Broadway tour of The Wiz, which employs eight local musicians in all cities. Funny Girl is hiring eight local players in every city, plus one more, for a total of nine in the Rule 24 venues on the route. The tours of Company, MJ the Musical, and Mrs. Doubtfire complete the list of new shows with sizeable local hiring.
We are in the process of negotiating successor Pamphlet B and SET agreements with the Broadway League and Disney, as our current agreement expired August 27. Our team in the Touring/Theatre/Booking Division has parsed the results of an initial survey in March and a follow up survey in July that we sent to the bargaining unit. We were able to develop proposals for presentation to the League and Disney as a result of the survey responses. We feel that the proposals represent the major concerns of our constituents.
I have noticed a hiring trend in touring musicians toward more diverse make-up of the touring complement, in terms of age and gender, with talented musicians from a variety of backgrounds and schooling.
This month’s Touring/Theatre/Booking Division issue features a cover story about Paul Hannah, drummer on the current Funny Girl tour. I am sure you will find his reflections on tours past and present to be both interesting and informative.