Tag Archives: booking

State of Touring Theatrical Productions Still Uncertain, But Digital Options Increasing

On March 11, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. The following day, the governor of New York State banned the gathering of groups larger than 500 people after 5 p.m. each night, effectively shutting down all of Broadway. On March 20, the AFM and the Broadway League came to a settlement agreement regarding the total shutdown of the shows. By April 12, all tours had been officially canceled. 

To underscore the impact this has had on theatre and touring, it was only a few months earlier that I had reported to the International Executive Board that we had 27 tours running, 14 of which were full Pamphlet B. All live theatre has been on hiatus for over seven months and the latest information we have from the Broadway League is that the continued suspension of all ticket sales for Broadway performances will continue through May 30, 2021. 

As I write this article, the state of touring theatrical productions is still uncertain. Although we may see certain regions of the US and Canada become less affected by the ongoing pandemic, the inconsistent state and local regulatory restrictions currently in place make putting together a “smart” itinerary a challenge.

One area where theatre musicians are seeing some activity is in electronic media. Show and theatre producers, in an effort to keep our audiences engaged, have held virtual internet streaming events. This offers us the opportunity to perform—something we are all driven to do—but we have to be very careful not to devalue our work by offering to perform streaming events for little or no compensation. My department is working closely with the Electronic Media Services Division to ensure that musicians asked to perform for these events are paid fairly with appropriate benefits. For events that are held to raise money for charity where musicians are asked to donate their wages, an AFM contract must be filed for the event and benefits to those musicians should be paid. Musicians have every right to offer their wages as a contribution, but those wages must be paid for you to be able to contribute the money and receive the appropriate tax credit.

Another source of income for theatre musicians flows from the options available to regional theatres to utilize archived libraries. This new agreement, promulgated specifically for use during the pandemic, allows for the exploitation of these archives in exchange for a fee to the musicians who recorded the captured performance. The agreement allows the use of full productions and clips or excerpts from a show and provides a fee structure based on how long a company wants the archive viewable.

The New Media provision of the Live TV Agreement has also been used as a way to stream new theatrical content. Some theatres are also contemplating productions with a reduced live audience size in addition to a live internet stream in conjunction with the live performance. Needless to say, the live theatre industry is working hard to adjust to these new and difficult challenges.

Early in the summer, I started working with the officers of the Theatre Musicians Association—President Tony D’Amico, Vice President Heather Boehm, and Secretary-Treasurer Mark Pinto—and the Director of Broadway Jan Mullen to evaluate the needs of theatre musicians for a safe return to work. The result was the creation of guidelines to assist in the bargaining of safety protocols for a safe return to work in theatre. 

Please remember, under no circumstance should anyone sign a health waiver in order to return to work. It is the obligation of our employer to provide for a safe and healthy work environment. These safety protocols can be found on the Theatre Resources page on the AFM website.

We will be faced with many challenges in ensuring musicians performing in the theatre pit environment remain safe and healthy. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or comments: tgagliardi@afm.org.

Get Their Attention

First, You Have to Get Their Attention

Years ago, if an indie musician wanted to try to book a club or concert venue, they probably started by calling whoever the decision maker was—the club owner, theater manager, etc.—and tried to get them to hear them play. Today it’s a little different. It’s more than a phone call or a press kit with a CD.

I wanted to find out what gets the attention of someone who books a lot of singles and music groups today. I started with Suzanne Morgan, manager of the Orange Blossom Opry in Wiersdale, Florida. She books many local and national groups and singles. Just this past week she had Ricky Skaggs of Local 257 (Nashville, TN), several local groups, a semi-known comic, and then on Sunday night the ’50s vocal group The Drifters. The previous week included The Gatlin Brothers of Local 257.

The place was packed every night. It’s a theater/concert venue and its promoted well. Wiersdale is not a major metro market. (The nearest town is Oklahawa, and I’m sure you haven’t heard of that either.) Morgan is a seasoned vocalist/performer herself. She knows what draws and what doesn’t. She says she is contacted by dozens, if not hundreds, of people who want her to be booked at the Orange Blossom Opry.

I asked her how she likes musicians to contact her. She says, “I like people who know enough to call the box office, get my e-mail address and cell phone number, and then send me an e-mail with a YouTube link so I can see and hear them.” Morgan says she responds to texts, and returns all calls left on her voice mail. The YouTube video weeds out a lot of people.

Just calling her and asking her to book you without knowing who you are, what you do, or what you sound like, doesn’t usually work. She uses a booking agency, but she books musicians on her own as well. Mogan likes talking to musicians and entertainers who already know her venue. She likes oldies, classic country groups, and tribute performers. She appreciates people who figure out what’s going to appeal to her audience. If you do a good job you will be a repeat performer, but first you have to get her attention. Mogan is a good person to know.

Next, I talked with Tom Greenwood who owns the Greenwood Winery in East Syracuse, New York. He books a lot of local musicians for his bar/bistro at the winery. He said he started with Joe Whiting of Local 78 (Syracuse, NY) and built from there. He says that AFM musicians are usually professionals he can count on.

Greenwood says he likes to develop local talent and always responds to musicians calling the winery to find out who to contact and what they’re looking for. He’s got something going on every week.

If you fit the bill, the next thing he wants to find out about is your social media presence. How big is your following? Are you going to help get the word out that you’re performing at his venue? He doesn’t want “pay-to-play” musicians and he doesn’t want musicians who play for the door. He wants professionals who fit nicely into his bistro scene. Greenwood says you can email him a video and then leave him a voice mail. A little persistence helps. His manager also plays a part in who gets booked.

All in all, it takes a lot of things to keep your calendar full. It’s more than being a good indie musician. Today, you need to have some social media presence smarts, networking expertise, correct contact info, and be willing to put a little energy into finding work. But first, you need to get the attention of the person who might hire you. In today’s market, when your video clip is seen, your texts acknowledged, and emails read, you have a better shot of getting a positive response.