Tag Archives: gig


“Gig”— An 800-Year-Old Word Musicians Have Used for Almost 100 years

by Christopher Durham, Chief Field Negotiator, AFM Symphonic Services Division

by Christopher Durham, AFM Symphonic Services Division Chief Field Negotiator

The word “gig” has been attached to a new economy whose workers drive for Uber and Lyft, who work from home as call center operators or medical transcribers, and who do errands and chores and provide professional services for people who prefer not to do those tasks themselves. Most of these workers are classified as independent contractors, not employees. Independent contractors are not permitted to organize a labor union or receive no employer-paid benefits such as unemployment, workers compensation, pension, or health care. In addition, they must pay both employer and employee FICA (Social Security and Medicare) contributions (the 7.65% of wages normally paid by the employer in addition to the same amount which is deducted from an employee’s pay, totaling 15.3%).

Freelance symphonic musicians share common ground with “gig economy” workers, from the multiple sources of their income to the variety of work they perform. But that is where the commonality ends. Symphonic freelance musicians have developed their classification as employees for both labor and tax purposes to a far greater extent than the new “gig economy” workers. These advances must not be taken for granted, nor should we allow our employers to draw any comparisons to the “gig economy” to weaken our classification and benefits.

Since the passage of the Wagner Act (National Labor Relations Act) in 1935, both full-time and part-time musicians enjoy the right to organize, form unions, and negotiate collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) covering wages, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment. As employees, symphonic musicians also receive federally mandated Social Security benefits.

More than two-thirds of our player conference orchestras do not provide full-time employment to their complete roster of musicians. Until 1984, per-service (part time) symphonic musicians (this also included substitute and extra musicians) were treated as independent contractors and not employees. The Social Security Amendment Act of 1983 provided that part-time workers in nonprofit organizations must be treated as employees for tax purposes. Until the passage of this law, weekly salaried musicians were treated as full-time employees and received lawfully required benefits administered by the employer, but per-service musicians were treated as independent contractors and left responsible to pay taxes out of their own pocket. Freelance symphonic musicians reap many benefits attainable only with employee status, including workers’ compensation, unemployment, health insurance, AFM-EPF pension, and Social Security contributions, with multiple employers making contributions on behalf of each individual musician.

Notwithstanding this, there are still symphonic employers who persist in treating musicians as independent contractors. It is to the employers’ advantage to do so because it saves them money and shields them from any responsibility to their workers other than paying a set rate for services rendered. Many employers strive to reduce their labor force and rid themselves of “employees” in favor of independent contractors. One example of this is certain newspaper writers who were once employees but whose jobs were eliminated and their work converted to freelance. They were reclassified as independent contractors and lost bargained benefits.

Gigging for many freelance per-service musicians has evolved from the days of regularly performing and working in their local communities to “driving for dollars” to a now-developing “flying for dollars” model. We work for multiple orchestras to cobble together an annual wage. When local work slows, we seek work outside of our own communities. We may live hundreds of miles from where we gig, which substantially alters our relationships with, and support for, our colleagues and our local unions.

In this context, solidarity becomes challenging. It is more critical than ever to work collectively with our colleagues to maintain the CBA of every orchestra with which we perform, and to organize in support of improved wages and terms and conditions of employment. Even if we only perform a couple of times per year with an orchestra 500 miles away, what happens at that orchestra’s bargaining table sets a precedent with other orchestras and will likely come back to haunt us in our home orchestra if there is a bad result. The best way to support your colleagues and improve wages and benefits is to join the local union wherever you work and band together with your colleagues (usually volunteers) who administer and enforce the CBA.

Symphonic musicians who are not treated as employees should discuss with the Symphonic Services Division how to remedy that. We must preserve our status as employees to maintain all the benefits we receive. However our gigs may evolve, we must recognize that federal laws governing employee rights—especially labor laws—must not be weakened, and we must do whatever we can to assure these benefits for ourselves and future colleagues.

Gig Lab

Inspiring creativity, by showcasing products and services designed to optimize your music. 

gig lab

d:vote™ CORE 4099 brings more clarity and details to your music, across the entire dynamic range. Anyone looking for the very highest sound quality should choose CORE – every musician, live sound engineer and anyone else who takes pride in quality audio.

CORE by DPA is a powerful new technology at the heart of DPA miniature microphones. We’ve minimized distortion. From pianissimo to forte, you will experience increased clarity and openness. Learn more about CORE by DPA: https://www.dpamicrophones.com/dvote-instrument-microphones.

Empirical Labs – “Music as you intended.”

The Trak Pak consists of two super high-performance units that together offer a unique, exceptional ‘Channel Strip’ for recording and mixing. The Mike-E is an extremely low noise transformer input mic preamp. It’s signal to noise ratio far exceeds any microphone in existence. The Lil FrEQ equalizer similarly offers outstanding performance as well as unrivaled functionality. Both were designed to bring out the timbre and detail of the music as you intended. Available together as the Trak Pak or separately. For more info store.wavedistro.com/trakpak.html.

The Deadline is fast approaching for the 15th Annual International Acoustic Music Awards (IAMA). IAMA is the preeminent contest for musicians. Participating sponsors include Acoustic Café radio show and SiriusXM. You can enter to win prizes in eight different categories: Best Male Artist, Best Female Artist, Best Group/Duo, and more. There is also an Overall Grand Prize winner award worth more than $11,000 (US), including radio promotion to more than 250 radio stations in US and Canada.

“I am very excited and surprised to win” ~ Meghan Trainor, 2009 IAMA winner with #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart, #1 debut on the Billboard 200 album charts, Best New Artist Grammy winner, and her debut single was one of the biggest sellers of all time at more than 15 million copies.

***DEADLINE APPROACHING: Enter by November 9. Hurry, enter now with your mp3 file, YouTube, or SoundCloud URL, Click here >>

Hello Brass Players!

Tired of fumbling around for your trombone/trumpet mutes? The floor or music stand ledge is not the storage answer! The Mute Caddy solves the problem, attaching conveniently to the shaft of the music stand at a height that YOU choose!  Sturdy, attractive, easy to transport and affordable!


gig lab

What if a mic could give you best sounding recordings from any source?

UBoat 47, the new tube mic from KAM Instruments. The world’s first microphone with selectable diaphragm segments, adding innovation to design concepts from some of the most respected vintage mics. 

Switches on the mic let you select the 15mm center of the diaphragm, the entire 1 inch diaphragm, or the circular edge of it. Combinations of switches with 9 selectable pickup patterns provide 27 distinct frequency response curves. Select a response curve ideal for any sound source or style, all with rich, warm, and clear tone. 


Gig Gloves

Gig Gloves

Gig GlovesNever worry about hurting your hands before or after the gig, while loading in and out, or setting up your rig. Gig Gloves are the only work glove designed specifically for gigging musicians, DJs, roadies, and production and live event professionals. They offer complete hand protection, access to the fingers, and touchscreen capable material to ensure that there’s no need to remove the gloves for any task. Meet the Gig Gloves family: Original Gig Gloves allow for safe visibility in low light environments; Gig Gloves ONYX are completely black for those who need to be invisible to the audience or prefer to be discreet; and THERMO Gig Gloves feature a soft internal layer of fleece are for outdoor and cold weather gigs.


Performance Preparation

A Holistic Approach to Performance Preparation

“Feeling nervous before a performance is normal,” says Dr. Richard Cox, a musician, music educator, and psychologist at the Colorado School of Professional Psychology.

A certain amount of “concern” is probably good, normal, and useful, Cox continues, but anxiety is a physiological hindrance to good performance.

When the nervous system registers “anxiety,” it has already started the process of trembling, shallow or rapid breathing, perspiring, and stomach discomfort.

If these physiological symptoms are present, the first note will not be at its best. Cox suggests in his book Managing Your Head and Body So You Can Become a Good Musician that the psychology and physiology of anxiety can be greatly reduced by paying attention to these basics steps:

Mental Preparation

  • Anticipation–This is a matter of mind imaging. Close your eyes and visualize the music on the page, you with your instrument, the group or accompanist with whom you are playing, and the audience. Create a small picture show in the front of your brain. If you have a difficulty doing this, close your eyes, find a “center spot” in the middle of the inside of your forehead, and picture the entire situation as if it were a cartoon being shown frame by frame.
  • Relaxation–The body responds to anxiety by tightening up. If you have difficulty relaxing naturally, there are simple exercises that help. For example: Sit in a comfortable chair, or lie flat on a bed. Close your eyes. Breathe slowly and regularly, very deeply, and count slowly from one to 10, breathing in and out very slowly on each count. Talk to yourself. Tell yourself that with each breath you will become more and more relaxed.
  • Performing in your mind–By going through the performance step by step you can anticipate surprise feelings. It is very much like anticipating the next note when we play. The best way to play the next note correctly is to anticipate how it will be executed and how it will sound within the context of the last note and then the next several notes.
  • Center on the message–It is important to remember the message we wish to send to the audience. The audience will not remember the “wrong” notes nearly as much as they will remember the communication. Think through how the music will send the desired message. Then by keeping that message in mind, we can allow the technical performance to call upon years of practice and musical preparation. Many great musicians memorize the actual music straight from the printed page in their head, while humming it, and actually doing the fingering manually, then they put it all together in their mind, and only then on the instrument.
  • Center yourself–Get in touch with your emotions. If you are preoccupied, the music will show it. It is absolutely necessary to “get lost” in the music, otherwise you become a show person, not a musician. The “centering” technique discussed under Anticipation will work here. Deep meditation is also helpful as this aspect of mental preparation requires whole brain activity. You should be keenly aware of the intellectual and emotional demands upon you and the alertness and confidence you have stored up during practice. Fifteen minutes of meditation with relaxation, twice daily, is a tonic that cannot be equaled by medicine!

Physical Preparation

  • General health–Keeping one’s body in tone is essential to best performance. After all, the instrument is only an extension of your inner self. If you feel well physically, you will communicate better. It is surprising how many musicians abuse their bodies with inadequate exercise, too much caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, illegal and prescription drugs, and excess weight.
  • Nutrition–You are what you eat. Food plays a far more important role in good performance than most musicians acknowledge. Too much sugar, excessive caffeine, and excess fats are only a few of the things to avoid. Regular eating is difficult for professional musicians due to performance times, travel, and scheduling. However, it is important to keep your blood sugar level under control and within normal limits at all times.
  • Sleep–Loss of sleep produces serious effects. In fact, tiredness is only a symptom of the real problem–dream deprivation. When we do not sleep regularly, we develop sleep habits that skip important phases of sleep. One of these phases is the stage in which we dream. Dreams are essential for the repair of our entire thought process system. It also is particularly difficult for many musicians to obtain enough sleep before midnight. Research has shown that one hour of sleep before midnight is worth two hours after midnight. Some performers turn to medication and drugs to help them, but sleep that comes as a result of chemicals is not natural and does not produce the same beneficial results.

Other Considerations

  • Beta Blockers–All medicines are drugs and have both beneficial and harmful effects. Medicines containing beta blockers are used by some musicians to control stage fright. However, these medicines work by blocking certain impulses to the heart and can have profound effects upon the heart and nervous system that controls the entire cardiovascular system.
  • Other Medicines–The side effects of common medicines can dry you out (diuretics), make you drowsy (antihistamines), make you jittery (some cold and flu medications), cause nausea (some antibiotics), and some keep you awake. There are thousands of side effects of medicines you need to take into account. Medicines can also become a habit, both psychologically and physically. Be sure to discuss all the side effects of any medication you take, whether prescription or over-the-counter, with your doctor.
  • Doctors–Be sure your doctor knows you are a musician and understands that treatments and medications can effect your ability to study and perform. When undergoing surgery, if at all possible, request local anesthetic. General anesthesia puts the nervous system of the whole body to sleep and usually requires considerably more time to “bounce back.”
  • Dentists–If you are a wind instrument player, remind your dentist that your lips need to be treated gently. Even small changes in tooth structure, muscular ability, dry mouth, and myriad other considerations can effect your playing.
  • Your Brain & Music–Thinking about how your brain functions when you produce music will help you balance your artistic interpretation with your technical abilities. The two sides of your brain are called “hemispheres.” The left side is known for its analytical functions–putting the technical aspects of playing together. It is where we have logic and order. Right brain activity is emotive, artistic, romantic, and creative. Learning to truly listen to and appreciate what music does to the psyche and the soul is important to the right side of the brain. When the brain is functioning as a whole–connected by the structure that bridges the hemispheres, called the “corpus callosum”–you are in a great place to artistically perform with correct technique.
  • The Whole Person–The concept of wholeness, or holistic thinking, encompasses the mind, the body, and the spirit. It includes what you think, what you do, how you feel, what you believe, how you relate to others, and many other aspects of your total being. The concept seems rather esoteric at first, until you see how you fit into it. You cannot appreciate the role of music in everyday life, and your role as a musician, until you understand the meaning of the whole person. Once you grasp that concept it will be amazing how much easier it is to communicate with others and allow your music to touch the lives of others.

Adapted from Managing Your Head and Body So You Can Become a Good Musician, by Dr. Richard H. Cox, Colorado School of Professional Psychology Press, Colorado Springs, CO, 2006.

Rock-N-Roller Multi-Cart

Rock-N-Roller Multi-Cart

Rock-N-Roller Multi-CartJust in time for the festival season, Rock-N-Roller Multi-Cart announces the arrival of R16RT and R18RT Ground Glider Multi-Carts for rough terrain. They feature extra-wide (six by three-inch) front casters with brakes, eight by three-inch wide (R16RT) or 10 by three-inch (R18RT) rear casters, and large frame tubing. They have weight capacities of up to 600 lbs. (R16RT) and  700lbs. (R18RT) to make transporting heavy loads of gear over difficult terrain—grass, sand, dirt, gravel, and soft carpeting—easier than ever. Both carts transform into eight different configurations for flexibility in getting your gear where it needs to go.


Your Best Gig Could Be Your Next Gig

Over the past few columns I’ve talked about crazy, memorable, and terrible gigs. That’s life as a working musician. I appreciate all the letters, calls, and e-mails about out-of-the-ordinary playing jobs. They are too numerous to mention here, but I am retaining many of them for future columns.

Besides just mentioning a highlight or funny story of some careers, three AFM members sent me books they’ve written. They range from “riding the crest of a slump” to looking back on a wonderful career as a union musician.

Hank Doiron of Local 198-457 (Providence, RI) wrote a recap of his more than 70 years as a bass player/vocalist. In his book, Gonna Take a Sentimental Journey, he mentions the hundreds of local AFM buddies he worked with through the years. Doiron is a former secretary of his local, and has had an outstanding career. One of the more unique gigs he played was when he was asked to put together a Dixie trio of bass, banjo, and trumpet. He arrived to find they were playing for a wake and the deceased’s last request was to have live Dixie music play during his calling hours.

I received The Life and Times of a Honky Tonk Drummer (available on Amazon) from Troy “Skeet” Seaton of Local 71 (Memphis, TN). It’s his stories from 45 years as a drummer in a number of different bands throughout Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee.

One of his fun stories was about playing at a bar with a guy who didn’t drink. It was the guy’s first job with the band in a number of years, and Seaton had a tough time even getting him to play the gig. The band was on a break, and someone bought a whole tray of tequila shooters and sent them over to the band. Skeet told one of the guys at a table next to the band that they’d had enough, and that he could drink them all. He promptly grabbed them like they were diamonds and downed them all at once. The guy in the band who didn’t drink came over to see what was going on, and the tequila grabber promptly threw up all over the nondrinking musician’s new cowboy boots. Skeet said all he could say was “welcome to the band.”

Then there was Local 1000 (nongeographic) member Jamie Anderson’s Drive All Night. The liner notes say it’s “in the tradition of the second oldest profession.” She’s been a traveling singer, comic, songwriter, musician, and a few more things beyond that. These are her recollections of grungy lodging, shady producers, half-deaf sound engineers, and miles of highway weariness. She has a very unique niche, and you’ll have to get her book on Amazon to really get a good take on her adventures as a girl with a guitar. She’s opened for major and minor acts, closed a church coffeehouse by uttering names of female parts, and danced with a tornado.

The book is a delightful mix of horror road stories on the touring circuit for her unique audience. It’s very funny in parts, and will make you feel your worst gigs were nothing compared to what she went through—no matter where you played. Her life has always been gigging, writing, networking, recording, and laughing. It’s a not-so-glamorous look at her daily grind.

Once, after slogging through a too-long sound check at a gig in Baltimore, a sound guy groused, “You’ve just never worked with such great equipment before.” She was tempted to answer, “It sounds like you’ve never seen sound equipment before.” Nothing she could do would convince him that her guitar does not usually scream like a jet at O’Hare, and her voice shouldn’t sound like something from an ancient boom box. She says you learn to live with it.

Once she had to sit on the edge of a stage in a huge theater, singing without amplification because no one knew how to adjust the computerized sound system. There was a date in Ohio where the sound equipment was locked in a cabinet for which no one had the key. She still did the gig, but only the folks in the first few rows could really hear her. She still got paid.

You learn to deal with these times, because you know the next gig will be better. Anderson writes in her book: “As long as somebody wants to hear me, I’m there. I’m especially interested in any gig in Hawaii, but Burnt Corn, Alabama, will work too.” She goes on to say, “There is nothing more satisfying than hearing applause when you’ve done a good job.” (It’s really nice when you get well over scale too.) Anderson also says she could never be an accountant because “no one claps when you balance the books.” Amen to that.

Tough gigs are a fact of life. It’s part of what we do. You learn from it. That next gig could be the best one you’ve ever had!

Preparing For a Gig: 3 Lessons Learned the Hard Way

Thanks to Gig Salad for sharing some wisdom on three lessons learned the hard way when it comes to a gig. You can read the original article here

So you’ve landed a gig. Awesome! Maybe it’s your first one, or maybe you’ve been at it for years. Either way, there are few things to remember when preparing to head off into the gig unknown. Our resident musicians and booking agents, Joey and Devin, put their heads together and came up with some lessons they learned the hard way. Now you don’t have to! (We’ll keep the lessons anonymous so as not to embarrass the contributors.)

#1: I Forgot to Sign a Contract & Get a Deposit

Sometimes in the midst of booking a gig, the most important part can be forgotten. You show up, do your thing…and then the excuses start. Maybe someone forgot the checkbook, or someone else was supposed to pay you. Bottom line is, you don’t get paid. Unfortunately, if you don’t have a contract or a deposit, there’s not much you can do. So we can’t stress enough: Get those in order before the gig. To help you avoid performing for free, we offer a handy booking tool to take care of all of that for you. One more thing you don’t have to worry about!

#2: My String Broke During the Show

Equipment malfunction is always a risk at performances. You know it, we know it. So to avoid stopping the show altogether, make sure you have some backups on hand. Whether this is strings, batteries, cables, extension cords, or clown noses, it’s always better to be over-prepared than under. Don’t assume that the venue or client will provide the things you may need. Make yourself accountable for everything. Use a checklist to make sure you have everything you need for each gig.

#3: I Drank A Protein Shake Before the Show

We can’t help but laugh a little at this “lesson learned” but it does have some truth behind it. Think ahead to how long you’ll be in the spotlight, and plan accordingly. You may not get a bathroom break for awhile! Read your contract carefully and check out when and where to load in, start time, breaks, end time, etc. Nothing is more miserable than being physically uncomfortable during a gig! So plan ahead, don’t drink a gallon of lemonade beforehand, put on deodorant (thanks, Devin!), and you should be fine.

Happy Gigging!