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Author Topic: Gig availability etiquette  (Read 1896 times)
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LowrBrass

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« on: May 06, 2017, 08:01AM »

This seems like basic common sense, but it keeps coming up for me, and I keep struggling with how best to handle it:

Let's say you're an alternate/sub for a bunch of ensembles.
Let's say you give a list of your available gig dates to Ensemble A.
There is no guarantee that you'll be used on any of those dates.

If Ensemble A contacts you to play on a date you said you were available, you'd darn well better be available, right?
But it'd be silly to turn down a sure gig from Ensemble B because you MIGHT be used in Ensemble A on that date....... right?

Let's say you want to accept the gig from Ensemble B. OK, fine. You just let Ensemble A know that your availability has changed, before they finalize their gig rosters.

How do you make sure you do this without being a jerk?
Like, if you gave your availability to Ensemble A, and Ensemble B contacts you with a sure gig the following day... is that too soon to tell Ensemble A your availability has changed? Does it come off as "oops, something better came up"? How do you avoid that?

Bonus question: if you'd rather play in Ensemble A than Ensemble B, is it OK to reach out to Ensemble A and say "look, I want to play with you guys, but I need to know if I'm on this gig or not"? Or is that generally a no-no?


TL;DR:
How long do you keep your available dates open?
And do you have any tips & tricks for being polite and professional about all this?
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Gabe Langfur

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« Reply #1 on: May 06, 2017, 08:25AM »

Are you trying to make a living at this? If so, then you take work you want when you're available for it. You don't call a plumber and ask them to be on call for you in case your toilet clogs, do you?

Sometimes it's a little more complicated than that, but not often.
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Gabe Langfur
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« Reply #2 on: May 06, 2017, 09:37AM »

If someone asks me for availability, this is akin to penciling the date in on the calendar. It's not set in stone. Pencil is made to be erased. I usually put a question mark next to those dates in my phone to signify they are not booked yet.

If someone else calls and offers me a gig, i contact the previous contractor to inquire whether that date was booked or not. If the gig is not booked, I withdraw my availability and take the gig I was just offered.

One of the Salsa bands I used to work with would "book" dates months in advance. When a booking fell through or was moved, they would often forget to notify me. I would turn down dates thinking a date was booked only to find out the week of that the date was cancelled or moved. I stopped writing down dates until they were 100% set in stone. Most of these gigs were 2-4 hours out of town...

When I contract certain things, I require a 50% non-refundable deposit for the band so that if anything is cancelled for any reason, my guys are still compensated for that date. I went into my pocket so many times doing the right thing that now I won't contract for anyone who is not willing to offer a financial guarantee.

Until it is set in stone, you are not obligated unless you have some sort of deposit or retainer.
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« Reply #3 on: May 07, 2017, 12:23AM »

Our local union here has a 2 week cancellation policy on most contracted gigs - a gig that gets cancelled with less notice is supposed to be paid.

As far as tentative dates, I would agree with the last post. If possible, contact the person contracting the "potential" gig before accepting the sure thing. There is no way that anyone can give a 100% rule for what will work as a policy regarding these situations, because not every employer is going to be completely fair with the players that they are hiring. Still, contractors appreciate people that are honest with them, if they are also courteous and professional.

As much as possible, try to have a "Golden Rule" approach to how you deal with these situations - try to treat the situation in the way that you would appreciate if the roles were reversed. At the same time, you should expect to be treated with respect and courtesy - it's not fair to expect someone to hold a date, and then have the gig not happen and not get either adequate notice or some sort of compensation.

Jim Scott

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LowrBrass

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« Reply #4 on: May 07, 2017, 07:10AM »

Are you trying to make a living at this?

No.
And the contractors know it.
How does that change things? (Honest question, not snarky)
(I'd still like to handle it as professionally as possible. I figure I can compensate for any lack of chops by being good to work with.)


If someone else calls and offers me a gig, i contact the previous contractor to inquire whether that date was booked or not. If the gig is not booked, I withdraw my availability and take the gig I was just offered.

As far as tentative dates, I would agree with the last post. If possible, contact the person contracting the "potential" gig before accepting the sure thing.

This sounds very reasonable. For the current situation, I'll get in touch with the contractor for Ensemble A and see where things stand. And--all the stuff I didn't quote here--this is a lot of good baseline advice for future situations. Thank you.
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Gabe Langfur

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« Reply #5 on: May 07, 2017, 07:25AM »

No.
And the contractors know it.
How does that change things? (Honest question, not snarky)

The way that changes things is that you can afford to simply play where you would prefer to play. Your calculation is a bit different. Prioritize the gig you like better, for whatever reason.

Honestly, I think it makes sense for fully professional musicians to make choices for musical over financial reasons as well. If you keep doing what you love to do at a very high level, eventually people will pay you to do it. If you always go for the gigs that pay best over the gigs that feed your musical soul, you won't have time to do what you really want to do. But that's a different subject.
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Gabe Langfur
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« Reply #6 on: May 07, 2017, 08:53AM »

Honestly, I think it makes sense for fully professional musicians to make choices for musical over financial reasons as well. If you keep doing what you love to do at a very high level, eventually people will pay you to do it. If you always go for the gigs that pay best over the gigs that feed your musical soul, you won't have time to do what you really want to do. But that's a different subject.

100%
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JohnL
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« Reply #7 on: May 07, 2017, 09:26AM »

Sill
Let's say you give a list of your available gig dates to Ensemble A.
There is no guarantee that you'll be used on any of those dates.
Just out of curiosity: How far out are they asking for dates?
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LowrBrass

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« Reply #8 on: May 07, 2017, 07:21PM »

Just out of curiosity: How far out are they asking for dates?

This particular ask is June through November.
The conflict in question is June.
I just gave them my dates last week.



I've had a (different) group ask me for dates three months ahead of time, and not tell me I'm on a gig until three days before.
And I frequently find myself prioritizing "available gig dates" over making plans with friends and family. I don't make a living at this. That's not OK behavior.
My question here was spurred by a specific conflict that arose, but I would like to get better at managing this stuff in general.

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BGuttman
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« Reply #9 on: May 07, 2017, 07:41PM »

If they can't tell you until three days  before the gig, I'd seriously look to play elsewhere.  I quit one group because they acted like they owned me and could jerk me around.  If they know the gig is on but may not know if you are the selected member to play, ask them to do a little better planning.  I'm filling my section for the 2017-2018 orchestra season.  Four fixed dates.  If you agree and need to bow out, I'll tolerate two months notice.  I do have 4 players for 3 chairs, after all.  And sometimes I'm still a man short.
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« Reply #10 on: May 08, 2017, 09:57AM »

3 days?

No need to feel bad if you're suddenly unavailable three days before. That's on them. They can damn sure tell you further in advance and not just keep you waiting by the phone.
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« Reply #11 on: May 08, 2017, 12:29PM »

3 days? If that's the way it works, you can't plan to go out to dinner or see a show, let alone book a vacation. You have no life; that's just nuts.
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« Reply #12 on: May 08, 2017, 01:01PM »

"Booked" is a binary state: you have mutually agreed to do a gig, or you haven't.

"Available" is information to inform a booking. Everyone should know that this can change at any time.

I mean, keep a date free if you want to get into a group when needed but ... yeah, things come up and if you aren't booked the best you can do is let them know ("I'm no longer available for the June date but please let me know if needed for July and beyond") and move forward with life.

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LowrBrass

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« Reply #13 on: May 09, 2017, 07:30PM »

Well, I feel justified. Thanks all.

This particular group is, sadly, both the best-paying and the most musically fulfilling group I currently play in. We'll likely part ways eventually, but for now... if I could just make the manager (and/or whatever trombone player drops out at the last second) get his sh!t together so this 3-day-notice thing doesn't happen...


Here's a follow-up question:
Everyone seems to agree that three days isn't enough notice.
What IS enough notice? One week, two weeks, a month?
I mean, if I want to concretely book another gig, that's one thing, but what if I just want to, as Torobone says, have a life?
Would it be fair for me to go to the manager of this group and tell him "if I don't hear from you by XX days before the gig, I will assume I'm not on it, and I will make alternate plans"?
How many days is "XX days"? What's the norm? (These are [usually] local gigs, no airplane travel or anything.)
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BGuttman
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« Reply #14 on: May 09, 2017, 07:49PM »

I fill my life up on a first come first served basis.

If my wife wants to buy theater tickets for us, that date is booked on the day she buys them.

If I'm "available" and another gig shows up that I want to play, I take that gig and tell the other guy I'm no longer "available".  Eventually, Mr. 3 Days Notice will get the message and start letting you know sooner.

Incidentally, I'm not too crazy about the other trombonists who think they can bail with only 3 days' notice.  Are they all Military or Police?

We have a guy in one Big Band who's a State Cop and we really don't know until he shows (or doesn't) that he's coming to rehearsal.  Fortunately, he's pretty good about gigs (although they are usually few and far between).
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Bruce Guttman
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« Reply #15 on: May 10, 2017, 05:05PM »

I don't usually get called to sub, unless a gig is going to happen and they need me to play for it.  If a band I'm a regularly player in asks me to hold a date then that's different my first allegiance is to the band I am a part of.  Asking if I might be available to sub on a particular date, is not in my mind a commitment to play, and my availability is subject to change.  If I did accept a gig that conflicted with that date I would call or notify the person who asked me about my availability that I was no longer available.  A sure gig is better than a maybe anyday, once I do commit to take a gig though I won't flake for a better offer.   
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