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Who do Contractors Hire?

This is getting more into the nuts-and-bolts. Not being addressed are the abilities and behaviors of the musicians. There are many different ways to contract musicians.

GENERAL OBSERVATION: Contractors have a tendency to hire those with whom they feel comfortable, as a general rule, and for all kinds of reasons.

TIP: As a freelancer, don't do anything that would make a contractor uncomfortable.

Here's my breakdown . . .


You are thoughtful about who you ask for certain jobs. You think about the style and the right player who you think would do a great job. Your list is vetted, so you know what style fits the musician, each one on your extensive list.

Downside: If you exhaust your list, then you have to dig deep and reach out to others who might know someone, but it’ll be a privately researched and asks are still done one-at-a-time. But to whom you reach out for referrals matters. Usually, it’s to a “peer” contractor or musician who is expert on that instrument/style.

Another downside: Because you “mix it up,” musicians may not feel that sense of loyalty. However, when they get called by this type of contractor, they know that they were carefully considered or vetted by others whom the contractor trusts, so it should be a comfortable situation for all: client, contractor, and musician.

OBSERVATION: Yes, contractors DO talk to each other and more often than you think. And certainly freelancers talk!


You have a great list, but you will call the same people no matter what the style. I think the majority of contractors work this way. They know their people well and want to give them the work. They “take care” of their people. Is this bad? Not really. . . until a performance suffers.

Downside: The only downside comes when you hire your jazz buddy to play a classical gig or vice versa. You can imagine how uncomfortable this can be for all.

OBSERVATION: There is a strong loyalty to musicians who are loyal to you. But other contractors notice this and have a tendency to think that they are being taken care of by that contractor. In a weird way, it can limit the musicians’ work. This is especially true if the musicians are part of a intact ensemble.


You still ask one-at-a-time but are not very discriminating about who fills the spots. Let’s face it, contractors think first about those they know well. Learning about other players is not a priority. OR . . . they may care more about wanting to eventually getting something back from the musician and prioritize who they call with this in mind. This can be unconscious or deliberate. I’ll scratch your back, so you have to scratch mine when the time comes, because I’m trying to claw myself to the top.

TIP: If you think at all about the product and what the client wants, you’ll want to give a little more thought about which musicians are on that particular job. It is the rare freelancer who is a good fit for every kind of job.


You really don’t do this much and may not even consider yourself a contractor. Your list might be limited to those you with whom you were in school. So, you resort to anything that’ll get the job done. You don’t know how jobs should be priced, so the pay is typically lower than it should be. Here are 2 of my favorites . . .

“The Cattle Call” - You have exhausted your list, which is very limited anyway. You might be short on time, like the gig is the next week or even the next day. And you just don’t have the patience or time to wait on individual responses. It screams “low pay,” since if it paid better, you wouldn’t need to resort to this. And because you don’t know that each “ask” is like extending a contract, you don’t see the problem of extending multiple “verbal” contracts for the same gig. So, you resort to asking multiple musicians for a single position and see who responds first. For the client, they have no idea who they are getting and neither do you! For the musician, it is humiliating to get a job this way and even more so if they respond after 1 minute and miss the job.

“The Hail Mary” - you have exhausted your limited resources and really don’t know what to do. Facebook is an excellent place for the Hail Mary. You throw it out there and hope for the best.

Downside: When seeing this type of Facebook post and even if I knew the PERFECT person for this gig, I wouldn’t respond to such a post, due to the unprofessional nature of it. It also screams “low pay.”


You can be one or a combination of any of these. And if you don’t think that freelancers notice how different contractors hire, think again. They are more aware than we are! Freelancers are also trying to grow their work.

TIP: If you want to grow as a contractor, think deeply about your hiring practices. It effects you, the client, and the ones you hire.

Happy Gigging!


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