How to book casual musicians

how to book casual musicians

Casual musicians play a critical role in any orchestra, as they are often called upon to temporarily fill vacant positions, provide augmentation, or cover for sick leave. Without these musicians, orchestras may struggle to maintain their sound and performance quality. 

However, finding and booking the right musicians for these temporary roles can be a challenging task. 

Unlike other professions, there is no centralised resource for finding skilled orchestral musicians, and building a top-tier orchestra requires a personal collection of players with specialised talents. 

Additionally, each conductor or artistic director has their own unique preferences for sound, interpretation, and style, which adds further complexity to the search for suitable musicians. 

Despite these challenges, it is essential to have a process in place for finding and booking casual musicians to ensure that orchestras can continue to provide high-quality performances. 

In this post, we’ll provide a comprehensive guide on how to find and book casual musicians, as well as some tips on making the administrative process easier.

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Finding the right artists

Finding high quality orchestral players for professional orchestras can be a daunting task. Unlike other professions where there are industry directories and marketplaces, there is no centralised resource for finding these highly skilled musicians. 

This is because building a top-tier orchestra requires a personal collection of players with specialised talents, and each conductor or artistic director has their own unique preferences for sound, interpretation, and style. 

The search for such musicians often requires extensive networking, scouting, and auditions, which can be time-consuming and costly. As a result, building a professional orchestra of the highest caliber is not only a complex but also a highly competitive process.

If you’re managing a community orchestra, you might have other challenges like managing artists having varying availability or having the money for booking artists. 

A way that both community and professional orchestras can manage this search for candidates is to network with Conservatories and Youth orchestras as artists often being their career in these groups and begin to work with other groups as the artist’s career grows.

Networking with Conservatories and Youth Orchestras

Community and professional orchestras seeking to find talented musicians for their ensembles can benefit from building strong networks with Conservatories and Youth Orchestras. These groups are often the starting point for artists’ careers, where they hone their skills and gain performance experience. As musicians progress in their careers, they tend to work with other groups and become more visible in the community.

gigs with booking agents

By networking with these institutions, orchestras can tap into a pipeline of promising musicians who are passionate about their craft and committed to improving their skills. 

This approach can be particularly beneficial for community orchestras, which may not have the resources to conduct extensive auditions or recruit talent through other means. 

Additionally, by building relationships with these groups, orchestras can foster a sense of community among local musicians and cultivate a sense of pride and ownership in the ensemble’s success.

Community orchestra specific tips to find more members

Word of mouth is powerful in the music business and you should capitalise where you can to utilise current members to gain new members if needed.

Here are some ideas to get more community orchestra members that may bolster your casual numbers:

  • Do a refer a friend campaign and offer discounted member dues for those who refer a friend successfully

  • Do a ‘bring a friend’ rehearsal where current members can invite interested musicians to attend a rehearsal to get a feel for the group and see if they would like to audition. This allows potential members to see how the orchestra operates and get a sense of the repertoire and skill level required.

  • Partner with local music groups or organisations, such as choir groups or music stores, to create joint events or performances. This can help expand your reach and attract new members who may not have known about your orchestra otherwise.

  • Partner with local music organisations to offer perks for joining the orchestra, such as discounted instrument rentals or access to music lessons. This can make the orchestra more attractive to potential members who are weighing their options.

Management of casual lists

Keeping track of data on the musicians you work with or would like to work with is essential for effective artist management. It is recommended that you start collecting this information as early as possible. 

Contact details should be your starting point, but it’s also important to consider other factors such as availability, performance style, and music career to-date.

If you are paying the artists, you should also collect information about their pay rates. This can help you ensure that you are offering fair compensation for talent and can also help you budget for future projects.

Collecting all this data can quickly become overwhelming if done manually in a spreadsheet. However, using a customer relationship management (CRM) tool like HubSpot can make the process much more manageable. 

You can automate the process by including this data collection step when onboarding your musicians, ensuring that you have a consistent and reliable source of information. 

This will save you time in the long run and help you make more informed business decisions when it comes to booking musicians for future projects.

booking agent process

Beginning the booking process

Booking musicians for events can be a complex process that involves several steps. The first step is to select the artists from your lists who would be most suitable for the event. This selection process involves looking at their availability, performance style, and any other relevant factors such as their experience level or their ability to play auxiliary instruments.

Once you have identified the musicians you would like to work with, you need to reach out to them to see if they are available and willing to take on the booking. This involves checking their schedules and asking them if they are interested in the specific project. You may also need to negotiate their rates and other terms of the booking, such as transportation and accommodation.

If the musician is being paid for their services, you will need to send them a contract outlining the terms of the booking. This contract should include details such as the fee, the date and time of the event, and any schedule information.

It is also important to consult with the Principal and artistic directors about the candidates you have selected. They may have specific artistic strengths and weaknesses that make them better suited for certain genres of works that the orchestra will play in each project. By working closely with these individuals, you can ensure that the musicians you book are the best possible fit for your event and that your performances are of the highest quality.

Using Symphona to streamline the booking process

Symphona offers a comprehensive solution to orchestras for managing their candidate selection and event rostering process. By using the Project Offers feature, Symphona can assist in delegating the candidate selection process, checking their availability, and willingness for any events.

To begin, you can add positions to your Symphona organization and select whether they are Regular or Casual musicians. Then each time you roster gigs, Symphona will show available candidates to choose from starting with your regular players then casuals.

Furthermore, Symphona allows you to grant Principals and artistic directors the power to roster the whole orchestra alongside you or just specific sections. This ensures that the artistic directors and principals have a say in the selection process, and the final orchestra team comprises of skilled musicians suited for playing in the project.

Once you or the team roster a casual musician on, a project offer will be sent to them, and they will be listed as ‘Pending’ on the roster. In response, they need only indicate their availability and willingness through their Symphona account, which streamlines the communication process and eliminates any confusion. This automated process can help orchestras save valuable time and resources in managing their events.

Symphona App Under The Stars

Symphona's project offers saved the Hobart Wind Symphony group 200 touch-points in its first two weeks using Symphona, by sending project offers and receiving responses in-app which meant the team had more time to promote gigs and fill the audience

If they decline the project, they’ll be vacated from the roster, you’ll be able to see and you can move onto other musicians. If they accept, you’ll see them on the roster without the pending icon.

Booking artists manually

If you’re not using Symphona, it’s likely the process from checking availability to having them secured is going to be quite manual and booking for a few gigs will take some time and patience, so make sure you allow for this.

When completed manually, typically orchestra managers will reach out to potential candidates via phone call or email and advise they are interested in booking an artist and start by asking if the musician is free. If they are, they will then likely discuss pay arrangements and details of the project like the music that the orchestra will play and which venue the gig will be in.

There is usually a bit of phone tag, and following up that needs to happen in this step but once a candidate has either accepted or declined, a contract may need to be sent.

For casual musicians this can cause a lot of stress. Getting started in the music industry is tough going and all musicians want to grow their music career by performing in more gigs. But keeping across calls, texts and emails constantly as an artist can get overwhelming.

There are tools you can use like Zapier to make contract generation once a project has been accepted a bit quicker. Zapier allows you to create ‘Zaps’ or workflows, that are triggered at different times so if the tool you are using to roster has capability to determine if a player is a casual and they have been rostered on, you may be able to set up a workflow the sets up the contract for you.

Using a booking agent or a booking agency

Using a booking agent can be a great option for solo artists who want to focus on their craft while having someone else take care of the administrative side of things like putting together a press kit, finding gigs, negotiating contracts, and handling logistics such as transportation, accommodation and tours.

 However, using a booking agent may not be as effective for orchestras looking to book casuals, as the agent may not have the necessary connections and expertise to navigate the complex and highly competitive world of orchestral music.

In addition to the challenges of finding the right fit for a gig, sometimes the process of filling vacancies needs to be done incredibly quickly. For example, if an ensemble suddenly loses a member right before a big performance or recording session, they may need to find a replacement within a matter of days or even hours. In these situations, relying solely on a booking agent may not be feasible. 

The orchestra may need to turn to their network of friends or even post an urgent call online. It can be a high-pressure situation, but it’s important to find someone who is not only skilled but also compatible with the rest of the group. This is where having a clear sense of the group’s sound and goals can be crucial, as it can help identify potential candidates who are the right fit both musically and personally.

Additionally, booking agents or booking agencies typically take a commission, which can add to the cost of hiring. For these reasons, it may be more practical for orchestras to use other methods such as networking with conservatories and youth orchestras, as mentioned earlier in this post, to find suitable candidates.

Booking casuals can be a challenging task, especially as there is no centralised resource for finding skilled orchestral musicians. 

However, by networking with Conservatories and Youth orchestras, and using tools like Symphona, orchestras can manage the search for candidates more effectively. Keeping track of data on musicians is essential for artist management, and using a customer relationship management (CRM) tool can make the process much more manageable. 

The booking process involves several steps, including selecting the most suitable musicians, negotiating their rates, and consulting with the principal and artistic directors. By following these steps and using Symphona’s automated process, orchestras can save valuable time and resources while ensuring the quality of their performances.