Thinking of joining the local musico union

rogue_drummer

Gold Member
I need some advice here. I'm getting totally fed up with playing with rank amateurs who can contribute nothing toward my understanding of music, enjoyment of playing music, or who have hidden agendas, or enormous egos that don't match their level of playing. I must be running into bad luck here or I'm going about it totally wrong or I'm too trustworthy.

I'm looking to join the local D/FW musicians union for the simple reason of possibly getting to play with better musicians or more commited musicians than the usual crap I'm running into lately.

After going to several jams and jamming with others on occasion at their homes or subbing and filling in, I've been told my playing is good and I am a solid drummer. Personally I don't have the desire to be the best, but I do want to be good and able to hold my own, so to speak.

I'm not looking to make big bucks as I already have a good job that pays the bills, but I would like the opportunity to play with and be exposed to better caliber of musicians than what I'm currently seeing.

Any ideas here? Am I expecting too much or being too sensitive? It just seems like I am either 1) running into musicians who claim to be "pros" yet can't put two chords together, much less play their instrument, or 2) so egotistical you'd think they invented music, or 3) can't lead or manage a band to save their life.

It's damn frustrating.
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
I was told not to join the musicians' union until you had a gig that required it, so when Disney said "now" I went down to the hall and paid my fees and became a member. If you don't already have a union job lined up that you're involved in, they'll probably take your money and run you through a little audition but it may not get you any jobs, either. I think the way I've been taught is that you join when a majority of your work is done in union rooms. Out here in Orange County it's pretty cheap to join the musicians' union: $100 initiation then $24 a quarter for your dues. As opposed to my Technical Union (IATSE) which cost $1120 to join and $58 a quarter for dues, plus they get 2% of my weekly paycheck!

I think the amount you spend to your union is directly proportionate to how powerful it'll fight for you, eh?
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
Any ideas here? Am I expecting too much or being too sensitive? It just seems like I am either 1) running into musicians who claim to be "pros" yet can't put two chords together, much less play their instrument, or 2) so egotistical you'd think they invented music, or 3) can't lead or manage a band to save their life.

It's damn frustrating.
I think what you're actually experiencing is the divide that exists between the amateurs and pros. Pros are usually more skilled because of their experience and training, and they typically work with other pros, who are able to work more often, since there is no day-job.

Personally, when someone tells me they have a day job, I immediately assume that they won't work more than one or two nights a week, and that just won't pay my bills. How good they are is a non-issue.

I'm not suggesting you quit your day job (though I did, and it's been working out all right!). For the most part, there are three ways to get gigs: audition, befriend a working drummer and sub in (and then kick ass!), and study with a teacher who will refer you (because you're a good student and person).

If you want to start your own band, that's usually tougher. Attend some jam sessions and play with people (again, this might be difficult because of your day job).
 

caddywumpus

Platinum Member
Joining the musicians' union won't get you working with pro players, nor will it get you work. What it WILL do for you is advocate on musicians' behalves, plug you in to the network of local members (which may be good OR bad--ANYONE can pay the dues and be a member, since there's no audition), and occasionally you *might* hear about some job offer coming down the pipeline (but, then again, so will every other member of the union, and it can get pretty cutthroat...).

Attend some jam sessions, and scope out players you might be interested in working with. Network. It's that easy.
 

inneedofgrace

Platinum Member
From time to time I've scanned through websites like Craigslist to get ideas of what type of musicians are looking for other musicians. I've never carried through with any of those leads, because I haven't had to yet. I was wondering if anyone else had experience (bad or good) with Craigslist?

The ads usually give you an indication of how serious the musicians are and what age and experience levels they are looking for.
 

caddywumpus

Platinum Member
From time to time I've scanned through websites like Craigslist to get ideas of what type of musicians are looking for other musicians. I've never carried through with any of those leads, because I haven't had to yet. I was wondering if anyone else had experience (bad or good) with Craigslist?
MANY bad experiences with craigslist musicians, here. But, then again, I'm looking for good players looking to play good music and make good money. I found out first-hand that most of the people advertising on craigslist for bands worth joining are falsely advertising to get good players to respond. That's what you get for a free-to-everyone service, I guess. If it cost something to post on craigslist, I'm sure that would weed out a bunch of the detritus.

Maybe that's just Portland, though. Around here, working musicians will network with people they know and have played with to find people to work with. If you haven't played with many people, you've got to hustle hustle hustle, play jam sessions, put together successful projects, and build your reputation and resume.

The ads usually give you an indication of how serious the musicians are and what age and experience levels they are looking for.
Have you ever seen an ad that says:

"Looking to put together a tight, rockin' band to play around town, build a following, record an album or two, take it to the next level, make a lot of money, play a lot of fun and rewarding gigs, possibly tour. Mildly serious. Reply if you're mildly interested, too. Or not. Whatevs..."

People will always exaggerate to build excitement to recruit people. Most of the time (in my experience) the game plan seldom ever happens. Musicians in the musicians section on craigslist are the same flakey people that responded to your ad when you were selling a piece of gear, but never showed up at the scheduled time/place. Once again, that's the problem with a free, anonymous service...
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
From time to time I've scanned through websites like Craigslist to get ideas of what type of musicians are looking for other musicians. I've never carried through with any of those leads, because I haven't had to yet. I was wondering if anyone else had experience (bad or good) with Craigslist?

The ads usually give you an indication of how serious the musicians are and what age and experience levels they are looking for.
I think like anything, it's hard to "make that jump" to better quality anything. A friend of mine who does a pretty successful solo act (guitar/singing/tracks), back in the day started out asking for $75 a night. When he upped it to $150 a night, he had money socked away because he knew the phone would stop ringing for a while. So his lesson was also mine: if you hold out for playing with better players, you'll just have to be more selective on which places you decide to turn up and play at. Be prepared to not be playing for a bit. An additional lesson here is to withhold your talents for the right price: don't be so desperate to play that you'll do anything to do it. You have a service to sell to the right client, so treat it like the products you see in a store: nobody gets it without paying for it. My friend now commands about $350 a night and gets it. His contract is pretty extensive, and he works about 4 nights a week (even in this economy).

If you always frequent the trashy dives that cater to the "just-turned-21 crowd" that pay maybe $20 per band member (if at all) then that is the clientele that will be looking for you. If you decide to stop doing that and go more upscale, you'll be stagnant for a while but when you do go out, you're meeting better people and hopefully better players. I would love to be a 40-hour-a-week working pro as a drummer, but my lifestyle kinda' negates that happening (although I just got a gig that may turn in to that kind of opportunity) because I need a certain amount of money to survive every month and am not ready to go back to eating Top Ramen everyday and not having health insurance, et al.,...
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
I may be wrong, but the impression I've always been given about the local musicians union is it's only really helps if you are doing TV work or cruise ship gigs.

My only dealings with the union have been calling, get left on hold, or being directed to a voice mail box that is full and being disconnected. Once I got a lady on the phone who was most unhelpful. The only benefit she could describe was I would have access to the union's rehearsal hall at the union members price, which turned out to be more than any of the generic rehearsal places around town.

Some pros have told me it's a great, because the union has everyone's contact info, so there is someone you want to get a hold of, they can give you that info. But given how the internet works today, I'm not longer sure how much of a benefit that is. And that only works if you know who it is you want to contact.

I've had other pros tell me they have little to do with the union.

As for Craigslist, I think it depends on where you are and what you're after. I've seen Portland's craigslist, and in the average day, they get as many posting as you in the average hour in Los Angeles. It's always going to a process to sort through though, as anyone can, and will, post ads.

There is a pretty hilarious thread poking fun at Craigslist and musician ads here:
http://www.drummerworld.com/forums/showthread.php?t=62207

But I do think the internet has made the process easier. Everyone can, and should, have a web presence with examples of their playing, be it myspace, facebook, their own web page or whatever. With a few clicks you can figure out if this is the kind of band or musician you feel compelled to take the next step with. It sure beats driving across town to listen to a bad cassette tape just to realize in 5 seconds this isn't going to work.
 
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