Wrangling Cats – Part 1 BE ON TIME

“It’s like wrangling cats.” – Matt Perrine from Treme on HBO when asked about being a leader of his own group.

I love musicians. I love their energy, their passion, their drive. Every person is unique, but musicians have a certain something special that makes them just downright strange. I definitely put myself in this category as I have always marched to the beat of my own drummer. Sometimes, there is no drum. This strangeness is what makes musicians so wonderful, and also so frustrating with whom to work.

Many of the musicians I know have a problem with being on time anywhere. If you say rehearsal is starting at 7:00 p.m., many show up at 6:55 p.m. and pull out their instrument to start playing. On many occasions, the group has already started and you are there to join in – late. I have seen this consistently with symphony orchestras for the past twenty years. We can all understand an occasional late arrival – flat tire, illness, etc. Usually, traffic should NOT be a reasonable excuse as you should allow an additional 30+ minutes from your actual travel time. With internet maps, directions and GPS systems, you should put the address in immediately when you get the confirmation to know how much time to plan for your commute that day. Then always add at least 30 minutes. Even in Orlando, I usually add an extra hour to make sure I am there early. I don’t think I’ve ever had a contractor complain because I was too early. If it’s really early, I’ll just sit in my car and read.

As a contractor, I try to learn the habits of the musicians I employ. Many times, I will actually tell people different call times since I know they are always late. Or I will tell everyone 30 minutes prior to the actual start time to allow everyone to be there on time. But WHY should I have to do this? If it’s a rehearsal and the start time is 7:00 p.m., you should be on the premises by no later than 6:40 p.m., ready to tune by 6:55 so the rehearsal can begin on time. If it’s an actual performance at 7:00 p.m., then you should be on the premises no later than ONE HOUR prior to the performance time. This allows for last-minute changes (happens all the time), instrument problems, warmups, wardrobe problems, etc. If there is a sound check, then you should be there at least THIRTY MINUTES prior to sound check to allow for setup. Some instruments require more than 30 minutes for setup, and in that case, you have to be there even earlier.

I understand that we are all human (well, mostly human), but when someone is consistently late, I see a problem. it is a job, and although we are not punching a clock, we do have to fit the timelines of our clients. If one musician is late, it makes the contractor look VERY bad, which then makes the agent who hired the contractor look bad, which then makes the production company who hired the agent look bad, which then makes the meeting planner who hired the production company look bad, … (I am starting to sound like a Dr. Seuss story). ONE musician can ruin it for the entire event, and possibly damage relationships that have taken years and decades to build between the other professionals.

In this age of instant communication with cell phones and texting, there is NO EXCUSE for a musician to be out of touch with a contractor. Communication is extremely vital, especially if there is an issue. As for me as a contractor, I start docking pay when musicians are late (without what I consider a valid reason.) If it continues, I take them off my list entirely.

Being on time is only one part of being a professional musician. I think I’ll save the other items as individual posts as I see this being a multi-part series.