Day 240 of Practice: Musicianship... Terms of Employment.

Who looked at the Lindsays list of gigs and said, "So busy! How do they survive this?" Today's answer: One of them gets sick. The Type-A one of us, that is. (Thanks, Marian, for reminding me of my type.) Ah, yes. Sick and facing a performance at Scituate Library today that is bound to be packed, because those shows usually are. (2:00 at 85 Branch Street, if you feel like seeing how Suzy does when she's dizzy and spaced out. Well, more dizzy and spaced out than usual.)

Alas, musicianship is a career that doesn't offer sick days.... but, oh, the benefits! In fact, twenty years ago, when I sat down with the Human Resources Director at "So You Wanna Be a Musician, Inc." and she explained the company policy and benefits, I admit that these are the ones that hooked me:

Company Mission

1) All passion, all the time. A mission we can all get behind.

Terms of Employment

2) No boss. Great for me féiners!

3) You can make your own hours. Great for families!

4) You can work as little or as much as you want. Hard work will bring definite award. But, refer to article 5, below.

Performance Evaluations

5) No one sits you down every six months to give you a Performance Evaluation. Which, actually, is sort of unfortunate. Because instead, you must move forward hoping you're doing well, and gauging your professional success on the number of gigs you're booking... an untrustworthy gauge, indeed, for your busy-ness is dependent on a number of external factors, as well, including the economy, a venue's simple desire for change, timing, etc. But you must forget all that, and assume it's all about you. That makes it much easier to be a tortured artist, which of course is required.

Family Support

6) You're allowed to fall in love and then marry your coworker. You are then free at any time to leave the company and make your own damn band. Which we did.

7) If the two of you have children, you can bring them to work sometimes.

8) If they learn the trade, you can hire them, and no one will accuse you of cronyism.


9) Ah, remuneration. Sometimes it's there, sometimes it's not. Every musician thinks they're underpaid and every venue owner thinks they're paying too much. Just like real life.

Sick and Unpaid Leave

10) No sick days and no health insurance. But you won't need it. You know... because you're following your passion, you're living a less stressed life and thus you won't get sick as much. (She didn't give me a chance to tell her that this is not true.)

11) Wanna go on vacation? Then book a gig in your intended destination, because that's the only way you can afford it. Which is a very nice way to meet the locals.


(This is when the HR lady did one of those mad-lady belly laughs.)

12) No retirement. But who cares! You can keep playing til you're 90! And that's nice because your fellows in the nursing home will appreciate your music.

Proper Attire and Behavior

13) Laugh as loud as you want and have as much fun as you want. On the job. Just make sure your fellow performer knows that it's not about her; it's just that a little voice inside your head tells you to laugh, and you can't help it. It's not your fault.

14) There are no behavior rules. You are expected to be yourself.

15) Wear what you want. There are no clothing rules. No stuffy suits, no uncomfortable heels... unless you're David Byrne, David Bowie, or Ace Freely.

Side Benefits

16) Make amazing friends. Play good music with someone for an hour, and a thousand barriers have been broken almost instantly, without a word being spoken.

17) Get free food. And you thought it was only the people with "real" jobs who were getting museum passes and movie tickets. Well, we musicians get exclusive behind-the-scenes visits to museums, super-exclusive golf clubs, and fine hotels... plus free food. And beer.

18) It's okay to befriend your clients. There are no conflicts of interest if you and a client get on particularly well. You're allowed to meet off the job for coffee at Blue Blinds any time you want.

Termination Policy

19) If you want to work in a big company, hire more musicians. Good thing is, they're usually also your friends. If you want to work in a small company, hire fewer musicians. But find nice ways to explain your choice to those friends who get left out. It's almost always because the gig doesn't pay enough. (See article 9.)

20) If your coworkers aren't performing, you can just get other ones. You might lose them as friends, but hey... this is business! (The HR lady said that, not me. I think she lied, just to get me to take the job.)

But don't forget to read the fine print...

21) You can leave anytime you want, but folks, once you're in it, you're really working for the Hotel California. You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.