Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Unions always make me cry

One of the most frustrating things about being a musician has been the musician's union. I've never had any direct contact with them, which is part of the problem. I assumed that, like Actor's Equity, you needed to be a member before you could do any professional playing. That's not directly true.

For my entire career as a musician, I've received conflicting advice about the union. Excellent musicians, whose opinion I respect very much, advised me to, and I quote, "put off joining the union as long as you can". When you're young, that sort of admonishment from someone you care about and respect yields an absolute prohibition. I never even considered joining, never went to the website, never looked at the forms, etc.

Then I subbed for a rehearsal at the local stage band. It was technically a union gig, but the contractor said not to worry about it. I got paid under the table by the guy I sat in for. No worries. I kinda hoped the contractor would say, "It's time to join the union and become a man." But no dice.

Now I'm filling out paperwork for the sub list in the Kansas City Symphony. It makes it explicitly clear that this is a union job, and even the preference will be given to union members. So once again, I'm asking myself if it's time to join the union. Obviously, if I play well, they'll ask me to be on the list regardless of whether or not I'm in the union, as they always do for the permanent auditions in big symphonies. They don't care if the guy they hired has even HEARD of the Musician's Union; they'll sign him up once they have him under contract.

If I thought the Union would have been feeding me jobs, I would have signed up a long time ago. As it stands now, I'm not sure what the benefit would be. It might be a good resource, as their magazine lists upcoming auditions. But so does the internet, so... I just don't know.

I guess I should just bite the bullet to get preferential treatment for the upcoming audition. Still, isn't that the kind of thing you're NOT supposed to do?

So confused.

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