Author: Campbell, Bruce

Keeping All the Plates on the Sticks

Musicians may concentrate most of the brain power on their musical skills, but if they’re
performing much, sooner or later they run into the intricacies of maintaining and keeping
track of their performing schedule.

Requests to play come in through a variety of vectors – phone calls, emails, web site
responses, casual and chance meetings, etc. It used to be that phone calls were the
best – your phone was at home, so it was a good chance you had your calendar handy
(in “hard copy”, of course), and you could know pretty much on the spot if you’re
available on the desired date.

Now, it’s all the cell phone, which means calls come in at all sorts of weird times: when
you’re in the bathroom, driving, working, fishing, or even performing. If you take the call,and the caller asks about your availability for a date, you need to access some “virtual calendar” to determine if the conversation should move forward.

The odd casual asides are tough too – someone in the line at the grocery store says “Hey, I heard you playing at so-and-so’s wedding, can you play at my shindig on such-and-such?”

You have to try and access that “virtual calendar’, AND get the person’s contact info to continue the conversation, while progressing through the grocery checkout line and enduring dagger-stares from the other patrons.

Even once you’ve determined you are available, what about the rest of the band? It used to mean a round of phone calls and cajoling. I was in a band with a guy who would never commit to a date.

“Hey, can you play on Saturday the 5th, in two weeks?”

“Let me see, I gotta check my calendar…” (Rustling of papers in the background) “Lessee, hmm, I think I’m 75% certain I can 42% guarantee that I might be available. What does it pay?”

Nowadays of course, it’s the band-wide email blast. Folks, always try to put the following information in that initial email:

• Who’s the customer?
• Where’s the gig?
• What’s the date? (Get it right – don’t say Thursday the 5th if Thursday falls on the 6th)
• What’s the hours?
• What’s the pay?
• Does that band have to provide sound?

And then, the dance begins. In a quintet, there’s always someone who doesn’t answer or doesn’t commit, and the band (and the customer) is left hanging. I usually set a quorum for assent. 3 out of 4, or 4 out of 5 saying yes is good enough to give the customer the thumbs up, and you can hope to get that final answer or find a sub.

Even with the best made plans and rock-solid procedures, we all live in fear of that phone call. Your cell rings, you pick it up.


“Bruce!! Where ARE you, man? We go on in 10 minutes!!!”

“Uh, who IS this?”

I had a gig one time with Larry Chung, and as I approached the gig I decided to call him to get some clarifications on the directions. (This was back when it was OK to drive and talk on your phone). I look up the contact and dial.


“Hey, Larry, this is Bruce Campbell? I want to get a little clarification on the address for today’s gig?”

“WHAT? What gig?”

“Wait a minute – who is this?”

“This is Larry Cohea.”

“Oh, never mind - I was trying to call Larry Chung!”

“You nearly killed me there!”, Larry laughed. “I’m always worried about getting this phone call!”

We all are, Larry. We all are!

Posted:  8/14/2013

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