Music contractors are best known in the film and television industries, where they’re responsible for finding the orchestra to record a film score or the band to play a show’s theme. While filmmakers and television producers might have an idea of the sound they want, or even a completed score written by a composer, they generally don't have the music industry connections necessary to fill a studio with musicians when it's time to record. That's where music contractors come in. These matchmakers work in the space between several different industries, reaching across the divide to connect supply—seasoned musicians and conductors—with demand.
Music contractors must be good at making new connections, maintaining old ones, and leaving a positive impression in all social encounters.
In addition to introducing musicians to clients seeking musical talent, music contractors also act as liaisons between the musicians, the client, and the union. It's their job to ensure that the musicians work under good conditions and receive fair pay. Contractors may also facilitate contract agreements for the musicians, book studio time if the job involves a recording, and assist in the recording sessions if necessary. In order to field a wide range of requests, music contractors must be able to supply musicians who work in every genre and on every instrument, no matter how obscure.
Although they're most well known in the film and television industries, music contractors can also work in the live and recorded music industries, connecting a backing band with a New York play or musical, a full orchestra with a composer looking for recordings of his or her latest work, or session musicians with a songwriter recording an album.
Music Contractor at a Glance
It must be emphasized that this is a late-career position for a former instrumental performer who has worked in and around the film and TV industries for a significant amount of time. Music contractors build their initial professional network out of a long list of peers and collaborators from previous days as a professional musician or conductor. But while anyone working as a musician in Hollywood will encounter music contractors, there's a reason that few will make that transition themselves: there simply isn't enough work out there to support very many music contractors. These impressively well-connected contractors use their clout and deep knowledge of multiple industries to broker the majority of work for musicians in Hollywood.
For the most part, music contractors use preexisting connections in the music and film industries to do their job. It's very rare for an individual to actively attempt to find work as a music contractor. Most music contractors work as professional musicians, conductors, or bandleaders in the film industry for some time before being asked by a producer or director to find musical talent for a session.
- Instrumental performance
- Written and verbal communication
- Contract law
- Principles of film/TV scoring
- Knowledge of union standards
The product music contractors sell is their interpersonal knowledge: they not only need to know the best musicians in the business on every instrument, but also who among them is currently available for work, who works well together and who can't be in the same room, and who could fill in when someone comes down sick. In order to gain this level of knowledge and access, music contractors should be extremely sociable—good at making new connections, maintaining old ones, and leaving a positive impression in any social encounter, no matter how brief. In terms of the job itself, contractors should seek to pay equal attention to satisfying both sides of the equation: the musicians who are looking for honest, well-paid jobs, and the clients who are looking for excellent (and cheap) musical labor. Good judgment is critical.
Travel is minimal for music contractors, as most duties can be performed at a home office in Los Angeles or New York City. But like many freelance positions, this job comes with its fair share of unofficial job duties, such as constant networking at industry parties and events in order to stay on top of the scene. Music contractors must, by necessity, lead an active and engaged social life; any contractor who ceases to actively pursue new contacts may be pushed out of the scene quickly.