Music contractors are best known in the film and television industries, where they’re responsible for finding the session players and conductor to record a film score, television score, or a show’s theme. However, they can also work in the theater industry—finding pit orchestra musicians for a play, musical, or opera—or in the live and recorded music industries, where they might hire backup singers and touring musicians for a recording artist or music director, or connect a songwriter recording an album with skilled session musicians. In all cases, these musical matchmakers thrive in the space between industries, reaching across the divide to connect supply—seasoned musicians and conductors—with demand.
In order to do their job, music contractors must be good at making new connections, maintaining old ones, and leaving a positive impression in any social encounter, no matter how brief.
In addition to connecting musicians with 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 they provide 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 process 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.
Music Contractor at a Glance
It must be emphasized that this is a late-career position for a former professional musician who has worked in and around a specific industry for a long time. Music contractors build their local professional network—which is their primary product—out of a long list of peers and collaborators from their previous career. But while any working musician in Hollywood will likely encounter a music contractor at some time or another, there's a reason that few will enter this career themselves: there simply isn't enough work to support many music contractors in a single industry. In Hollywood, for example, only a handful of impressively well-connected music contractors broker the majority of work for musicians in the industry—and the proliferation of sampling technology has only decreased this number.
It's very rare for an individual to actively attempt to find work as a music contractor. Most music contractors find their way into this niche field after a long career as a professional session musician, conductor, pit musician, or touring musician, during which time they make thorough connections among the local music community. It's these preexisting connections that music contractors use to do their job when they retire from playing music.
- Instrumental performance
- Written and verbal communication
- Contract law
- Principles of film/TV scoring
- Knowledge of union standards
The product that music contractors sell is their connections. They not only need to know the best local musicians 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 gets sick. In order to gain this knowledge, music contractors must be sociable, attentive, and good at making new connections and maintaining old ones.
Being a skilled music contractor also means balancing two sides that are often at odds: the musicians who are looking for honest, well-paid work, 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.