Wednesday, September 2, 2009

When the Unthinkable Happens

It is the one thing that musicians and performers dread. We’re all human, and it can happen. I am referring to double-booking. (Yikes!). Maybe two contracts got stuck together in your files and you didn’t realize you had booked that second wedding on the same day. Or perhaps you transferred the time of the gig from the contract to your calendar incorrectly. Or maybe a fellow band member booked a gig and didn’t tell the other members. However it happened, it can be a real jam.

Beyond double- and triple-checking your availability when a client calls, if you get stuck with two jobs that are just too close together, here is what you can do:

Arrive at the second job earlier that day and drop off equipment (instruments, amps, etc.). Set up as much as possible. Then, go off to your first job with another set of equipment. When you are done at the first job, you will be able to cut down on set-up time when you arrive at the second job because you won’t have to load in. Doing this really helped me when I was in this pickle very recently, and neither of my clients were suspect of anything amiss. (Caution: Of course, make sure you can leave equipment at the first gig in a secure location.)

Certainly, if you can only do the two jobs by cloning yourself and your band members, then you’ve got to give up one of the jobs. Select the job that will be easier to refer to someone else. Find a replacement before you phone your client to give them the bad news. Give your potential replacement all the details about the gig, including your client’s music choices, so that when the client phones them, you will have done all the legwork for them. If you cannot find comparable substitute musicians for the gig, contact your favorite booking agent or wedding coordinator and explain the situation to them.

When you speak with your client, tell them that you have found another musician or band for them. Talk up the other band’s great attributes, give your client their number, and tell them, “Let me know what you would like to do after you speak with them.” Or, refer them to a reputable booking agent or wedding coordinator. One referral is enough—The point is to save your client from needing to contact a bunch of different referrals.

Next, put everything in writing: Your conversation with your client, their decision about whether to have money refunded or sent to the alternative act, and your sincerest apologies. Follow the rules that you established in your performance agreement regarding cancellations, and cite these guidelines verbatim in your letter. Mail this letter to your client (keeping a copy for your records), along with any money owed to them. Then, breathe a sigh of relief.

Even if your client decides they don’t want to book the other performers you recommended, they will appreciate the effort on your part and there is a better chance they will react in a rational way to your news. By the way, handle any gig that you have to cancel for any reason in this manner, even if you didn’t double-book.

Tips for Brides, Event Planners, And Anyone Hiring Performers

Musicians are human. We make mistakes. Life gets in the way and sometimes we need to cancel a performance for rational reasons: family events, surgery, pregnancy, and all kinds of other things, including accidentally double-booking. We’ll try our best to find you a replacement act when these things happen, but if we don’t, please ask us to help you. We may know great booking agents or wedding coordinators who can also help. And we’ll happily return your deposit or send it along to the replacement act you select. We are truly sorry when we need to cancel.

Tips for Musicians:

Understand how your client feels when you need to cancel. Be honest with them. Then, help them as much as possible, even if they get irate. I’d be upset, too, if I suddenly couldn’t have my favorite band play at my event. A little sincere compassion goes a long way.
Many more tips are available from my book “The Musician’s Guide to Brides” available wherever Hal Leonard Books are sold: music and bookstores, and through online retailers including ,, and of course, at my website at

I’m looking forward to reading your stories, comments, and feedback.
Anne :-)

Anne RoosCeltic Harp Music by Anne Roos
(And contact me at for personal consultation and mentoring—Make a living while gigging)
Painting is by Edvard Munch and is called "The Scream"

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