Piggyback

I’d like to talk about an issue that I’ve seen come up a few times over the years that I think every musician who is ever endeavoring to travel and work abroad might experience. Let’s take a musician and we’ll name him John Smith. Now John Smith lives in Ny and has been called to do a festival in London for a week. Now John’s going to be there for a week for only 1 gig. That leaves for a lot of downtime. John has plenty of musician friends in Europe, one of them being a pianist that lives in Paris who happens to be a real aggressive hustler for gigs and he’s successful at it. John calls the pianist (let called him Jacques for now) and lets him know that he’ll be in London for a week for a festival and that he has a few days free. Jacques has some good paying gigs lined up already in Paris and would like to have John on those.


Now here’s where it’s gets tricky. John agrees to do these gigs. The festival organizers in London have already spent 900+ dollars to fly John over the Atlantic to the gig. So now all Jacques needs to do is buy a round trip ticket for John from London to Paris, which is relatively inexpensive (certainly cheaper than footing the bill from NY to London and back). This is called piggybacking on the behalf of Jacques. Now Jacques is ethically obligated to compensate the organizers of the London gig for the initial flight from NY.
Over the years, festival organizers have really started to crack down on this. Most agents work in a network and they all talk to each other so they know who’s playing where. If two agencies are presenting the same act during the same tour for that act, they’ll share the cost of airfare, especially for the U.S. based bands playing abroad (the cost to bring over a quartet or quintet is very expensive and it’s killed every prospect of me bringing my band abroad anytime soon, so I gave up trying to find work for my band abroad). Most acts that perform abroad from the U.S. have to have an “anchor” gig(s) (a gig(s) that covers for the plane tickets) to have any chance of making a profit on the tour.


So for all musicians looking to work abroad, when you do find work please be honest if you are playing elsewhere during your stay if you are questioned about it. Our reputations rely on this…

Until next time,




Jason Palmer

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