Music Business Definitions

A family friend sent out a funny email that I thought I’d share for Music Monday. The guy, Jack, knew my father his whole life, since their high school days in Queens. Like my father, Jack became a professional trumpet player who worked for decades in the NYC club date scene. Having grown up around all that, I became well-acquainted with musicians’ special brand humor which pokes fun at the characters and craziness of their business. I’ve selected some of the funniest ones from Jack’s list. A couple of them might be too “inside” for non-musicians to understand, but you’ll get the gist. The subject memo in Jack’s email read “Music Business Definitions”, so here we go:

AGENT – a character who resents performers getting 90% of his salary

ARRANGER – a guy who writes to support a drinking habit

BANDSTAND – the area furthest away from an electrical outlet

BIG BAND – nowadays, an aggregation consisting of two musicians

BROADWAY PIT JOB – a prison sentence disguised as a gig

CABARET – a venue where singers do songs from shows that closed out of town

CATERER – a man whose hatred for musicians is unrivaled

CHANTEUSE – a singer with an accent and no sense of time

CLUB DATE LEADER – someone who changes his name from Kaminsky to Kaye

CONTRACTOR –  a man whose funeral nobody goes to

DJ – the guy your son would rather have play at his Bar Mitzvah

DOUBLEBASS – the instrument the folks footing the bill feel is unnecessary

DOWNBEAT – the magazine that would have you believe that all jazz musicians are working

ELECTRIC PIANO – the instrument that enables its player to pay for the hernia he sustained lifting it

HOTEL PIANIST – a guy who looks good in a tux

METRONOME – the archenemy of chanteuses and cantors

NEW YEAR’S EVE – night of the year when contractors are forced to hire musicians they despise

ORCHESTRATOR – musician who enhances a composer’s music only to be chastised for it

PERCUSSIONIST – a drummer who can’t swing

PIANIST – an archaic term for a keyboard player

SIDEMAN – the appellation that guarantees a musician will never be rich

UNION REP – a guy who thinks big bands are coming back

5 thoughts on “Music Business Definitions

  1. gavinpollock says:

    My favourite definition of “drummer” was “someone who wants to be in a band but can’t play a musical instrument” 😉

    • artmodel says:


      Drummer jokes are the best. Another version of the one you mentioned is “What do you call a guy who hangs out with musicians?” Answer, “A drummer”.



  2. Jennifer says:

    I found these very amusing when I first read through them, though I’m not at all musical. But my daughter’s involved in stage stuff and I could imagine a similar list being created for her world!

  3. violinhunter says:

    This is really (mostly) truth disguised as comedy. If you only knew! Maybe you do!!!! I happen to love pit work, though I only do it occasionally.

    • artmodel says:


      You’re so right that these are mostly truth disguised as comedy. The music business, as you know, provides plenty of fodder for humor.

      Thanks for your comments!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.