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Musical chairs for New York's freelance instrumentalists

This weekend, the New York Times ran a feature on the upheaval in the New York music scene caused by Barbra Streisand's upcoming European tour. It's a fascinating glimpse into the complexities of the classical-musician labor market. 58 musicians are being plucked mostly from philharmonics and Broadway orchestras. According to the Times, "It’s a sweet gig for the players. But beyond that, the tour has created a mild economic boom for the pool of musicians left behind." When substitutes get called in, they have a chance to make an impression that could lead to full-time work. Equally interesting are the informal network ties that lead to much of this employment. The contractor who's putting together Barbra Streisand's backing orchestra is quoted as saying, "Had another contactor been given the assignment, I dare say the makeup of the orchestra would have been substantially different." In that way, it sounds like what we hear from freelancers all the time: you get work based on a combination of skill and who you know.

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