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Topic: How to graciously turn down a gig?

  1. #1

    How to graciously turn down a gig?

    Hello all,

    Sorry for the OT post, but I really thought that people here would have some good insights on this.

    Today I got offered a gig that I really don't want to do. The guy that offered it is pretty high up on the food chain so I don't want to offend him nor do I want him to scratch me off of his "possible outsource" list, but this one gig I just don't really want to do. The project itself is probably a high level feature, but 1. the job has nothing to do with music (hence would not really advance my composing carreer), 2. the pay is absurdly low and 3. I am actually booked up with other "musical" projects.

    So how do I get out of it with minimal impact on the guy and his inclination to call me again should the good stuff come up?

    Also, I would be interested in others sharing their experiences in turning down work and how it turned out.
    Music Composition for Feature Films, Television and Interactive Entertainment

  2. #2

    Re: How to graciously turn down a gig?

    I'd work with the latter - you simply don't have the time to come up with it. Tell them it's "too bad that the schedule isn't working out" - if you know he has a deadline and won't wait, then say something like 'you wish his project came along sooner/later'.

    Then you could also suggest to him that you can have someone work on it (people you know, etc), and that you could keep an eye on the work, so he doesn't feel like you are leaving him out in the cold.

    Eric Doggett
    MoonDog Media

  3. #3

    Re: How to graciously turn down a gig?

    I'm not in the business, but honesty is a great place to start.

    1) Let him know that you're booked. It's true and makes no judgements. Let him know when you expect to be freed up.

    2) Let him know your strengths and what kinds of jobs you are looking for in the future. You don't care if he doesn't call you about another non-musical job, but you want him to think of you when he needs a composer. Again, it's not a judgement of the current job. You are just telling him who you are and what you want.

    3) Don't mention money. There's nothing to negotiate on this job. Leave that negotiation for next time. No way to tell how hungry or picky you will be in the future.

    4) Make sure that you have each other's current contact information. Give a business card. Offer your demo reel and other materials, or at least let him know it's available when he's interested.

    5) Follow up with a quick note or phone call some time down the road.

    All the best...


  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Out in left field

    Re: How to graciously turn down a gig?

    Hey Midphase,

    Since I'm not currently playing pro at all, maybe this won't help, but my 2 cents anyway:

    If you're indeed interested in placating the higher ladders of the food chain, then it most certainly behooves you to work out a way to say "Yes, of course I'll be there!" Whether you really want to do it or not is entirely irrelevant.

    I'm on the opposite road, though. Ever since my days of bonging out pop/rock and blues piano for a living (strictly small-time,) I've had to occasionally and recurrently do like Nancy Reagan and just say "no" to people who want me to be involved in this or that.

    My musical aspirations are very simple. I just want to "paint" serious compositional music at home. The fact that technology now exists to allow me to do this is something I'm both excited about and grateful for. That I'm not on a career path from point A to point B frees me up to just use whatever talent or imagination I might have without in any way having to worry about anything except music.

    But if you do need to decline, without alienating anyone, I suppose the best tack to take is something along the lines of "Damn, as much as I'd like to, I'm booked!" If sucessfully executed, this could conceivably actually raise your "stock," as you are clearly sought-after enough that your services are hard to get.

  5. #5

    Re: How to graciously turn down a gig?

    What do you mean by "the project has nothing to do with music" ?

    If it´s not a music related job all you have to do is tell him you only accept jobs that are music related. This is much better than telling him that you don´t have time available for the project, because next time he may bring you a bigger project of the same kind, and then you will have no excuses to refuse it! Tell him the truth, delimiting your field of work will give you credibility and make you look more professional!

    Good Luck!

  6. #6

    Re: How to graciously turn down a gig?


    Quote Originally Posted by Guga Bernardo
    What do you mean by "the project has nothing to do with music" ?
    I think that this is an important question to answer when soliciting advice from people. I personally don't think that you should look excited about a project that has nothing to do with music if you aren't excited about it. It makes it sound like the next time this person asks you (to do a project that has nothing to do with music), you'd be happy to do it when in fact, you wouldn't be. If he comes to you in the future and your schedule is clean at that point, or you refuse a 2nd time, you'll almost certainly be off the "go-to" list. Somewhere along the line, that little white lie will come to bite you IMHO.

    If he is someone who could help advance your career, and you could see future work (that is related to music), I think that you'd probably want to try to help him out in one way or another as Eric suggested. If you can juggle the time somehow, I don't see anything wrong with letting that person know that it's not what you normally do but that you can do the job (and provide a demo of your music work). Obviously, if you can't juggle the time, you will need to graciously decline by telling him that you're booked.

    I'm not trying to tell you that you should take the gig or anything like that. I certainly don't know enough about it or your goals to give you that kind of advice. I would say, however, that you need to be honest and upfront. If you don't have the time, the honesty is easy. If it is more that you don't want to do it because of the nature of the work (ie nothing to do with music), then I think that you want to somehow give off the impression that you'd like the opportunity to work with this person in the future but in a musical project instead and provide a demo of your work.

    Now, obviously, how that is said is probably what you're after in terms of diplomacy. I wish that I could offer better advice in regards to what words to tell this person. I really don't think that you should try to b.s. him. Many of the more powerful people are intelligent enough to figure that kind of stuff out sooner rather than later. If you know this person's personality a little bit, you may have a hint as to if this person likes a little fluff or wants it straight.

    Also, whether or not you accept or decline the offer, don't forget to thank him for considering you. Even if it might not be a big deal to him, it will probably help earn more respect IMHO.

    Good luck,

  7. #7

    Re: How to graciously turn down a gig?

    What do you mean by "the project has nothing to do with music" ?

    The job is a sound design and editing position for a film touted to be a possible Oscar contender (although I'm sure just about everyone in Hollywood says that at one point or another about their film). Since I do have experience sound designing, at times I will take on projects that might involve a small amount of sound design as well as composition. What I generally don't like to do is take on projects where only sound design is involved since between the two I choose music compositions hands down as a career focus. In this particular case, the head guy knows that I am a composer, but also knows that I know sound design and hence the offer. As I said, I don't want to jeopardize the possibility of him calling me with a music composition gig, but at the same time, the conditions surrounding this particular gig make it particularly unappealing at this time. I think I'll stick to the "I'm busy, thanks for the offer but I wish I would have known sooner" reply and hope that he doesn't permanently scratch me off the list.

    I would still like to know if anyone has an interesting story of some nightmare project that they turned down (and are particularly glad they did).
    Music Composition for Feature Films, Television and Interactive Entertainment

  8. #8
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Boise, Idaho, U.S.A.

    Re: How to graciously turn down a gig?

    Quote Originally Posted by midphase

    I am actually booked up with other "musical" projects.
    Case solved, just say that you are under contract with other projects. He can't get pissed about something like that. Besides, if he knows that you are in demand for music, maybe he will be more interested in the future. Good luck,

    James W.G. Smith

  9. #9

    Re: How to graciously turn down a gig?

    Hmmm, all good advice - although - you may want to entertain the idea of 'taking it on' - yet, out sourcing the work to someone who needs the work, and of course, to someone you are confident in their abilities.

    And you simply 'manage' the project. I've been in the same boat many times - and consequently was the first person called when they needed my true talents.

    Although, i dont know all the variables, and if the pay is so low that you cant hire a fresh out of school kid, and get 10 points of the top - then, the guy wants something for nothing, and deserves nothing.

    Sure, music is love #1 - but sound design and mixing gigs are a great refresher - especially after a few big creative projects.

    And if all else - if you turn it down- try to give him some referals.

  10. #10

    Talking Re: How to graciously turn down a gig?

    Another technique I've used - if you want to live dangerously - is to try and price yourself out of the job. Say that you can't do it for less than double what they're offering. This way the worst that can happen is that you have to take the gig, but at least it'll be worth your while, and who knows it may actually end up leading to better things down the road...

    It's also valuable some times to at least entertain the possibility of conditions under which the gig might be worth your while - additional credit, cash, or 'future considerations'. Some guys are keen to get the 'supervisor' credit or whatever on their resume, just to set a precedent.

    And option three, if this really isn't the kind of work you want to be doing, there's no crime in telling the guy the truth, ie. "I've decided I'm not doing sound design anymore; I'm concentrating strictly on my composing work". That way they know the real reasons instead of second-guessing you, and it sends a message to others that a) you're a composer, not a sound-designer, and b) you've got some integrity. The only problem with that is that integrity is sometimes seen as a liability in this biz...

    Just some food for thought. Delicate diplomacy like this is, I think, why people have agents, so they can be the "designated a**holes".

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