Musicians Contact Celebrates 50 Years Of Referring Musicians To Working Bands
Musicians Contact is celebrating their 50th year in business connecting bands and musicians to each other. Founded by Sterling Howard in 1969, Musicians Contact still remains the place where working bands locate members and individual players find gigs with bands.
Notable past members include Billy Joel, Todd Rundgren, Rick Springfield, Danny Elfman, James Williamson, Kim Fowley, Earl Slick, Robin Zander, Barry Manilow, Tower of Power, Lita Ford, Jimmy Greenspoon, Terri Nunn, John Lydon, Dr John, Stiv Bators, Bobby Kimball, Terry Bozzio, Iron Butterfly, Robert Palmer, Art “Killer” Kane, George Lynch, Stu Hamm, Bobby McFerrin, Warrant and many others.
But Sterling says, “It’s important to stress that even though we’ve had famous clients seeking players, obviously the vast majority of our incoming gigs come from working cover and original acts, part time, full time, local, traveling, festival, wedding, casino, club work, etc. And we’ve always been a free service to bands needing players. Some individuals have listed themselves as many as 20 times over the years because they are finding gigs here that they don’t find elsewhere. I’m trying to point out that it is still the ‘bread and butter’ jobs that pay the bills, and these are the ones we get from band leaders.” (On the website Click https://www.musicianscontact.com/recent-jobs to read some partial examples.)
Sterling explains, “Why did I start the business? My working band broke up in 1967 because two of our members were drafted into the military and there was no place to find musicians except for tiny ads on music store bulletin boards. The idea struck me to form an organized musicians referral. That’s when I rented an office upstairs in the Whisky a GoGo. I had resumes and ad forms, and individuals and bands would come in the office, (or call) to connect. I even had many Union members register, since the Union provided no resumes at that time. I was 22 when I started this company, and no, who would have guessed I’d still be doing it 50 years later!”
Within a year after starting, the office was moved to a larger location. In the early 1970’s, traveling bands found members as they passed through California and as word spread, groups from other states called for replacements. Full time working cover acts became more popular, hiring players for road gigs.
By the end of the decade, the office staff had grown to five, and a branch office was opened near Disneyland. Las Vegas groups imported players, and country artists and jazz acts started using the service to hire available players.
In those days, the job listings were distributed to individual musicians either by phone or in person, but a major change was soon to come. Sterling hired a team of technicians to build a custom made computer connected to seven tape recorders. Members could now call 24 hours, enter a password into their phone, and hear current available jobs. It was primitive by today’s standards, but it worked and remember, the year was 1983!
By 1990, cruise ship jobs became more popular and gigs arrived from Asia, seeking players for r&b, funk and soul groups. The “antique” computer eventually gave way to the science of voicemail, so a new computer was put into action to distribute job listings. Entering the era of music videos for TV, managers viewed photos of musicians for use in commercials and videos.
In 1995, it was time to upgrade the call-in hotline yet again with an advanced voice mail system, allowing musicians to record their profiles and demos right over the phone. By 1998, Musicians Contact went online with its first website, and became truly a national service.
There have been various website updates and changes to the site, culminating in what you see today. But, the basic function has always been the same since 1969 – a referral service for bands and musicians to find each other.
Stories about famous players? “Well, I still have Billy Joel’s resume from 1972 where he states ‘I’m not interested in messing around, I just want money’. But later he came in when he tried to form an original band and asked the guitarist sitting next to him if he wanted to join. “Is it a paying situation?’, the guitarist asked. ‘No’ said Billy, ‘this is an original band’. “Then sorry, I’m not interested’ replied the guitarist. I’m sure this has happened thousands of times to thousands of musicians!
“Burleigh Drummond, drummer for Ambrosia, hooked up with them through us about 1972 and is STILL with them. Berlin found Terri Nunn around 1979 and she is STILL with them as well. International Celtic rockers The Young Dubliners found their drummer here about 25 years ago, and they just put in an ad seeking a bassist! (and yes, David Ingraham is STILL their drummer).”
Famous past members: https://www.musicianscontact.com/famous-past-members to see many famous members who have used Musicians Contact.
Need a band member?: https://www.musicianscontact.com/find-band-members to enter a free ad and view profiles of available players.
Need a gig?: https://www.musicianscontact.com/join-a-band to list yourself as an available musician.
For more information:
Sterling Howard, founder/owner
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