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Ottawa’s Multi- Talented Lois Siegel, at Siegel Entertainment

March 5th, 2018 | by Richard Paul
Ottawa’s Multi- Talented Lois Siegel, at Siegel Entertainment
Business and Finance
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When I started learning fiddle in 1997. I wasn’t a young kid.  I joined a jam session at the Glebe Community Center and eventually the musicians formed a band. I now play fiddle, bodhran and all kinds of percussion, including spoons with the following groups: The Lyon Street Celtic Band, Sens Unique (French), Celtic North, Franglais (French/English), and Fiddle Chicks.  The busiest band is The Lyon Street Celtic Band, which started performing in 1999. Many of the musicians have changed, but three of us have been with the band for years.  We are now six musicians and recently added a 21-year-old talented fiddler, Natalie Harrison.  In March, we have seven St. Patrick’s gigs and will be performing all month.

http://lyonstreetcelticband.com/

I often fall into things just because of circumstances.  This was the case when I started Siegel Entertainment in 2010.

As a favor to a few musicians I knew, I listed them on my website. One Saturday afternoon, I received a call at 2 p.m.  The lady’s voice said a band I had listed, had double- booked and couldn’t play for her 50th Wedding Anniversary.  This didn’t sound good. I felt responsible.

I said, “When is the gig?”  Response: “Today.”  Question: “What time?”  Response:  4 p.m.  Question:  “What type of music?” Latin American. “Where”? Aylmer Quebec.

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Yikes. 

I called Marie, one of my band members. I live in Orleans, Marie lives in Gatineau. I asked her if she was available. She said ‘Yes.” She said she would do it as long as we were paid the same as the double-booked band.  We had just played a Scottish gig with The Lyon Street Celtic Band, and the client had recently returned from a vacation in Cuba, so we had added some Latin American tunes. We told the lady who called that we could do the gig if we could play Latin American, French, and Celtic music.  Marie would play fiddle, accordion, and I would play bongos, fiddle, spoons, and dancing marionettes.  The client agreed. We jumped in our cars, headed for the event, arriving just in time. We performed, enjoyed some good food, and people danced. Everyone had a great time.

After this experience, I realized I couldn’t just nonchalantly list people on my website. This could happen again. How do you solve screw ups? You re-think what you are doing.  I contacted all the musicians I had listed and told them I was creating an agency: www.siegelentertainment.ca

I could list them under Siegel Entertainment, otherwise, I’d remove them from my website.  Some decided to stick with me, others didn’t.

I also needed to verify if Siegel Entertainment.ca was already taken. It wasn’t. 
I registered the name. Years later I discovered a Siegel Entertainment Ltd. Existed in Vancouver when I received a call from someone trying to contact the Vancouver agent. I sent them in the right direction.

So Siegel Entertainment.ca was off and running.  I realized that there were people who represented the well-known entertainers, but very few for the middle ground in Ottawa. I began to list the bands I played with and a few others.  How did I get jobs?  I advertised Siegel Entertainment to retirement homes, event planners, museums and others I thought might be interested via email.  I had two goals: help musicians get jobs and raise the level of entertainment in retirement homes.

Then I started recruiting more entertainers, adding magicians and storytellers.  If I received a request for a band I didn’t represent, e. g.  bluegrass, I would find a one on the Internet and ask if they were available. Then I would list them on Siegel Entertainment. Sometimes, when I would receive a request for a band I didn’t represent, I would form a band and make sure I became one of the musicians, e.g. I formed the French band Sens Unique.

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What could go wrong?  Anytime I start something new, I learn by making mistakes.  Here are some of the challenges I faced. One of the first gig requests I received was for a Greek performer.  I found one. The problem was that he didn’t show up for the gig.  He made all kinds of excuses. You can lose clients when this happens.  I dropped him from my roster. I immediately contacted the client and offered a free performance at my expense engaging another performer. That helps, but it’s still not great to have this happen. I needed entertainers who were reliable.

On another occasion, a duo was to perform at a retirement home one afternoon.  At around 2 p.m., I received a call from the activities director: “The duo didn’t show up, and I have 40 disappointed residents waiting.”   Not good.  It turns out that young kids keep their schedules on their photos. This ‘event’  was accidently erased. I contacted the musicians and asked what happened.  They had forgotten about the gig and offered to do a performance for free.  I re-schedule them, but I told them: “From now on, you keep a wall calendar or hard copy of your schedule or you don’t work for me anymore.”

Another problem occurred when a musician told me he could play Mexican music for a gig, and it turned out he couldn’t.  He performed some other kind of music, and I received a complaint.  He no longer works for me.

In March, we have seven St. Patrick’s gigs and will be performing all month.

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I had a more serious occurrence with another young, very talented musician for a gig at a public estate. I explained that all financial matters are only discussed between me and the client. The client pays me, I pay him.  I also told him that because this was a four hour gig with a break, he should bring his own lunch.  After the gig, I always follow up with my musicians asking how the gig went. I also ask the same from the client.  Their stories don’t always match.   This musician said that everything went well.  The client didn’t agree.  This was a disaster: the musician had demanded to be fed, and he had also asked the client when he would be paid.  The client, understandably, wasn’t happy. I dropped him immediately. Egos don’t belong in my company.Then there are young musicians.  I ask them what they want to be paid. If it works within the budget of the client, they are hired. If a musician comes back to me after a gig and says, “I’m professional. You should pay me more for this gig,” they get what we agreed on, and they no longer work for me. Musicians need to tell me up front what they want. I can’t read their minds. I offered a job to a duo.  They demanded a contract for a retirement home and wanted to be paid if the gig was cancelled. I refused.  I don’t sign contracts for retirement homes, only for big gigs like festivals.  Retirement homes have frequent flu outbreaks. Ottawa Public Health will close them down. I reschedule the gig. These young musicians also asked me to pay for their equipment: microphones and stands, which they didn’t have, and they said they didn’t want to move equipment around. What was I supposed to do, pay for the equipment and deliver it to the location?  Forget that.  They are dreaming in Technicolor. I cancelled them. My musicians supply their own equipment.  To top things off, they contacted my client afterwards behind my back, offering their services. The client told me she didn’t hire them.

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I once avoided one serious mistake at the last minute.  The wife-manager of an Elvis impersonator contacted me, and I was about to represent her husband. We had discussed what he charges and his avaibility.  He was also an OC Transpo bus driver. I was ready to list him when his name hit all the local newspapers:  He was facing several counts of child pornography and sexually assaulting young boys and girls. He had been an Elvis impersonator for 25 years. 

Luckily, most engagements are not problematic. I constantly expand Siegel Entertainment, adding many talented entertainers.  Besides all types of standard musicians, I also represent pipers, a steel drum player,  Métis Dancer, Inuit singer, harpsichordist, step dancers,  face painter, caricaturist, Santa, Rolling Stones cover band, barbershop quartet, a Flamenco dancer, a Scottish dancing caller, puppeteers, bell choir and a different Elvis. I now have a few performers listed from, Kingston, Montreal, Prince Edward County, Prince Edward Island, Toronto and Vancouver. 

Most of my clients request recognizable tunes. I haven’t had any requests for original music, although some bands do play a few original tunes.

Siegel Entertainment has become a full-time occupation.  It’s a fun job because there are always new challenges, and that’s what makes life interesting.

By Lois Siegel 

My website that started all this: http://siegelproductions.ca/ 

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