A pickup group (also called a pickup band, pickup orchestra, or jobbing band) is a term used to describe a group of musicians that are hired to play for a limited time period—ranging from a single concert or recording to several weeks of shows—before disbanding.
Pickup groups are formed to accompany musical theatre performances, operas, or operettas, jazz singers or soloists, and pop singers. As well, pickup groups are hired to perform at social events such as weddings or holiday parties. The size of these ensembles ranges from a three-member rock group or chamber ensemble to a 20-piece jazz big band or a 50-member orchestra.
Although using a pickup group requires contractors to pay for rehearsals for the new musicians in each town, it is less expensive than providing hotels, food, and travel costs for a travelling ensemble of musicians. In each town or city, the producers pay a local contractor to hire a "pickup" orchestra (or a "jobbing band"). Although the work provided by these ensembles is intermittent and of short duration, these ensembles are an important source of income for freelance musicians. As well, these ensembles give local performers an opportunity to work with well-known national- or international-level touring soloists and conductors.
When a musical theater production, operetta, or opera is performed in different cities, the production company often hires local musicians in each town for the performance.
Jazz, rock and pop music groups
When a jazz singer or soloist, pop singer(s) or a musical theater production that is accompanied by a rock band are touring, they may hire a band of local musicians (e.g. a horn section or additional rhythm section members) in each town that they play in. In some cases, the singer or soloist will have a few musicians with them, such as a piano player, who also acts as a leader for the performances. Some singers may also hire a small string orchestra in each town that they play in, to perform backing string arrangements.