Duo Tandem – “Two guitarists ahead of the curve”

It did not take a global pandemic for guitarists Necati Emirzade and Mark Anderson, otherwise known as Duo Tandem, to figure out how to collaborate across the thousands of miles that separate them.

Necati is a London-based Turkish Cypriot while Mark lives in his native Chicago. The two met whilst studying at the prestigious San Francisco Conservatory of Music and began their collaboration in 2011.

Their latest album featuring the music of Turkish Cypriot composer Kemal Belevi, which was issued on the Naxos label earlier this month, presented a not only a technical challenge, but also a significant logistical challenge.

At the start of project Mark and Necati had already been working remotely for some six years, but up until then this usual involved working on at most two new pieces at a time. Now they were faced with producing 62 mins of music to a definite time frame. Three of the pieces had already appeared on their previous album, but this still left over 40 minutes of music to learn.

“It meant doing what we were already used to,” says Mark Anderson. “Just more, and on a larger scale.”

The two sent endless recordings back and forth using a metronome almost like a click track to ground and discipline the second voice. Then there were the WhatsApp conversations to play around with the results.

Necati sees that discipline as core to the success of the project:

“We agreed a schedule for learning each piece and deadlines for sharing recordings which is how we drove it forward. It was important to be systematic. That was the only way it could work. It might otherwise have been all too easy to let things slip, especially when you think you’re not going to see each other for two months. Remote working has to be efficient and targeted. Then there’s the accountability we owe each other as a duo which undoubtedly helps.”

The album was recorded in Holy Trinity with All Saints Church in South Kensington using sound recordist Luca Gardani with whom they have a longstanding relationship.

“The acoustics there are amazing,” says Mark. “You play a note and it sounds forever. It was also important that we were able to show Naxos the sound quality we would be delivering and give them the confidence that could and would be reproduced for their label.”

The three often worked at recording through the night after the church had closed its doors to the public for the day, often finishing at five in the morning.

“This is where the benefits of our remote practice came into its own,” says Mark. “It can seem mechanical while we’re doing it, but it does mean that when we are finally in the same room playing together, those basics are already dealt with and we can go straight to the real musical discussion.”

But then the task of editing began, organised between London, Chicago and Columbia, where Gardani is based. Once again their existing organisational skills came to the fore and the whole operation was directed via a giant Google spreadsheet colour-coded by tracks and edits.

“So now suddenly everyone is talking about the logistics of how to collaborate and perform on-line – we’ve being doing it for eight years!” says Mark. You can almost hear him rolling his eyes.

This album is very personal for Necati, grounded as it is in the folk melodies both he and Belevi grew up listening to, but with a classical approach.

“Play these melody in Cyprus and anyone, Greek or Turkish, will recognise them at once. We are a small community on a small island and when a community gets smaller, feelings get bigger so this music is very powerful.”

Reviewing the album shortly after its release, the Classical Music Pod podcast praised

Belevi’s idiomatic understanding of the personality of the guitar as a classical solo instrument and the textures and colours with which he adapts these folk melodies creating “a feeling of place and a knowledge of people will transport the listener: a summer holiday in a CD.”

Listening to the different tracks it’s hard to imagine Mark and Necati are not able to practise together for weeks and months, their playing is so interwoven expressing an instinctive, reciprocal musical relationship.

As The Classical Pod observes: “It’s almost like [listening to] one giant double-necked 4-handed guitar. Lightness, joviality, a willing to play with each other really comes across. You can tell when people are playing stuff that means something to them personally… these two seem so in command of their instruments, their ensemble, the balance of the parts. The warmth of their playing and the pacing of each arrangement is really, really spot on; a joy to sit down and listen to.”

Perfect Press Release with Polyphony Arts

Are you a solo musician, an ensemble or an arts organisation with a story you want to see picked up by the media? 

Not sure how to pitch your information in a way that will catch the editor’s eye?

As artist and arts project managers, we send out press releases all the time so we’re happy to share our experience of what makes the perfect press release. 

First of all, the clue is in the name: you are selling a story. That means you have information you want to present, but it has to be framed as a narrative and one with a hook to catch the reader’s eye. That’s a story. 

First: get your information in order. 

For example:

  • I’ve got a concert/event coming up/a new album coming out
  • Venue, date, time, label, launch date
  • I’m playing XXX/we’re presenting XXX/the album title is
  • Where can you buy tickets/find out more about the album

Now you have put flesh on the bones and turn those facts into a story. That means something different and/or original to make this a story an editor thinks their audience will want to hear.

“Violinist gives concert in Devon” isn’t exactly “hold the front page” material.

“Award winning violinist to returns to her home town with dazzling programme” already has two hooks in there to show why this story is interesting: this isn’t just any violinist but an award winner and, even better, it’s a local lass!

Think about your hook; think about what turns your information into a story an editor might want to hear.

Here’s a headline we wrote for an album launch in May:

“Classical guitar sensation, Duo Tandem, lead the way in remote collaboration with exciting new release.”

The hook here is the fact that Mark and Necati, have an amazing way of making fabulous music together even though Mark lives in Chicago and Necati lives in London. Given how everyone has been trying to work out how to get their music online during the Covid lockdown, this was especially topical.

Do you have any juicy quotes either about you or your event?

Here’s one from the same press release: 

“pushing the boundaries of what’s possible on classical guitars,” Minor7th

It was from a review of an earlier album by Duo Tandem, but it fitted our story perfectly.

Contemporaneous quote are also useful.

‘“We are delighted that Isadora will be the first to perform live music here again. The fact that she grew up in the town makes it so much more special for us and for our audience,” said the centre’s artistic director, Julia Wishbone.’

Tip: if you don’t have a quote, get in touch with friends/colleagues/the promoter and get one!

You’ve heard of the elevator pitch. You find yourself in an elevator with a big movie producer and you have just so long as it takes to get to his floor to pitch your script idea.

Tell your story simply and effectively and get back out the door. Editors are busy people and they get bored very quickly. If you haven’t sold your story within the first few lines, you’ve missed the boat.

You also have to consider what type of media you are aiming for. If you’re giving a recital to a small concert society in Norfolk, don’t target the national press. Look at local papers and radio. Get online, find the name of the editor (or better yet the arts correspondent) if you can, plus email addresses, phone numbers.

Tip: if you haven’t already, now is a good time to start building a database of press contacts.

If you have a good quality photo, send it along. 

If you have some online video performances, include the links.

And don’t forget to include all your contact details at the foot of the release!

Head your press release: “PRESS RELEASE” and put “ENDS” after the body of the text. All you extra information – your details and any links – come after that. Don’t send it as an attachment; copy it into the body of your email. 

We had a lovely live discussion yesterday about the ins and outs of writing the perfect press release. You can watch the full video here/above/below [sort when doing website]. 

Are you raring to go? 

We have a special offer for you. 

From 1 July 2020 we are launching a new service: Perfect Pitch with Polyphony Arts. You can send us your press release and we will perfect it for you. The service will cost £60 from 1 July 2020, but if you book any time before then, you’ll get 25% off. 

More details of how this works and how you can get your perfect pitch for only £45 are here. We look forward to hearing how you get on!

Katie Beardsworth and Margaret Pinder

Invisible barriers

Do you have something you want to do, but find you can never quite get around to doing it?

I’ve been thinking a lot about invisible barriers recently. I had a big one when lockdown started – I wanted to do exercise, but my usual swimming wasn’t an option. I used to run a few years ago before my son was born, so decided I wanted to start running again.

But, it was really hard. My mind was full of messages –

you haven’t done this for years, you’ve lost all your fitness, you don’t have the right clothes, you will be the slowest….

A friend of mine had told me about the Couch to 5k app recently, so I thought I’d give it a go. It worked a treat. I took a bit longer than the 9 weeks, but I taught myself to run for half an hour without stopping. To do that, I have to run two laps of the park. Then, because I’d been motivated by the app, I went further – I gave three laps a go, and I did it! 

I’ve just got home from running three laps of the park for the third time in about ten days, and I am so proud of myself. Exercise isn’t something that comes naturally to me, and I am almost always the slowest/worst at any sporting activity (picked last in PE, every time!). 

It feels really amazing to do something better than I did before, especially when it’s not something that comes easily. It’s spurred me on and the motivation will keep building alongside the success. My invisible barrier has been broken down!

The Couch to 5k app was essential to this success. It didn’t do any of it for me – I did all the work myself – but it provided the mindset, motivation and encouragement I needed to unlock my potential.

Many musicians have invisible barriers about pitching for work. Fear of failure, fear of what other people will think… perhaps even fear of success… there are so many, and I’m always thinking about how I can help remove these barriers.

I can help you feel great about pitching for work.

Our new service, Perfect Pitch with Polyphony Arts, launches tomorrow. Send us your pitch, and we will perfect it for you. We will use our experience as music agents and promoters to provide you with feedback that will ensure your pitch is the best it can be.

You don’t need to feel unsure about what you’re saying any more – we’ll provide that vital second opinion that will allow you to pitch for work with confidence.

Also, if you book before 1 June, you get 25% off.

What are your invisible barriers?

What are your tips for overcoming them?

Katie Beardsworth

Three mindset tips to help you become your own agent

Are you a musician who pitches for their own work? Have you thought about getting an agent, but prefer the idea of managing your own career? What is holding you back? 

As an artist manager and artistic director, I have a deep understanding of the music agent industry, and I want to share my three top tips for becoming your own agent.

When things hold me back in my career, they are almost always to do with mindset. I know from my work with hundreds of musicians how powerful mindset is in the music industry in particular. 

Are you ready to take control of your music career?

Here are three mindset altering tips to help you become your own agent.

Tip 1: Make sure you love what you’re offering

I believe that the most important thing as a musician is to be working on projects that fill you with joy and enthusiasm. Music is so personal. What you’re doing has to feel right to you. 

Tip 2: Tell people, clearly, why you love it

Plan ideas clearly so that you can easily explain to others what is wonderful about it. Write it down so you can send it by email, and talk to friends and family about it – see if you can express the main idea in a sentence. Listen to their feedback – can you make them love it as much as you do?

Tip 3: Send it out with confidence

This is your ideal project – use that experience of explaining it to friends and family to explain it to others. Be warm, confident, and share the love for what you’re doing. Is your inner voice telling you that the person you’re pitching it to might not be interested? Overrule that inner voice! Replace it with the evidence that you’ve gathered from your conversations – this is a project that is inspired and special, and you are the perfect person to be doing it.

Did this resonate with you? Do you want more practical and mindset exercises to help you maximise your music career?

My online course, Become Your Own Agent is available now, as a self-paced online course. It costs £150, and you can spread the cost over three months if you wish. When you sign up, you receive the course materials and exercises, and can work through it at your own pace.

You will also be able to join the Polyphony Arts online course community, where you can develop your network further, and share tips and ideas with like-minded musicians. 

Find out more and sign up here.

Do you have tips to add? We’d love to hear from you on social media!

Perfect Pitch with Polyphony Arts

Are you a musician who pitches for work? 

As artist managers, we pitch for our clients all the time. 

Our performers want concert, oratorio, concerto and chamber work, both on the concert platform and in the recording studio. 

Our composers want commissions, and performances and recordings of their works.

We are also concert promoters, which means we book musicians for work, and therefore receive countless pitches.

We wanted to share our insight into this part of the music industry, having seen it from both sides, so today we reached out with a live discussion on this very topic, full of insights about the ins and outs of pitching for musical work.

You can watch the full video at the bottom of this blog post.

However, if you want a quick round-up of our top tips for pitching, here they are.

What to include

  1. Headline – what is the most interesting thing about your project?
  • What instrument/s you/your ensemble play – unbelievably, I often have to search pitches for this information! A photo can be a great way to make this clear.
  • What we can expect from the performance – a sense of repertoire or theme
  • Why it will be high quality – career highlights / competition success / press quotes / testimonials
  • A link to a recording or video of your work (if you are a composer, a midi file is fine)
  • Links to your website and socials
  • Your contact details
  • Your availability – even if you suggest a date patch and it doesn’t work for the promoter, it still helps them focus on the possibility of booking you if you mention a specific date or time of the year. Bonus points for working out when the promoter usually has events and suggesting something that fits with that pattern, for example…

I notice you usually hold concerts on Thursdays”. Golden.

How does this make you feel?

A note on the above, especially number 4 – this does not mean you have to make it sound as though your career is in a different place from where it is. If you are a frequent visitor to the Wigmore Hall, say so. If you are just finishing education, and making your first steps into your professional career, say this.

Concert promoters don’t only book musicians whose careers are in full flight, and you will always come across better if you are honest and genuine.

So, are you ready? Are you raring to go? 

Do you feel like you could use a second pair of eyes?

We have a special offer for you. 

From 1 June 2020 we are launching a new service: Perfect Pitch with Polyphony Arts. You can send us your pitch and we will perfect it for you.

More details of how this works and how you can get your perfect pitch for only £60 are here. We look forward to hearing how you get on!

Katie Beardsworth and Margaret Pinder

How to build your musical career during lockdown

Are you feeling motivated? If so, I have something you need.

During Covid-19 lockdown everything has changed. In-person music performance has come to a sudden halt, festivals cancelled, and dreams of summer concerts have all but disappeared. The impact of this on our industry is profound. And it’s scary.

But anyone who works in music or the arts knows that we always have to adapt, look after ourselves and embrace those challenges that come our way.

We are seeing so many different reactions from people in our community. Some have set up online concert series, some are furiously practising and expanding their repertoire, some are teaching online. Others are looking after their families, or taking a well-earned break, learning new skills/hobbies. There are no right or wrong answers here. 

There are a lot of messages circulating about all the wonderful ways you use this time in lockdown. You can learn seven new languages, become a master baker, start a business, volunteer to support those in need… 

How do I feel? I run my own business and juggle a young family. There’s been lots of disruption, adapting to the new situation and the changes it brings in time and space available, and creating a good working relationship with my new toddler colleague.

I know that at any time, you may feel motivated, or you may not – either way it’s totally understandable. If you want to sit on your sofa consuming the entire back catalogue of Netflix and the entire range of Ben and Jerry’s, then that makes perfect sense to me! 


However, I do feel that everyone has the opportunity to use this time to learn new skills to futher their careers, and build a launchpad for when things (slowly) get up and running again.

Those uncertainties of the post-lockdown music industry… Here’s where I think I can help. No matter about the stage of your career in music, by becoming your own agent, you’ll be able to unlock lots of opportunities, possibilities and efficiencies in the new artistic world.

When we come out of lockdown and the industry starts to recover, imagine if you had your network all mapped out, your publicity materials all up to date, your projects articulated, and a system for getting your own gigs in the diary. 

With my online course, this is what you end up with. 

The course will teach you to:

  • Get more performances/commissions
  • Achieve your ideal fees
  • Attract work offers from higher profile venues and artists
  • Boost your profile in the industry
  • Build a list of useful contacts
  • Get the best out of your network
  • Tackle imposter syndrome and other barriers to promoting yourself

At the end of the course, you will have:

  • Written and/or fine-tuned your ideal marketing material
  • Planned how you will distribute it
  • Planned how to get the most out of your existing network and any upcoming performances
  • Considered how you feel about selling your work and any practical or emotional barriers that you face when promoting yourself.
  • Access to a closed Facebook group especially for course participants to network, share their work and discuss their marketing challenges and successes.

The course is self-paced and you can start whenever you like. It costs £150 – you’ll make this back in your first booking. I know money is tight for a lot of people right now, so I’m offering a payment plan – £50 per month payable over three months, and the course is available once you’ve made your first payment. 

Use lockdown to Become Your Own Agent. You’d normally be making bookings around a year in advance anyway, so it’s the perfect time to get your system and resources perfected. It is also do-able alongside a serious Netflix schedule.

Find out more and sign up here: https://polyphonyarts.com/online-course-become-your-own-agent-self-paced/

Social media for musicians

For most of us right now, social media our only way of communicating with our audiences. In place of a concert hall, we perform Bach partitas in our living rooms. Tens of thousands of people watch the Kanneh-Masons perform family soirees from their living room via Facebook Live.

Concert halls doors may be closed, but digital channels are open for business. It’s the perfect time to pick up your smartphone and connect to the masses of people on social networks. If you do this properly, it’s an opportunity to build your audience, communicate your message, and futureproof your brand.

Social media Benefits

Some of the benefits of investing in your social media strategy include:

  1. If successful, you can reach many more fans than you could in a concert hall
  2. You can build networks with other musicians, critics and promoters in the industry
  3. You have control over your messaging and tone of voice
  4. You can show your networks the diversity of your work
  5. You are more likely to reach new audiences as your fans share your content with their networks.

The hard truth

Now here’s the bad news. It takes a lot of work to build your social profile and following. One tweet won’t bring you millions of followers (unless you’re extremely lucky). At first, it will feel like you’re shouting in an empty hall (a typical Facebook page’s posts are only seen by 5.5% of its followers). But, like with music, the more you practice the better you become. Have a look at other musicians on social media: What channels are they using? Who does it well and why?

Help is at Hand

Social media isn’t as easy as pressing send on a tweet, or recording a video and expecting to go viral. It requires strategy, structure, and an understanding of every channel.

We sat down with social media expert Kyle Macdonald. Kyle’s day job is as Senior Social Media Editor at Classic FM, editor of the world’s biggest classical music social network. We discussed the most pressing questions musicians have about social media. He has a few great tips too, to help every musician unlock their social media potential.

We’ve put together a Social Media Guide for Musicians to help you get started with your social media. In it, you can find real examples of good social media practice and actionable recommendations.

Good luck!

NEW ARTIST! WE ARE DELIGHTED TO WELCOME MEZZO-SOPRANO LINDA FINNIE!

Polyphony Arts is delighted to welcome the internationally acclaimed mezzo-soprano
Linda Finnie!

Regarded as “one of the finest artists of her generation”, Linda achieved numerous prestigious prizes, including the Kathleen Ferrier Memorial Award (London) and Kathleen Ferrier Prize (The Netherlands). Within only a few years from the start of her career, Linda had made her debut at a number of major international opera companies including the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, English National Opera, the Frankfurt Opera and Nice, where she sang Waltraute in Die Götterdämmerung, a performance that established her as a new star in the Wagnerian repertory.

During her distinguished career, Linda made her first appearance at Bayreuth under the direction of Daniel Barenboim, singing Fricka, Siegrune, and the Second Norn in a new production of the Ring cycle, performances which were issued as award-winning recordings on both CD and DVD. She went on to appear in the late Wolfgang Wagner’s production of Lohengrin. Linda performed with Barenboim on numerous occasions, their musical collaboration on Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde with the Israel Philharmonic being one of the more memorable highlights of their musical collaboration.

Recordings from Linda’s extensive and diverse discography can frequently be heard on Radio 3 and Classical FM. Performance highlights, on both the concert hall stage and in the operatic repertoire, include inaugural performances at the Tokyo Opera House and Arts Centre of Ortrud and performances of Mahler’s Symphony 2 with the St Petersburg Philharmonic, conducted by Mariss Jansons.

Linda Finnie is available for concert and oratorio performances globally.

Read more about Linda Finnie here

What a pleasure to have you with us, Linda!