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!

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.

The service will cost £60 from 1 June 2020, but if you book any time before that date, you will 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

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/

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!

NEW ARTIST: A WARM WELCOME to VIOLINIST MIRIAM DAVIS!

Polyphony Arts is delighted to welcome international prize-winning violinist Miriam Davis! Miriam is a British violinist based in Norway. She performs extensively throughout the world, both as a soloist as well as in various chamber ensembles, and has won numerous international competitions – including a First Prize at the International Grand Virtuoso Competition (May 2019).  Other recent prizes include 1st prize from IMKA competition, Virtuoso Belcanto International Competition dedicated to Paganini, and the North Online International Competition. Recent solo performance venues include Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Royal Albert Hall and Stavanger Konserthus, among many others.

At the young age of 12, Miriam performed as concertmaster of the National Children’s Orchestra of Great Britain, in concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall (London). At the age of 13 she was accepted to the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, in which she went on to perform as Co-Leader at the BBC proms in Royal Albert Hall London. Since 2017, Miriam has studied with renowned French violinist, Philippe Graffin, including receiving her Artist Diploma at Hague Royal Conservatory in 2018.

Miriam’s greatest passion lies in the Romantic and Early 20th Century repertoire, whilst still enjoying a versatile spectrum of musical styles — ranging from the Baroque to new, personally commissioned works from contemporary composers. She is also currently embarked on a Debut CD recording, featuring several of the Ysaÿe Solo Sonatas. Miriam performs regularly with leading Dutch pianist, Jelger Blanken; 2020 saw a return to her native UK in concerto engagements, USA debut concert and further upcoming concert-tours.

Miriam is currently accepting concerto and chamber music engagements. Find out more about Miriam and sample concert programmes here: https://polyphonyarts.com/miriam-davis/

We are thrilled to have you with us, Miriam!

It’s Bad news, Good news from the chancellor for the self-employed: love and the freelance musician in a time of COVID-19

The Chancellor has announced help for the self-employed with a new grant scheme.

So, it’s good news, bad news for the self-employed, but at least there is some news at last.

We’re already well aware of the help the Chancellor has offered to businesses and people in PAYE employment, but until now, the plight of freelancers i.e. the self-employed, – and that means almost every professional musician – has gone unaddressed.

No longer. After much public debate and pressure from various political and business quarters, the Chancellor has finally announced a scheme to help sole traders and those of us who do work for ourselves.

That’s the good news.

The scheme will offer a taxable grant worth 80% of net income up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for 3 months. There is also an acknowledgement that, given the uncertainty as to how the current situation will pan out, this may be extended as and when.

So far so good, but this contains within itself much of the explanation why it has taken so long for Rishi Sunak to lay out the government’s measures for such an important sector of the country’s workforce.

The clue is in how to work out how much grant you can expect. 80% of ‘trading profits’ (that means net income to you and me), seems a clear enough sum, but the question is how will this be calculated?

But first things first. The initial question must be: who can apply? How is self-employment defined?

Does this apply to you?

The announcement specifies five criteria that you must meet to count as self-employed:

  1. you have submitted an Income Tax Self Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018/19
  2. you have earned money as a self-employed person in the tax year 2019/20
  3. you are actively working (self-employed) at the point of making the application, (or would be but for COVID-19)
  4. you intend to continue doing so in the tax year 2020/21; and
  5. you have lost income due to COVID-19

The net income derived from your self-employment must make up more than half of your income and must total less than £50,000.

This is where the calculation becomes more complicated, but bear with me and read slowly.

The government will not limit itself to calculating the amount you may be able to claim based on your 18/19 tax return figures, but will average these over your after-tax income for the previous two tax years as well i.e. 2017/18 and 2016/2017. (Don’t forget , this must also make up more than half of your total taxable income in each of those tax years).

All of which makes reasonable sense with one proviso:, what if we have only been working in a self-employed capacity for one or two years, I hear some of us cry? Does this mean we will fall through an especial unpleasant crack? Mercifully not, if you started your self-employment between 2016-19, the Inland Revenue will only use the figures for those years for which you have filed a Self-Assessment tax return subject to the criteria set out above.

(Please note: if you have not already submitted your self-assessment tax return for 2018-19 (!!!), you must do this by 23 April 2020.

I repeat, once again, piu forte for added emphasis: IF YOU HAVE NOT ALREADY SUBMITTED YOUR SELF-ASSESSMENT TAX RETURN FOR 2018-19 DO IT NOW, AND AT THE VERY LEAST BY NO LATER THAN 23 APRIL 2020.

But what if you have only become self-employed in the current tax year (2019/20)and therefore filed no return? Unfortunately, in that case, you will not qualify for this scheme and you will have to rely on Universal Credit (see further information at the end of this article).

How much can you expect to claim?

This is the nub of it. We have seen that the Treasury/Revenue will look at your net income averaged over the last three tax year and allow 80% of that figure  (i.e. 3 years’ net income divided by 3 x 80%).

But (and there almost most always is a but), this will be capped at a maximum of £2,500 per month payable for 3 months as things currently stand.

But that’s still good news and there’s more: the grant will be paid directly into your bank account in one lump sum.

Please note, the grant does not have to be repaid – it’s a grant, not a loan (more good news!) –  but it will count as income for tax purposes when you are filling out your 20/21 return. (May we all live so long.) If you claim tax credits, you must include any grant you receive in your claim as income.

So, what’s the bad news. (Apart from the whole lousy situation?)

The bad news

You can’t apply yet. In fact, you can’t actually apply at all, and you can’t expect any money before June.

So how will you know if you are eligible? Don’t worry, HMRC will contact you if you are, and invite you to apply online.

Do not call them, do not hassle them now; our trusty tax folk are working their socks off to get all those self-assessment tax returns that were submitted for Jan 30 this year processed so they can make the necessary calculations and identify who will qualify. Let them get on with it.

I’m sure you will all have heard it before: “don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

On a brighter note, although the grant may not be paid until June, it will be backdated to March.

A word of warning

With this in mind, be on your guard for scammers who are always looking to make a fast buck out of someone else’s crisis. If someone texts, calls or emails claiming to be from HMRC, saying that you can claim financial help or are owed a tax refund, and asks you to click on a link or to give information such as your name, credit card or bank details, it is a scam. Hang up the call, delete the text or the email and carry on with your day.

But what about now?

Having read all this you may be feeling what might at best be described as modified rapture. There is help at hand, but that hand is not going to show itself for a good two months. Many of us are hurting now.

So what other more immediate help is available?

Other help you can get

Until this grant scheme kicks in, here is a list of additional help for the self-employed the government is also providing:

You can find details of this and the information set out in this article on the government website here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-coronavirus-covid-19-self-employment-income-support-scheme

Help Musicians has also launched a £5million financial hardship fund. You can find more details here: https://www.helpmusicians.org.uk/news/latest-news/advice-relating-to-coronavirus-covid-19

Final advice

We’ll keep you posted if and when we get more information to help all you music freelancers out there, but, in the meantime:

STAY SAFE; STAY POSITIVE; STAY HOME and WASH YOUR HANDS!

Margaret Pinder

Polyphony Arts

27 March 2020

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NEW ARTIST! A warm welcome to award-winning composer Edwin Roxburgh!

Polyphony Arts is delighted to welcome Edwin Roxburgh to the Polyphony Arts team!

Distinguished composer and virtuoso oboist, Edwin has won numerous prizes and Fellowships. As a student, he was recipient of the Elgar Trust Award through a BBC Symphony Orchestra commission, as well as a British Academy Award for his Oboe Concerto, An Elegy for Ur, and a Cobbett Medal for Services to Chamber Music.

Edwin’s musical works encompass a broad range of instrumental setting, adventuring through a variety of sophisticated, fascinating sound worlds. His work Saturn, with a tribute to Holst, explores the mythical characters of its moons and satellites, in “an epic orchestral and electronic space-scape effortlessly blending Roxburgh’s understanding of Boulez and Stockhausen with a Birtwistle-like sense of ritual” (The Wire). He awaits a performance of his opera Abelard (libretto by Edwin and Julie Roxburgh), published by United Music Publishing under the auspices of a Leverhulme Research Fellowship. Other commissions include How Pleasant to Know Mr. Lear, for narrator and orchestra, produced on ITV’s Aquarius with Vincent Price and Diana Menuhin as narrators. Recordings of Edwin’s works are available on various prestigious labels, including NMC, Naxos, Warehouse and Metier.  

Beside his busy career as a composer, Edwin’s artistic activities include performing, conducting and teaching. He is currently a visiting tutor and researcher at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, where he was awarded an Honorary Fellowship, and has conducted numerous premieres – originally with the Twentieth Century Ensemble of London, which he founded, and later with several other principal orchestras of the UK.

You can read more about Edwin here: https://polyphonyarts.com/edwin-roxburgh/

What a pleasure to have you with us, Edwin!