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

Join our mailing list for career tips and more advice for musicians and get our FREE guide “Four Essential Tips For Building Your Network: A Resource For Musicians“ : https://polyphonyarts.com/mailing-list/

Deadlines – love them or loathe them?

Katie Beardsworth, Director and Founder of Polyphony Arts

Do you work well with deadlines? Do they motivate you, or fill you with dread?

Personally, I need deadlines – I need the pressure and motivation to get things done, especially when they aren’t my favourite tasks. I often set timers on my phone while I’m working, giving myself 20 minutes to complete tasks and move on to the next. I set imaginary deadlines for work that doesn’t have an in-built deadline to make sure it doesn’t languish on my to-do list. I love deadlines!

I started doing online courses last year. When I first signed up I was unsure; would I learn anything? Would it be worth the cost?

However, when I started doing them, I discovered that they are a fantastic way to learn new skills, for a fraction of the cost of more formal learning options. As a freelancer, I am responsible for developing my own career, and with the online course market booming, I soon found I could offer myself career development in a really rewarding way that is really effective in both cost and time.

I have experienced courses that are ‘self-paced’ – i.e. you buy the course and do it in your own time, with little or no further contact from the course creator – and that have deadlines and feedback. There are pros and cons to both, but for me personally, I got more out of the courses with deadlines and feedback. Being accountable for doing the course in a timely manner really helped me to learn a lot in a short space of time, and I came out of it fully prepared to use my new skill.

When I was planning my online course, Become Your Own Agent, I gave a lot of thought to whether to set deadlines on the tasks, or keep it self-paced – open and flexible. The course is aimed at professional musicians, and that means that my own experiences weren’t necessarily the best gauge – the working week of a professional musician is very different from mine, often with minimal computer-based time available. However, I wanted people to get the best of the content I had to offer, so I launched the course with deadlines and weekly feedback available from me.

It went really well – those that signed up were totally engaged and I read some great work! It was fantastic to get to know those people and their work. They said some lovely things about the course, too – I was so thrilled to hear this!

“Incredibly insightful to see things from the point of view of the promoter”

You inspire confidence and your approach is encouraging”

However, I also had a great deal of feedback from people who didn’t sign up, saying that the challenges of doing tasks to a deadline in the midst of freelance life was too difficult, and asking for a version that they could access and complete in their own time. I also heard that the cost of the course was difficult for freelancers to manage as an up-front cost, and was asked if I could offer payment plans.

So, I am delighted to say that all of this is possible! I now have two versions of the course available from 3 March 2020. Both have the same content, but one has deadlines and the option of feedback from me if you meet those deadlines; and the other is self-paced, with a price that reflects that, and a monthly payment plan available.

Check out the full details here, and sign up to take your career to the next level! https://polyphonyarts.com/services-and-courses/

Do you work well with deadlines?

I need deadlines – I need the pressure and motivation to get things done, especially when they aren’t my favourite tasks. I often set timers on my phone while I’m working, giving myself 20 minutes to complete tasks and move on to the next. I set imaginary deadlines for work that doesn’t have an in-built deadline to make sure it doesn’t languish on my to-do list. I love deadlines!

I started doing online courses last year. When I first signed up I was unsure; would I learn anything? Would it be worth the cost?

However, when I started doing them, I discovered that they are a fantastic way to learn new skills, for a fraction of the cost of more formal learning options. As a freelancer, I am responsible for developing my own career, and with the online course market booming, I soon found I could offer myself career development in a really rewarding way that is really effective in both cost and time.

I have experienced courses that are ‘self-paced’ – i.e. you buy the course and do it in your own time, with little or no further contact from the course creator – and that have deadlines and feedback. There are pros and cons to both, but for me personally, I got more out of the courses with deadlines and feedback. Being accountable for doing the course in a timely manner really helped me to learn a lot in a short space of time, and I came out of it fully prepared to use my new skill.

When I was planning my online course, Become Your Own Agent, I gave a lot of thought to whether to set deadlines on the tasks, or keep it self-paced – open and flexible. The course is aimed at professional musicians, and that means that my own experiences weren’t necessarily the best gauge – the working week of a professional musician is very different from mine, often with minimal computer-based time available. However, I wanted people to get the best of the content I had to offer, so I launched the course with deadlines and weekly feedback available from me.

It went really well – those that signed up were totally engaged and I read some great work! It was fantastic to get to know those people and their work. They said some lovely things about the course, too – I was so thrilled to hear this!

“Incredibly insightful to see things from the point of view of the promoter”

You inspire confidence and your approach is encouraging”

However, I also had a great deal of feedback from people who didn’t sign up, saying that the challenges of doing tasks to a deadline in the midst of freelance life was too difficult, and asking for a version that they could access and complete in their own time. I also heard that the cost of the course was difficult for freelancers to manage as an up-front cost, and was asked if I could offer payment plans.

So, I am delighted to say that all of this is possible! I now have two versions of the course available from 3 March 2020. Both have the same content, but one has deadlines and the option of feedback from me if you meet those deadlines; and the other is self-paced, with a price that reflects that, and a monthly payment plan available.

Check out the full details here, and sign up to take your career to the next level! https://polyphonyarts.com/services-and-courses/

Do you work well with deadlines?

I need deadlines – I need the pressure and motivation to get things done, especially when they aren’t my favourite tasks. I often set timers on my phone while I’m working, giving myself 20 minutes to complete tasks and move on to the next. I set imaginary deadlines for work that doesn’t have an in-built deadline to make sure it doesn’t languish on my to-do list. I love deadlines!

I started doing online courses last year. When I first signed up I was unsure; would I learn anything? Would it be worth the cost?

However, when I started doing them, I discovered that they are a fantastic way to learn new skills, for a fraction of the cost of more formal learning options. As a freelancer, I am responsible for developing my own career, and with the online course market booming, I soon found I could offer myself career development in a really rewarding way that is really effective in both cost and time.

I have experienced courses that are ‘self-paced’ – i.e. you buy the course and do it in your own time, with little or no further contact from the course creator – and that have deadlines and feedback. There are pros and cons to both, but for me personally, I got more out of the courses with deadlines and feedback. Being accountable for doing the course in a timely manner really helped me to learn a lot in a short space of time, and I came out of it fully prepared to use my new skill.

When I was planning my online course, Become Your Own Agent, I gave a lot of thought to whether to set deadlines on the tasks, or keep it self-paced – open and flexible. The course is aimed at professional musicians, and that means that my own experiences weren’t necessarily the best gauge – the working week of a professional musician is very different from mine, often with minimal computer-based time available. However, I wanted people to get the best of the content I had to offer, so I launched the course with deadlines and weekly feedback available from me.

It went really well – those that signed up were totally engaged and I read some great work! It was fantastic to get to know those people and their work. They said some lovely things about the course, too – I was so thrilled to hear this!

“Incredibly insightful to see things from the point of view of the promoter”

You inspire confidence and your approach is encouraging”

However, I also had a great deal of feedback from people who didn’t sign up, saying that the challenges of doing tasks to a deadline in the midst of freelance life was too difficult, and asking for a version that they could access and complete in their own time. I also heard that the cost of the course was difficult for freelancers to manage as an up-front cost, and was asked if I could offer payment plans.

So, I am delighted to say that all of this is possible! I now have two versions of the course available from 3 March 2020. Both have the same content, but one has deadlines and the option of feedback from me if you meet those deadlines; and the other is self-paced, with a price that reflects that, and a monthly payment plan available.

Check out the full details here, and sign up to take your career to the next level! https://polyphonyarts.com/services-and-courses/

‘Become your own agent’ is back!

Booking is now open for ‘Become Your Own Agent’, our online course which helps musicians take their careers to the next level. The courses are available from 3 March 2020.

Are you a professional musician without an agent? You’ll know promoting yourself and getting noticed by the right people is often a huge challenge, no matter what stage your career is at.

The industry is also changing rapidly, so many of the old rules and conventions no longer apply. With digital, social media, limits on time, and many other people competing in the same space, there’s more to do than ever.

Here’s where I can help, creating an agent who knows you best: You!

I’ll help you learn all the tools and tricks of the trade so you can promote yourself and your work to the venues, promoters, broadcasters and festivals that you want to reach.

You’ll also have the option to join our Facebook community, exclusively for Polyphony Arts online course participants, to connect with other music professionals and share advice, challenges and successes with them.

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

Participants on the last course said:

“Incredibly insightful to see things from the point of view of the promoter”

“You inspire confidence and your approach is encouraging”

The course is available in two forms – with weekly tasks and feedback, if you like deadlines and want to see results in four weeks (course starts Tuesday 3 March 2020), or self-paced, if you need to spread the work and the cost over time.

Details of the course with feedback and deadlines

Details of the self-paced course with payment plan option

Undecided? Visit our Services and Courses page to compare the two options and decide what is right for you. Or, email us with any questions.

We’d love you to join us on one of our courses!

Ella Jarman-Pinto: Composer

Ella Jarman-Pinto: Composer

“I’ve had to stop and restart my business three times. Every single time I start from scratch. If I’d had access to shared parental leave, my husband and I could have managed to keep both businesses going… My husband pays his taxes, contributes to society, so why on earth doesn’t he get paid paternity leave?”

Ella Jarman-Pinto, composer, talks about work/parenthood balance, the inequalities of freelance maternity and paternity leave, and how she can work creatively with other musicians and film-makers as well as raising a family.

Composer Ella Jarman-Pinto

How many children do you have and how old are they?

I have three children, two of them living. Marvellous would have been 5, Otis is 3.5 (threenager, argh!) and Vita is 13 months.

Tell me a bit about your work and how it is structured.

I help media and film producers by creating unique and timeless musical compositions, ensuring that their creative vision remains at the forefront. I find it fascinating that music can completely change the emotion of a scene, and my job is to unpick exactly what a producer or director needs and channel it into music. This is the perfect career as it means that I can work from home. My husband is studying away on a music therapy masters for half of the week, so it means that if the children are ill I can just work in the evening to catch up. The children are in nursery three afternoons a week, and my mum helps me for one evening when I have to teach. In addition I help people of all ages and experiences in the community unleash their inner creativity, whether that’s through singing or composing. My new singing group ParentSing, (Fridays, 1.15-2.30pm, Penrith) is for parents who need to take time for themselves but struggle with childcare.

  Tell me about your work/parenthood balance. 

It’s hard and it’s still evolving. We’re only four weeks into my husband’s two year course, so we’re adjusting as we go along! I think I’ve changed nursery days three times over the last two months. But I spend a wonderful amount of time with my kids. They’ve only just started playing together and it’s just amazing.

Have you had to turn down opportunities because of being a parent?

I don’t think I have, but I’ve been on maternity leave so much in the last few years that I have really been able to pick and choose what I want to do. I’ve felt more empowered with less time, because it means I have to focus. The work that I do is exactly what I want, and that means I write better music and am a better teacher. I do have to big up Harriet Wybor at PRS at this point, because I was invited to take part in the Wild Plum Songbook/PRS/Cheltenham Music festival workshops for female composers. Vita was only six months and exclusively breastfed, so I said I needed to bring her with me. Harriet didn’t bat an eyelid, organised enough food for my sisters who looked after her and arranged a room that I could care for her in. It meant that I could go and have this fantastic experience and I’m so grateful to them. Vita loved it too!

Do you have a partner, and if so are they also freelance? What effect does this have?

My husband is freelance as well. He has been doing a lot of peri teaching all over the county as it is a relatively stable income and has helped us while we had our family. However, September has always been a very scary time. One year none of his schools had confirmed, we were two weeks into the new school year and he was the main wage earner. I ended up taking on a lot of teaching on an instrument I didn’t enjoy in order to make up the shortfall. It was fab to start with, but we struggled with winter illnesses and nursery and lost a lot of money between us. By the time I went on maternity leave we were clear that I should pursue composition more as it meant I could work from home and be more flexible.

Do you have regular childcare, and if so, in what form?

We send our kids to a fab nursery with a beautiful meadow out of the back! The children spend most of the time outside and are really happy there. The nursery is as flexible as it can be, but we have had to rely on parents and friends a lot. We can’t afford and don’t want full-time childcare, so until now have split the remaining days equally between us. We also have a rule that whomever was supposed to be with the children has to organise the childcare if they then get work.

Have you performed anywhere that made the work/parenthood balance easier?

When both kids were tiny I’d regularly sing with them in slings on my back or front. A number of times they’ve made a grab for the mic or joined in! 

What can promoters/venues/festival organisers do to help freelance artists who are parents?

Creche, quiet rooms, food(!), regular breaks, an understanding smile, etc.

Are there any organisations/venues/festivals etc that you have worked with that are particularly supportive of performers who are parents?

I mentioned PRS above. Love them. They were so so lovely!! Plus, Vita was the star of the show. Every break she would come out and everyone, mentors and composers alike, came to say hello. I joked I should do all of my networking with her with me.

Were you freelance before you had children? If not, what prompted the change?

I’ve been freelance for ten years. I worked in a couple of PAYE jobs straight out of uni, but I like the freedom and being my own boss. Having children has made me even more grateful to be self-employed. I can choose my hours, and spend time with my children. And I think my husband spends more time with them than he would as PAYE because he’s not stuck with the old patriarchal ideas that men shouldn’t be adjusting their hours at work.

How did being a freelance musician affect your parental leave?

This is a subject that I feel very strongly about. I’m a follower and supporter of Olga FitzRoy, who is campaigning for shared parental leave to be extended to self-employed parents. I’ve had to stop and restart my business three times. Every single time I start from scratch. If I’d had access to shared parental leave, my husband and I could have managed to keep both businesses going. I’m also so angry when it comes to KIT days. I work hourly. So telling me that teaching one lesson in a day (for example, if there are difficulties scheduling) counts as a KIT day is completely ridiculous when you compare it to someone else working a full day and getting paid three times the amount. It’s also ridiculous that PAYE parents can start a freelance job and not be under the same rules. Don’t get me started on paternity! My husband pays his taxes, contributes to society, so why on earth doesn’t he get paid paternity leave?

Ella Jarman-Pinto is a Cumbria-based composer and vocal leader. She studied composition with Julian Philips at Guildhall School of Music & Drama. Ella was one of six composers selected to take part in the Wild Plum Songbook workshops, a collaboration with PRS and Cheltenham Music Festival, with Everyday Magic, in March 2019. She was Composer in Residence with Streetwise Opera from 2016-17 and an RPS Young Musician from 2013-14.

Ella provided the original music score for award-winning short film, AstraZeneca’ The Attack’, with Maker Projects and Havas Lynx, that won a Bronze award at Cannes Lion for Cinematography in 2018. Other recent commissions include a short film with Maker Projects that won a Bronze award at Cannes Lion for Cinematography in 2018; Savage and Allan Jeffers for The Art of Change as part of their staged song cycle, The Reckoning, premiered July 2018; and Songs for my Children for Hull Urban Opera as part of Brain Jar Session #2, July 2018. Ella has been featured in BBC Radio 3’s International Women’s Day (2016) and BBC National Music Day (2015) celebrations with BBC Singers performances of Do Not Stand at my Grave and Weep. She received a further performance and broadcast by the BBC Singers of Heigh Ho, The Holly!, in October 2016.

Ella writes for voice, TV and film; she teaches singing and composition in Cumbria; and works alongside BlueJam Arts to encourage children and adults to follow their creative impulses and to make music, whatever their experience.

Links:

Ella’s website: http://www.ellajarman-pinto.co.uk/

Ella’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ellajarmanpinto/

ParentSing: https://www.facebook.com/parentsingpenrith/