Music Works: an exciting new podcast for the classical music industry

Polyphony Arts is pleased to announce the launch of their new podcast: Music Works which looks at the classical music industry, how it works today, and explores how it can work better in the future.

The podcast is a natural extension of the vision of Polyphony Arts founder, Katie Beardsworth, who has been a long term campaigner for better work life balances for musicians and improved working conditions across the industry.

Now, since COVID-19 has brought lock down and effectively put a stop to performing arts everywhere, problems inherent in the industry have come more and more to the fore. In response to which Music Works offers a forum for everyone who cares about the arts, whether as a music professional, funder, policy maker or music lover, to express their thoughts, suggestions and personal experiences.

Katie explains her thinking behind the podcast:

“We’ve seen how fragile a musician’s income can be. We’ve seen how fragile music organizations can be, and I want to change that. So I’ve started Music Works with a view to having important, forward thinking discussions around the classical music industry as it is now and how it will work in the future.”

In the first episode the team at Polyphony Arts share their thoughts in an informal manifesto for the classical music industry going forward.

Upcoming episodes include conversations with composers and perfomers such as Ella Jarman-Pinto and bassoonist Fraser Gordon who both discuss the importance of belonging for people who may feel excluded because of their race, gender or social class; business leaders like Jessica Fearnley; and policy strategists such as Ben Cooper, author of the latest report from the Fabian Society “Cultured Communities” on the importance of the arts in society and how to improve our current funding models.

“We can’t just look at artistic content or individual experience unless it goes to helping us explain and develop our thinking on how to improve our sector and build sustainability through improved models,” Katie concludes. “We need a holistic, not a fragmented approach and that’s what Music Works is designed to promote. Musicians work through cooperation and collaboration; this podcast is all about that and more.”

You can find the podcast on the Polyphony Arts website and YouTube channel, social media and soon to appear on all major podcast apps such as Apple and Spotify.

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/

A WARM WELCOME TO OUR NEW ARTISTs, DUO TANDEM!

We are very excited to welcome Duo Tandem (Necati Emirzade and Mark Anderson) to Polyphony Arts’ performers! The instrumental guitar duo, with an emphasis on story-telling through music, has been hailed as “trad[ing] musical ideas back and forth so effortlessly” by Classical Guitar Magazine and described as “pushing the boundaries of what’s possible on classical guitars,” by Minor7th.

Their shared artistic vision blends their distinct, individual cultural backgrounds into a unique, combined musical voice. The duo formed in 2012, while studying at the prestigious San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Since then, the ensemble captivated audiences with performances across both the United States as well as Europe. Recent engagements include their album “Watching the World Go By”, chosen by Blair Jackson (editor of Classical Guitar Magazine) as a top-ten 2018 album. In 2020, Duo Tandem will release a further album on the Naxos label, and will include the Cypriot composer Kemal Belevi.

You can read more about Duo Tandem here: https://polyphonyarts.com/duo-tandem/

It’s wonderful to have you with us!

Laura Perrett: Video designer

“I cannot make weekday childcare compatible with the long and anti-social hours of performing arts jobs.”

Welcome back to our blog series, talking to leading musicians who are also parents about their experiences of balancing their careers with family life. This week we hear from someone working on the technical side of the music, theatre and TV industry – Laura Perrett, freelance video designer, talks about the challenges of long and inflexible tech rehearsals.

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

I have one son who is nearly two.

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

Before I got pregnant I was a full-time video designer working in a freelance capacity. I design and create visuals for projection, LED screens and broadcast screens. I balanced theatre jobs with more commercial arena-sized music concert jobs as they pay a living wage whereas theatre and opera rarely do. I never tour, but I do have to be present for tech-rehearsals and preview periods, the hours for which are dictated by the production.  Jobs can range from being many months long for arena tours to just a few weeks for small theatre productions; the design stage of jobs offers me far more flexibility on hours than the tech-rehearsals stage which offers zero flexibility. It is the tech-rehearsals part of my job that is preventing me from working. 

Tell me about your work/parenthood balance. 

There is none at the moment. Apart from a very small job I did in November for the Royal Variety Performance which allowed me to work at weekends (so my partner covered), I cannot make weekday childcare compatible with the long and anti-social hours of performing arts jobs.

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

Yes

How did this make you feel?

Frustrated, isolated. I accept that it was my choice to be a parent but the lack of flexible and affordable childcare means I cannot meet the needs to work in an ad-hoc fashion. I am considering changing career or re-purposing my skills!

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

My partner is freelance, and currently has a very reliable client who offers regular work and pays incredibly quickly. If I was the main breadwinner, I would be very anxious about my clients paying me on time. So we let him work full time purely for the sake of economics. My partner works in the television industry and the hours are long, which means he cannot do nursery drop-offs or pickups either. We have no family help.

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

Yes – nursery two days a week. We pay for this to give me a chance to work, but currently as my hours are so limited to two days I week I am struggling to find part-time work in my sector. It’s basically full time or nothing. I often use these days to train, build my website or try and speak to potential new clients if I do not have paid work.

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

I don’t see how hours can change or be flexible tbh. A show is a show, and one has to be there for tech rehearsals to make it happen! It would be nice if hours could be 9-5 instead of 12 hour days! No nursery in the world is going to cover that.

How did being a freelance musician affect your parental leave?

Being a freelance video designer is pretty much the same as being a freelance anything. Minimal Maternity Allowance, and somehow you have to find a way to keep your name and business out there! Which is hard when you are not creating new content.

Laura Perrett is a designer specialising in creative video content and moving image for theatre, opera, music and broadcast. She has over 15 years experience working with some of the best artists, directors and storytellers in the industry. Recent design and associate design credits include the creation of screen content for: Take That Wonderland Tour 2017 (UK Tour), Half a Sixpence (Noel Coward Theatre), Murder Ballad (Arts Theatre)Turn of the Screw (Teatro Alla Scala), The Sessions : A live re-staging of The Beatles at Abbey Road Studios (Royal Albert Hall), Mary Poppins (UK Tour), Hamlet (Barbican), Black Sabbath at Hyde Park, The Rolling Stones (US Zipcode Tour), U2 i+e (World Tour) and ‘Stand Up To Cancer’ on Channel 4. 

Read more about Laura’s work here: www.lauraperrett.com

Martyn Roper: Blues Guitar

“The beauty of having Albert is that we see more of family and friends than before and I’d like a chance to start allowing those family and friends to support us as freelancers in real life.”

Welcome back to our blog series, talking to leading musicians who are also parents about their experiences of balancing their careers with family life. This week, we meet Martyn Roper, blues guitarist, who talks about how his busy gig schedule works alongside his wife’s freelance career, the challenge of working when breastfeeding, and the importance of friends and family.

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

I have one child, a sweet and lovely boy named Albert. He was born in August 2018.

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

I generally work ‘one nighters’ which can be 3 to 14 (a record in one week!) gigs a week. 3-6 gigs is normal for me in a week. They range from weddings, parties, festivals, pubs, bars, restaurants, care homes, etc. At various times over the year my duo do longer tours for weeks at a time in arts centres and venues all over the UK. All weeks are different but 80% of the time I’m booked up Thursday to Sunday every week.

Tell us about your work/parenthood balance. 

I make at least one full day a week where computers / phones aren’t really used unless in desperate circumstances and the aim is to get away from the house and out. During time at home I make sure we get out to do stuff even if just a walk and try and give my son complete attention for periods of time between work / rehearsal time. I usually structure this around meals and cooking.

Have you had to turn down opportunities because of being a parent? How did this make you feel?

Not sure I’ve turned things down but it does take good organisation to fit things in. I’ve been happy to let some gigs slide if a week was already well booked so we can have family time.

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

Chloé is a freelance graphic designer / web builder / photographer and I think home time with a baby can get messy at times. We’re 100% breast feeding so although I can do lots of shopping / cooking / washing etc baby needs to be with mum or near all the time which makes it hard for her to get a good run at work. On the other side the fact that we’re both in the house nearly all daytimes and free especially on Mondays to Wednesdays means that Albert probably gets more face to face time than working a 9-5 as his bedtime would mean only a few hours a day instead of the 10 – 16 hours he probably gets now.

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

None, due to the reasons above. I have family nearby but visits tend to be social due to his feeding needs. I would like to be able to start passing Albert on a little bit more soon as the support of family could make it possible for us both to get more done and hopefully have more family time afterwards. Even if we’re in the house but they just baby sit him while we get a couple of hours to sort some admin.

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

Some venues and festivals especially in the daytime have been great to us and welcomed our boy and gone out of their way to make it as pleasant as possible for us.

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

The same thing they do to anyone to make their life easier. I think we’re all equal with or without children and its down to us to manage our lives and children as well as work.

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

My work is varied so I wouldn’t take the baby to say a private wedding. The nice blues / jazz festivals are so lovely. Some of the dementia wards are very inquisitive once I mention I have a child, and we’ve all been invited in when I perform. We did this once and had a lovely afternoon at a home in Harrogate.

How did being a freelance musician affect your parental leave?

No such thing. I cleared a two week period (apart from one gig) around the birth but he was born over a week late so I had to find cover for a gig the day he was born. I had an afternoon wedding gig near Leeds the day after the birth so left the hospital for about five hours and came straight back ASAP.

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

For about seven years before.

Are you part of any online social groups for freelancers/freelance parents? 

I’m not. To be honest, I don’t have time to do all the work I need to and am trying to find ways to minimise wasted time so more social media interaction that kind of ‘sucks you in’ isn’t good. The beauty of having Albert is that we see more of family and friends than before and I’d like even more of that and a chance to start allowing those family and friends to support us as freelancers in real life.

A professional musician since 2011, Martyn Roper specialises in 1920s, 30s & 40s blues, jazz and swing music on guitar, banjo, ukulele and double bass. He plays over 200 gigs a year largely between three acts; Leeds City Stompers (trio); The Washboard Resonators (duo) and solo sets, and lives near central Leeds. He likes collecting vintage guitars, cooking, reading and his two beautiful cats.

How do you decide what to charge for music performance?

“As long as I come out of it with £100 after expenses, that’s OK”

I’ve heard this said so many times. And who by? Talented, trained professional musicians, with innovative, interesting programmes. Heading for the heights of their careers. Talking about giving a full-length professional concert as a soloist or part of a small group of musicians.

Pay in music performance is, like in many other professions, totally baffling for a lot of people. The more musicians I talk to, the more I think people are, on the whole, basically being paid what they ask for.

This is very troubling indeed. What we feel comfortable asking for is totally different, depending on our backgrounds. There is a lot written on this subject – just google “imposter syndrome” or “gender pay gap” (for example) and you’ll find a whole wealth of reading about how various minority groups have always accepted less for doing the same as those who are exactly as qualified and experienced, but don’t calculate their own worth in the same way as those who have been lucky enough to come from a background where they feel confident enough to ask for exactly what they want.

I’m deliberately using vague terminology here, as those who we generally associate with privilege and good self-confidence have been amongst those who I’ve heard saying they’ll gig for £100. Whilst there are definitely demographics that are more prone to this (and I may write more about this another time), lack of confidence in self-worth and imposter syndrome can be felt by anyone.

Often, people feel they need an agent to negotiate on their behalf. There’s no doubt that it’s easier to negotiate for someone other than yourself – I find negotiating for my clients much easier than negotiating for myself! – but this is not the only option.

It is possible to learn to do this for yourself, and it feels great, too!

In my new online course, Become Your Own Agent, I will help you work through any doubts, concerns or barriers that prevent you from charging the fees you want. (For those of you thinking this isn’t as simple as just asking for more, you’re right – I provide information on reasonable price points for different career stages, different occasions, and more.)

By the way, for anyone thinking £100 sounds OK for one concert, just have a think about the time spent rehearsing for said concert – does it still sound OK? Then think about the cost of all those music lessons. £100 might cover two lessons, maybe. Hmm.

Good news – I’m offering MORE than £100 off my Become Your Own Agent if you book in October! I’d love to see you there.

New Facebook community for freelance musician parents

We are delighted to announce that we have created a Facebook group as a support network for freelance musicians who are also parents: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2369471933370782/?ref=share

Since I set up my business in an attempt to achieve good work/family balance, I’ve found a huge amount of online support for people doing what I do – mainly working from home, on their own schedules – but the reality for freelance musicians is completely different. The quest for good family/work balance is much more challenging when you are at the mercy of late-released schedules, engagements all over the world, and evening/weekend work where no regular childcare is available (to name but a few challenges!).

This group’s purpose is to provide a safe space for musician parents ask for help/advice, share successes, or have a moan, and to take steps to improve the world of work for freelance musicians.

If this speaks to you, please do join, and share with your friends!

The picture is of me and my rambunctious two year old, enjoying a pub lunch!