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
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
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.
“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.
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.
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
“I cannot make weekday childcare compatible with the long and anti-social hours of performing arts jobs.”
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.
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?
How did this
make you feel?
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.
promoters/venues/festival organisers do to help freelance artists who are
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?
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
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.
“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?
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.
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
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?
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?
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?
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?
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
promoters/venues/festival organisers do to help freelance artists who are
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.
there any organisations/venues/festivals etc that you have worked with that are
particularly supportive of performers who are parents?
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?
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?
about seven years before.
Are you part of any online
social groups for freelancers/freelance parents?
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
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.
“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.
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!