Why you should be promoting your career now – an agent advises.

2020 has not been a good year for those of us in the classical music business and, as we approach the end of our second lockdown, it is understandable that a lot of us are feeling weary and discouraged.

However, you may be surprised to hear that our advice is now is the perfect time to put yourself back out there and start seeking out those future performance opportunities that have been in such short supply.

At Polyphony Arts we are already seeing an uptick in bookings for our clients; music societies, festivals and other venues are starting to think about programming again as performances once again seem possible, and the news about successful vaccines for Covid-19 has done much to lift everyone’s spirits.

There is hope, but we want to see you turn any new-found optimism into actual bookings. And now is the best possible time to start working on precisely that.

So, even if we are still in lockdown, what can you be doing now to build your career as we leave 2020 and head for 2021 and beyond?

First of all, you need a good mindset. Although it may not feel like it, your career is still active and needs your attention more than ever!

We know that things will never go back to exactly how they were before, but that may be no bad thing. Right now promoters are more understanding than they have ever been of how difficult and frustrating it can be for musicians trying to promote themselves. The people who can give you work actively want to help you. That’s a really important message to hold onto.

But before you start sending out information about yourself, take stock of every aspect of how you go about promoting yourself:

  • Is your CV up-to-date?
  • Maybe you have done some interesting work during the pandemic performing online or working on a particular project at home – have you included that?
  • Do you have a full list of all your online recordings with the right links?
  • How good is your network?
  • Are there more connections you have made online over the past nine months that you can maybe leverage now?
  • How do you describe yourself now?
  • How do you think about yourself as a musician?

This last question is a really important one because unless you have a healthy and positive view of yourself, you are not going to be able to project a positive image to the promoters you hope will book you.

If you have an agent, then they will help you with a lot of that, but if you don’t, there are still resources out there to help you.

We have designed a number of packages which you can access to help you with all these aspects of managing and developing a successful career whether that is professional coaching, materials to help you become your own agent, or even a simple module on how to write the perfect pitch.

And, with Christmas on the horizon, any of these would make a terrific gift from your nearest and dearest  – after all, they’re the ones who have always been your biggest supporters.

Our message to you is: stay positive, be adaptable, take this time to review where you are, and reach towards a brighter future where you can and will perform again.

Lockdown 2 – musicians, how we can help you

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the concert hall… Lockdown 2 💥

A picture of sheet music with the caption: "Lockdown 2: How we can help musicians"

Musicians everywhere are feeling the effects of the Covid pandemic and some of you have been out on the street (by which we mean Parliament Square) demonstrating with live music to let the Chancellor know that the arts are a vibrant part of the economy and deserve support.

At Polyphony Arts we have been closely following the implications of Covid for the industry at every step, and we have developed (and are constantly expanding) a suite of resources to help classical musicians help themselves and find support in these trying times.

Your first port of call is to our dedicated Covid-19 resource bank, which has all our resources in one place.

Following the success of our live chats on Facebook during the first lockdown, we have now launched our own podcast: Music Works. We are pleased to say we already have 14 episodes out there covering topics from business mindset as a musician to finding opportunities in challenging times to sexism in the music industry. Our speakers include composer, Ella Jarman-Pinto, Anna Ouspenskaya of Virtual Concert Halls and Naomi Pohl, Deputy General Secretary of the Musicians’ Union. You can find the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Podbean.

Do please subscribe and leave us a review!

We have also been putting our minds to other resources we have designed expressly to help musicians like you and we have developed a number of online courses, programmes and other support packages including gift cards for family and friends to tuck in your Christmas stocking.

Subscribe to our mailing list to receive all the latest news of what we are up to, news and advice on Covid and get advance notice of upcoming resources plus any offers we are able to share with our subscribers. (Spoiler alert – we have a very special offer announcement coming up this weekend, exclusively to our mailing list!)

Don’t let the Covid-19 lockdown hold you back – there is a way through this, and we can help you unlock it.

Finally – Our message to you all:

We know that the future can look bleak with so many cancellations. We know the industry will take time to recover. But we also know there will be a recovery, and you need to be at the forefront of this. Don’t allow negative stories to bring you down – surround yourself with people who are positive about the future of classical music. They are out there. We are out there. At Polyphony Arts we are here for you. This is our industry, our music, our passion, and we will fight for it together.

Perfect Press Release with Polyphony Arts

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

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

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

And, if you want help with this, check out our Perfect Press release service – send us your draft press release, and we’ll perfect it for you!

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

First: get your information in order. 

For example:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s one from the same press release: 

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

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

Contemporaneous quote are also useful.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We had a lovely live discussion on our live series about the ins and outs of writing the perfect press release. You can watch the full video here.

Katie Beardsworth and Margaret Pinder