Thursday, 30 September 2010

Pay What You Want

I discovered two great blogs by musicians yesterday.  Both highly recommended!

The first is by the wonderful UK guitarist Mike Outram who writes a funny and insightful blog about music and life in general.  I've had the pleasure of working with Mike and although I knew he was an amazing musician, I never realised he was such a great writer until I discovered his blog...

The second was recommended by Mike and is from a US trumpeter called Jason Parker.  In his One Working Musician blog he writes about the daily life of a musician and chronicles his  "path to self-sufficiency" and  "thoughts on how to live a creative, art-centered life".

In one post, Jason mentions a Pay-What-You-Want system which was something I tried when selling my Licorice Kiss albums during my Arts Council sponsored tour last year.  I was a bit nervous about it at first and became even more so when a student at one gig offered me just £1.94 (the change he had in his pocket) for the album I'd been used to asking £10 for!  But strangely enough when I worked it all out at the end of the tour, I'd managed to shift an average of 10 CDs per gig which worked out to about £9.50 per album.  And I'm pretty sure that a lot of those sales wouldn't have happened at all had I stuck to my £10 per CD pricing.  In the end, most people paid £10 for it.  I also made sure to point out at the time that it was more about "Pay What You Think It's Worth" rather than "Pay What You Want" which probably accounted for those sales where people paid £15 and sometimes even £20.  Anyway, it all worked out in the end and I was one happy bunny! :-D

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Getting It In Writing

I received my official offer letter today from Jazz Services so my next task is to confirm all the dates that were pencilled.  And most importantly, I need to get everything confirmed  in writing by the venue or promoter. 

More than once I've come to that moment at the end of the gig when you're uncomfortably waiting around to get paid and there's been a "misunderstanding" about the fee.  Sometimes it's a difference of opinion about how much was to paid or it could be how and when it is paid and sometimes even by whom!  To prevent any such misunderstandings it's always better to get things in writing, preferably a Musicians' Union contract but at least an email.

So, next on my list is getting contracts sorted - sending my version if the venues/promoters don't do their own.  And for the arts centres/theatres on my list it's also the time to start submitting copy and photos for their brochures.  Because they work so far ahead and tend to print booklets for seasons, the copy deadlines can be very early. 

By the end of this week I'll aim to get the basic blurb for the show completed and choose which photos I'm going to send.  Photos need to be high res versions (300dpi minimum) and it helps to have a couple of choices as in portrait or landscape so that it can fit in with the venue's brochure style.

Okay - enough of this seriousness...  On a completely random and frivolous note - here's a pic of my new Lulu Guinness handbag.  I LOVE it! xx

Monday, 27 September 2010

The Business of Music

I had a lovely day today as I concentrated mainly on music -  rather than the business of music.

Had a great session with my pianist George where we worked on the arrangements of some new songs and they're sounding great!  Really looking forward to performing them at our first outing of the new Diva project in October at the Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho.

But although it's not something I really enjoy,  I also need to keep on top of the business side of things.  Someone who has helped a lot of musicians with this is Derek Sivers, the founder of CDBaby.  (If you've not heard of them, check them out.  Apart from anything else they are a great way to get your albums up on iTunes and they only take a 9% cut.)  Here's a link to an interesting article with his 7 Rules of Marketing.  Numbers 5 & 7 especially strike a chord with me.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

How to Plan and Carry Out a Successful Jazz Tour

Okay - I've decided what I want to write about.  The title of this post is perhaps a bit of wishful thinking at this point as I'm far from sure that the tour will be a successful one!  But I thought it might be helpful to myself and others to document my journey - setting up, marketing and carrying out a jazz tour in the UK. 

I've completed five UK tours in the past.  For three of them I've had help from Jazz Services and for the other two, I've been fortunate enough to receive an Arts Council award.  My last UK tour was at the end of 2009 where I promoted my latest album, Licorice Kiss.  Although up to now I've mainly concentrated on writing, performing and recording my own original songs, my latest project is going to concentrate mainly on jazz standards.  I've called it "Inspired: Celebrating the Divas of Jazz" and it will feature new arrangements of songs from the jazz singers past and present who have inspired and influenced me.  I'll also include specially written songs alongside those of  the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Norma Winstone and Cassandra Wilson,

So... to get you up-to-date, here's a short summary of what I've been up to over the last few months:

April-July 2009
  • Called up various promoters throughout the UK to ask if I could send them info about my new project
  • Checked availability dates with my band  (can be problematic - especially if like me your band is comprised of excellent in-demand musicians!)
  • Sent an email with a few paragraphs about the project and proposed dates with an attached mp3 of the band
  • About a week later, followed up the email with a call to see if they've had a chance to listen (at this stage, barring a couple of exceptions, most of them hadn't)
  • Another follow up call 10 days later.  Tried to get an idea if they were interested and attempted to get either a booking or a pencilled date if they were.
  • And repeat...  and repeat...  and repeat...
August 2009
  • Filled in my Jazz Services touring support application form.  (Important to get this in before the deadline and to read guidance notes carefully.)
  • Waited to hear decision about grant...
September 2009
  • Got news of successful application.  Yay!  I didn't receive all the money I asked for as funds were very tight and quality of applicants very high but it's great to have help to make this tour happen!
Next on To-Do List: 
  • Confirm pencilled dates and confirm dates with band
  • Write press release for tour
  • The music!  Never as much time as I would like for this but need to write some new songs and work on new arrangements with my pianist George
If you have any comments, tips, suggestions or questions I'd love to hear from you.  I'll try to help you if I can and will of course appreciate any help from other bloggers, musicians, fans, journalists, etc etc...


I'm here.  I've been told I should have a proper blog.  I suppose I've always known it but have resisted for a very long time.  I'll try to come up with something interesting to say here in the days to come.  I'll try...  Please bear with me.  I'm new to this!