Artist as Creative Entrepreneur – what did we learn?
Ellie Moore
Talent Programme Officer
22nd February 2016
Artist as Creative Entrepreneur – what did we learn?

On the 11 February, Young Classical Artists Trust and Help Musicians UK invited Laura Bowler, Johnathan Bloxham and Thomas Gould to talk about how they manage their wonderfully diverse and interesting careers. Below myself and the Talent Programme Team have summarised the inspiring and engaging discussion into some key advice for young freelancers.

Funding

Invest time in cultivating and maintaining personal relationships with investors, whether current or potential; invite them to see your work or even into your creative process if appropriate. These personal relationships are a more valuable use of your efforts than ‘cold’ contacting. It is important to listen to what your potential investors are interested in and tailor your offer to them.

Laura Bowler has a partnership with a construction company who offer in kind support, providing materials and building sets for Size Zero Opera. Laura explained that the company are delighted with the opportunity to be part of the creative process.  

Managing conflicting priorities and opportunities

Managing conflicting priorities is a ‘constant challenge’; if this scares you, then a portfolio career is probably not the right type path for you.  Stay true to who you are as an artist and trust your gut feeling when considering whether or not you should take an opportunity. Try to think about your end goals and see smaller projects as part of a bigger whole. 

Organisation tips from the panel 

Laura, self-confessed organiser extraordinaire uses a chalk board wall to keep track of long term plans or multiple projects, explaining that this way you don’t have to think about them on a daily basis.

Laura also suggests talking to any friends who work in a commercial environment to get advice about presentation and organisation. You could take this one step further and get a short term job in an office; Laura worked as an executive PA for 6 months and said the experience was very valuable.  

Thomas favours using ICAL and colours to organise different parts of his work. 

Audiences and programming

Always think about your audience, ask yourself - who I am I composing, playing or programming for? 

Thomas suggested that a diverse programme with short pieces goes down well with new audiences in different settings.

Promotion

Think about yourself as a product which you need to promote and if you are going to use a PR company make sure it is the right company for you.

Are there any negatives to a portfolio career?

Overall the positives outweigh the negatives. You might not be approached by ‘traditional’ agents and promoters who are wary of missing out on commission from your other activities but it is more important to focus on opportunities and organisations that excite you. 

Thomas pondered whether if he had concentrated on perusing a career as a solo violinist, would he have become a ‘world class’ soloist..?

Laura explained that it can be hard to balance a diverse career with a social life but working collaboratively with others on the art that you love is more than a satisfying substitute. 

Final word(s)

Thomas Gould’s advice to approach everything with the best possible attitude stuck with us. Thomas met a key contact through playing a tiny gig in an antiques shop and if he had been, as he put it, ‘too grand’ to play, he would never have built the relationship.

The next event in the series PR, press and self-promotion will be on Tuesday 8 March at the Help Musicians UK offices. Free to attend but book your place here.

You can read more information about the panellists here.

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