August 31st, 2014

What I’m Taking To Vigil

Black Jacks 

M & S Sours

Muzak / elevator music - Spotify playlists

Casio SA-20 + batteries. LOTS 

Flip camera

Phone 

Macbook + charger

Torch

Pouches - to hold stuff in round neck

Manuscript pads x shag loads

Pens / Pencils x shag loads

Suncream in case it’s hot

Fleece in case it’s cold

Raincoat in case it’s raining

Skanky trainers

Baggy trousers

T shirts x 2

Socks x 4

Knickers x 5

Bra x 2

Book (in case go mad)

Toiletries

Drugs

Whiskey flask

Porridge

Milk

Tea bags

Bread

Cheese

Pickle

Prawn cocktail crisps

Pot noodle x 2

Diet coke x shag loads

Pillow

Sleeping bag

Rubber chicken

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Read more about it how I’m composing my next choral work on the Vigil art installation at Folkestone Triennial, 14 storeys up…

Read more about the Vigil art installation by Alex Hartley

Read more about Folkestone Triennial

August 28th, 2014

You call it ‘road rage’ and I call it ‘aggressively manoeuvring around assholes that don’t know how to drive’

I’m running late. It’s 12.20 and I have to be there at 1. It’s a one hour drive. 

 

Going to the Speed Awareness Course I run three red lights and get flashed by two speed cameras. 

 

The irony stings like lemon on an open gash. 

 

This is my second driving offense course in less than two weeks. Last week’s What’s Driving Us? has set me up with a defensive demeanor. I enter the classroom and adopt a new stride. The man with the register smiles and I glower. He is wounded and I adopt a new stance. I swagger into my room, take my table and open my notebook. 

 

I fill in forms with questions like: “how do you know what the speed is?” We are quizzed this same question on multiple occasions throughout the four and a half hour course. Pathetically, we succumb within hour one and scream in unison reply: “streetlights! And speed signs!” 

 

Q1 Name some reasons why you might have an accident?

Answer: Changing my clothes while driving in cruise control.

 

Q2 What causes you to speed?

Answer: Driving like a twat.

 

It’s not cool. I am a very bad girl. 

 

“What circumstances cause you to speed, Emily?” asks Phil, one of two instructors, both called Phil. 

“I speed ‘cause I’ve got a crap car”, I drawl.  

 

Everyone laughs. 

 

I’m aware I’m being a dick.

 

We break. There’s tea and quite nice biscuits. I chat to a couple of old men. They seem nice. “I got flashed on the way here”, I say to the one with the white moustache. “Ooh….” he inhales. “Bad luck. Hopefully there won’t be an actual camera in it”. “It’s unlikely”, I reply. “I got flashed twice!” “Ah…”, he shakes his head. “Well… you can but hope”.  

 

We are taught about tailgating. The best thing to do, when being tailgated, is to be patient, and to not wind the tailgater up by doing stupid shit like slowing down and refusing to let them overtake. If they’re really aggressive, you can pull over somewhere safe and let them overtake you.

 

We are taught about space. Apparently, road rage and speeding comes down to issues around personal space. Tailgaters behave like twats because they want us to get out of their road space and we sometimes react like twats because they’re invading our space when they get up our arses. They get more twatlike, and we get even twatier. 

 

Do you know that COAST stands for:

Concentration

Observation

Anticipation

Speed

Time?

 

No? I don’t either. When we are asked to write down what we think it stands for I write:

Cunts

Or

Assholes

Speed

Tactlessly 

 

They give us a free COAST pen to help us remember, before we are told to check our tyre pressure every fortnight. 

 

“When did you last check your tyre pressure, Emily?” Asks Phil.

“A year ago”, I respond. “Or when it’s flat”.

 

Everyone laughs, again.

 

On the way home I stay in the fast lane. This car behind me is right up my arse. “Fuck you, you twat” I mutter to myself, as I ease my foot onto the brake. 

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August 22nd, 2014

'…then I rang the builders mobile and left a stilted and rather 'controlled' message. It was a long message and frankly, I sounded desperate, and unhinged…'

What is it that makes me employ builders who are evasive and need chasing up? Or is the problem me? Perhaps I am the nightmare they need to avoid? 

 

I currently have a leaking roof, which cost £10k for full replacement, 7 years ago, but which has continually leaked, and a three month old fence with a fence post that is bent like an actual banana. A BANANA! I can’t even close it.

 

Both contractors say ‘ring us on ‘x’ date and we will come and sort it’. So I ring and they either arrange to come over, but don’t, or they say ‘ring us on ‘x’ date and we will come and sort it’.

 

Is this the ‘norm’ or am I just unlucky? 

 

I have been extremely patient with both, allowing two weeks between phone calls. I feel bad chasing them up and it’s a cycle that is wearing me down. I almost want to leave it and let the house fall into ruin. This is why I have avoided completing work on my house for seven years. I find the process of employing contractors, who do not complete a job to a satisfactory functioning standard, really stressful; of the 15 I have employed so far only six have done a decent job. And now I’m avoiding phoning my roofer and fencer because I’m worrying about what they will say. 

 

I’m always sickeningly polite with lots of “hi, how are you?” and “oh absolutely. Of course you’re busy right now. I will phone you again in two weeks, no worries. Thank you so much”. 

 

You know when your life is falling to shit, and you keep ploughing on, and on? That’s what I have been doing, for three months now. But occasionally something really small gets me and I snap. And today I snapped. 

 

First I phoned the roofer. I was sickeningly polite, as always, and started to explain how when I last phoned two weeks ago, he had asked me to phone back in a week. “But we are really busy at the moment” said the builders wife, with a tinge of annoyance, “we aren’t taking on new clients right now”. 

 

"I’m not a new client. I’m an existing one. I gave you 10k and my roof is still leaking. I’m within warrantee. I have been really patient - I always wait two weeks between phone calls. I’ve been trying to sort this out with you since June. You are making me feel bad for phoning you. I shouldn’t be made to feel bad. I don’t like chasing you up".

 

Then I started crying. Really crying. Then sobbing. Then ranting.

 

"You are making me feel bad about something that isn’t my fault! This is causing me distress! I have been ever so patient. You told me to ring you after your trip to Manchester last week, but I thought I’d give you some extra time because I know you are busy…"

 

"I’ll get my husband to phone you as soon as he gets home" she interrupted, bewildered, before hanging up. 

 

Then I phoned her husbands mobile, and left a stilted, and rather controlled message. It was a long message. At least two minutes long. Frankly, I sound really desperate and unstable on that message, interspersed with stifled sobs.

 

Now the fencer. I had decided to let it go, but in that moment I felt indignation: his naff handiwork has caused me to avoid opening and closing my back gate for six weeks! It is so bent, if I open it I can’t close it again! But I need to open it to take my rubbish out for the bin men. A pile of bin liners surround my overflowing bins and they are starting to smell.

 

I’m spurred on. I’m practically unhinged. 

 

"Hi Dave", I say. “It’s Emily here. You know, the one you keep avoiding? The one whose fence is bent like a frigging banana, who you keep fobbing off? I’m a kind person, Dave. I really did believe you would come and fix the fence, but you didn’t, did you? But don’t worry, Dave. I’m not phoning you to ask you to come and fix it this time. I’m just phoning you out of courtesy really, to let you know that I’m going to employ another fencer to fix the job and that I’m going to report you to trading standards”.

 

"I’ll come and fix it," he says. “I don’t want you to report me to trading standards!”

 

"Alright then, Dave", I reply. “You have until the 31st of August to fix it. And I want you to make sure I am home when you do. And please don’t climb over the fence and do it whilst I am out of the house. And if you don’t come by the 31st, that’s fine. I will just go ahead and report you”.

 

"OK, I’ll be there next week" Dave stammers. He’s rather bewildered. It’s good to be bewildered sometimes. 

   

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August 21st, 2014

Whoever said “live each day as if it’s your last” is a twat.

Whoever said: “live each day as if it’s your last” is a twat. 

 

It’s probably not even a person who said it. It’s probably a computer algorithm. It’s not even fucking possible. Not really. We’re too inhibited say and do what we really want. Thought patterns, behaviours, ethics… they are imbued within us while we are young and we feel panic, pain and fear when we think of doing something which goes against what we have been taught; something we really want to do. 

 

Before you get all pedantic and picksy on my arse I’m not talking about the impulse to murder, or to cause real harm. I’m referring to the desire to make serious life changes, to ‘grab the bull by the horns’, to just leave and to start again. I’m referring to the little things which become big things, like telling someone you fancy the shit out of them or telling the person who’s been pissing you off for far too long to go and fuck themself.

 

Have you ever tried living each day like it’s your last? I’ve been trying and for one week, a few months ago, I believe I really did it. I said “yes” to things I wouldn’t normally say “yes” to. Things like agreeing to sit on a small wooden platform suspended outside the top floor of the Grand Burstin Hotel in Folkestone, for one week, day and night, 24 7, whilst composing music on a one-octave battery-powered 1980s casio keyboard and monitoring the coming and going of boats. That I have a phobia of heights which has on five occasions caused a panic attack (top diving board of my childhood swimming pool - twice, roller coasters at Alton Towers - twice, helicopter at RAF open day - once) didn’t affect my choice. On this day I also impulse purchased a 1960s cocktail bar using money a student gave me for ten one-hour piano lessons. This student happens to be the worst fucking student I’ve ever had, and I’ve got to teach him for ten weeks because I don’t want to return the cocktail bar so I can refund his money.

 

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So I got really drunk. So drunk I was sick for a week. Then the following morning I bought a vinyl player because I’ve wanted one for too long. Actually, that was a good purchase. But these are trivial things. The real biggy was deciding to end a relationship with someone who made me feel bad about myself, and who treated me with disdain and unkindness. That one really hurt, but was the only solution. 

 

Despite the choices I made on that hapless day there are still things I would like to do if only today was truly my last. But I don’t feel I can do these things; the thought of doing so fills me with dread. How would I feel? Would I be thankful? Would I regret myself? 

 

I want to run around Whitstable completely naked because I’m fed up of hating my body. I want to scream “fuck you” at anyone who sniggers or makes a negative comment. And maybe they won’t. In which case I’ll scream “look at me! LOOK AT ME!”

 

I want to fill a small suitcase with bare essentials, grab my guitar, empty my bank account and go to the airport. I’ll choose anywhere and when I get there I’ll start again. No one will know me. No one will have preconceptions about me or judge me. I will have another chance at life and will make of it what I will. 

 

I want to live in a caravan, travel and write. I always wanted to write and was too scared to tell my parents to sod of when they said they wouldn’t support a degree change from music to literature.

 

I want no fixed abode, no fixed relationship, complete independence, sex with whomever I want. I don’t want to be reminded, daily, of the bad things I have said and done. I want to be appreciated, and loved, for who I am at this moment.  

 

I don’t want to experience that ever-recurring moment when reality jolts and I am fully present. That moment when I am teaching a student, cleaning the house, or writing an email and think: “this is temporary. In a moment this will be gone; this moment of conscious thought will be erased. I don’t want to die. Why am I doing this? Why am I not living each day like it is my last? I DON’T WANT TO DIE.”

 

Whoever said “live each day as if it’s your last” is a twat.

   

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August 14th, 2014

What’s Driving Us?

I enter Maidstone Museum and take a seat between the statue and the viking boat. They have already started bonding, the other attendants. Men at one end; slightly puffed up and bragging about various misdemeanours and women at the other, chatting about this… and that. “I was only on the phone for a minute”, says a woman with a strong Essex accent. “It was work you see…”. “Yeah”, responds a petite blonde. “I was taking a work call too. Honestly… they could have let me off”. 

 

I sit apart from the group. Don’t make eye contact. Don’t engage. Look straight ahead. “I think she’s shy”, I hear someone say, as I open my book and start to read. 

 

A man who looks like the fat controller from Thomas the Tank Engine comes over and invites us into the meeting room. We help ourselves to hot drinks while a well-meaning woman, Pam, checks our licenses and signs us in. She speaks with a Jeremy Paxman drawl, her mouth sagging at the corners. 

 

“This is a very psychological course”, she says, glancing in my direction. “Very psychological”. 

“Will there be group work?” I ask. 

“Why? Don’t you like group work?” 

“No”, I reply.

 

I’m in a foul mood. Sullen as fuck. 

 

The powerpoint presentation commences with the cycle of grief. “As we go through our workshop today, we will move through the cycle of grief”, Pam croons. “We will start with denial, through to anger, followed by bargaining, depression and eventually ACCEPTANCE. You might find that you feel quite depressed today and don’t reach the acceptance phase, and if that’s you, that’s okay”. 

 

“Am I to understand”, I ask, “that you are assuming we are all in denial? Because I am not. I know what I did. I knew from the moment I did it. And, I chose to do it in the full knowledge that I was doing something wrong”. 

“Well, you’re a one off, Emily”, says Pam. “Most people here ARE still in denial”. 

 

The participants tut. “I’m not in denial”, says an elderly man. “Neither am I”, says a younger man. “I was just taking a work call, but I know what I did was wrong”, says the petite blonde. And after a show of hands it seems no one present is in denial. Pam glowers and the fat controller smirks. 

 

Being in this classroom is like being on Rod, Jane and Freddy. We are treated like young children. Naive and stupid young children.

 

“Who knows what emotional intelligence is?” asks Pam. I snort loudly.

“Do you have something to say, Emily?” she asks.

“Yes”, I respond. “Are you joking?” 

“I don’t know what you mean?” says Pam.

“I’m sorry to be blunt”, I reply, “but contrary to popular belief, we aren’t stupid and I’m finding this very patronising”. 

“Okay…”, responds Pam, before moving to another attendant.

“And Dave? What do you think about emotional intelligence?” 

 

The attendants are becoming less responsive and when Pam broaches empathy, no one responds. “We’ll leave empathy for another time, then”, says Pam. 

 

And so it goes; a painful blur of an afternoon, interspersed with moments of temporary classroom camaraderie, bad coffee and yawning. Ever so often I skip out and go to the loo for five minutes respite. 

 

We are presented with scenario after scenario. All ridiculous in their simplicity, all with obvious responses and all designed to make us empathise with how other drivers feel when we drive like the twats that we are; the twats that brought us to this blasted place. 

 

We work through our booklet, filling in page after page of condescending tripe.

 

ACTIVITY 6: WHY DID YOU COMMIT AN OFFENCE?

Attendant Name: Emily Peasgood

Who were you travelling with? No one.

What were you thinking? My husband has disappeared, is probably fucking someone else, and is a total prick.

What were you feeling? Upset.

What did you do? I answered my phone when I was driving, without my hands free.

Why did you do that? My mum rang and I needed her.

What lay behind that? Reason 1: My husband, being a prick.

What lay behind that? Reason 2: I’m human. I had a basic human response to my husband being a prick. 

What was the outcome? I was pulled over by the Police and ordered to do this stupid course.

What do you need to do to prevent this happening in the future? Don’t marry a prick.

 

“Emily”, announces Pam, “we haven’t heard from you in a while. Can you read your answers?” 

 

At times it is really fucking random, too. A picture of a mermaid appears on the powerpoint.

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“Who believes in mermaids?” drawls Pam. “We’re going to dispel some myths today. We all think we’re James Bond 007 when we get in our cars, don’t we. Mmmm… and then there’s cancer. We never think it’s going to happen to us, do we?” 

August 13th, 2014

Boring, bollocks, wanky self pitiful shite

I spent the last hour shuffling between the kitchen and living room, whining, with occasional slices of cheddar cheese. I shuffle to the fridge, reach inside and shove a handful of spinach in my mouth. I shuffle back to the couch, sit my big arse down, and chew loudly, with my mouth open. 

 

Dave stares at me and I give him a pat. Django stares too, gormless. Matilda is sleeping. 

 

What the fuck is going on with my life? 

 

It’s a question I’ve been asking a lot lately. My life was good. It was fucking perfect actually. Everything was falling into place: career, commissions, study, relationships… And just like THAT I’m back to square one. 

 

I could to yoga but can’t bear the possibility that the teacher will once again stand in front of me, pigeon toed, while she demonstrates the gap between the top of her arse cheeks and talks about the chakra in her perineum. Coupled with the other possibility that she will then show me the book she keeps mentioning, the one with pictures of ‘bigger’ women in it, coping ‘very well’ in lots of difficult yoga poses, and the likelihood that I will then burst into tears, made it a non-starter.

 

So I went to the doctor and told her I felt low. I also had a sore tongue. “Can I get some counseling?” I asked. “And can I have a prescription?” She’s ever so sweet, with a soft fluffy face… like a fairy god mother or something. But don’t let her fool you. She NEVER prescribes or refers her patients and ALWAYS lets you think she will. Ailing people enter the clinic thinking they will leave with what they went in for - after all, she’s positively angelic; all maternal and lovely with her tiny feet and pinafore dress - then they leave, wondering what the hell just happened. They are bewildered and confused and never satisfied.

 

Today was no different. She twisted my humble query back on itself, threw it aside and Ieft me with nothing. Jack shit. No prescription. No counseling. Only a glimmer of what could have been. But I did get some advice: “if you dig a vegetable patch, you’ll get rid of some of your emotional energy, and you’ll sleep better”. She’s a wily fucker, that one.

 

I sit, eating a massive bowl of parmesan coated pasta. I reach for the cheddar and add another slice. I’m lactose intolerant and eat cheese like a mother fucker.

   

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April 30th, 2014

An Open Letter to Open Mic UK

Dear Open Mic UK,

 

Thank you for your email.

 

By legal definition you may be a legitimate ‘talent show’ but you really ought to be more honest. This is a huge money making scheme. Having read your terms and conditions it seems you ask singers to pay £5 to enter your competition, charge successful singers a £30 deposit which is only refundable if they ‘turn up, make an effort and compete as asked’, and although not obligatory, you pressure successful singers to ‘try their hardest’to sell 25 tickets each. 

 

I would not be surprised if pressure was also placed on singers to rent a crowd aka to bring lots of friends and family to each ‘round’ at their personal expense and, if audiences were also encouraged to take part in expensive text message voting. I would also not be surprised if you were connected to similarly exploitative events such as Live and Unsigned.

 

You say you are connected and have worked with the ‘likes of Sony, Warner and Universal Music’ but aside from Birdy, I haven’t heard of a famous singer whose success is attributed to Open Mic UK.

 

That you emailed me asking me to ‘work’ for you as a talent scout is actually quite funny. Yes, I am extremely well connected both in London and Kent. As an established voice coach and choir leader I access 230 singers on a weekly basis. The contract you have asked me to sign asks me to openly publicise your competition by distributing the 1000 flyers you will send me, whilst recruiting singers to audition. The final reward for this is a commission of £100 for every 10 singers who successfully audition, £150 for every 15 singers and £200 for every 20 singers. Essentially, you are asking me to work for free on a commission basis with no guarantee of fair pay for my efforts. But primarily, you are masquerading this as an ‘opportunity’ to be a ‘talent scout’. It’s absolutely ludicrous! 

 

But moving on and  back to my comment about your approaching me being ‘funny’… As you will recall, I am quite connected, yes. And as I said before, I do have access to 230 singers each week of the year. I am also legitimately ‘connected’ and two of my students have signed record deals (they did not pay a fee to do this). I am, however, grateful that you contacted me as what I will now do is inform the 230 singers I teach on a weekly basis to not enter your competition.

 

In summation, you have taken the X Factor concept - an already exploitative competition - and turned it into a money-making scheme, whilst asking singing teachers to work on commission rates only, and poor ones at that. 

I suggest that you take your competition and shove it up your arse.

 

Your sincerely,

 

Emily Peasgood

Vocal Coach, Choir Leader, Composer, Campaigner for Musicians Rights

www.empeasgood.com

 

P.S. I have reported this ‘scheme’ to the Musicians’ Union

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July 14th, 2013

How to deal with a complaints from bitter audience members?


My local community choir performed at the local church, last Friday and Saturday night, to raise money for a local charity. The church was full, the 65-voice choir was on form, and they sang their hearts out. 

But this morning the post-concert glow was knocked out of me by a nasty email from an audience member who saw the concert on Friday night. As a choir leader, you do, of course, receive emails post-concerts. Usually these emails are from well-wishers complimenting us for our achievements, or people who saw us and want to join the choir. Sometimes people email offering constructive criticism, and always, you take this with a pinch of salt. 


But this email has really gotten my goat. I’m not sure if the way I have dealt with it is right, but here it is. I have changed the senders name.



On 13 Jul 2013, at 17:05, Nigel wrote:

I’d like to comment on last night’s ‘En Choir’s performance.

I was impressed that you all tackled the songs without copies, and the vitality and enthusiasm shone through.

Unfortunately I didn’t get a word of it - not from the speakers, nor the soloists…and certainly not from the choir. It seemed to be a series of very ‘samey’ material. A lot of pop songs have some brilliant lyrics but I missed out last night. You need to slow down a bit.

All the best                                              

Nigel Belchly




On 14 July 2013 12:06:57 GMT+01:00 Em wrote:

Nigel,

I’m glad I didn’t read this before Saturday nights performance because frankly, I found it to be rude and upsetting.

I’m sorry that you didn’t understand what we did. Many listeners commented on how wonderful the choir were. Many asked to join the choir and will be coming to our rehearsal next week. The atmosphere during the tea break was one of laughter, smiling faces and happiness, not one of an audience who didn’t understand a word, or who found the song choices ‘samey’.  

If you sat too far back, you might not have received the best acoustic, as the church is quite echoey, and I would advise that in the future you sit closer to the front; there were some unused seats to the sides. But if this isn’t your kind of thing, I would suggest not coming! 

As a professional choir leader, I am aware of improvements that may or may not need to be made. It is part of my job to adequately reflect on a performance and note areas for improvement in the future. I certainly do not need a bitter audience member to do this for me. 

There really is no need to send such an unkind, thoughtless and inane email after a choir of 65 local people did their absolute best to raise money for charity. I suggest that you are a jealous, negative and unhappy person to feel an email to this regard was warranted. 

I am happy to accept constructive criticism: yours isn’t. You have insulted me and I hope for, but don’t expect, an apology. The choir sang a beautifully varied programme with clarity and diction and raised a good deal of money for charity in the process.

I won’t wish you best wishes,

Em


On 14 Jul 2013, at 23:15, Nigel wrote:


Ms Peasgood

All I gave you was my honest personal reaction to what I heard.

I have sung in choirs most of my adult life and I’ve entered festivals as a soloist and been torn to shreds. I know all about criticism, and having to go back to square one, and what that can do to one’s ego.

As you say your job is indeed to ‘reflect on a performance and note areas for improvement’, but what conductor doesn’t listen to the paying customer.

I know at least one audience member felt the same as me, and she was at the front.

I’m not sure you gave adequate thought to the overall accoustics - how am I supposed to know where is the right place to sit.

I really did not expect such an explosive reaction to a critical letter that did possess positive observations, ie. ‘vitality and enthusiasm shone through’. I didn’t say it was all bad.

If you’re that sensitive to revues (which I doubt in all honesty) you shouldn’t be in the business.

Nigel Belchly



On 14 July 2013 23:52:03 GMT+01:00 Em wrote:

Dear Nigel,


This is not about sensitivity and critique. What kind of person decides to email an amateur choir, in overly negative manner, after their charity concert? Do you really not understand why you might have caused offence? And then to mention that you are a paying customer as if you have a right to be so rude? Your money went to charity, not to line our pockets. But if you would like a refund, I will kindly give it.


You ought to learn to be more constructive. I might have accepted “I feel the acoustic might have been a little too bright as I couldn’t hear very well” but your overly exaggerated email, where not only did you criticise
all participants by saying you could hear ‘one word’ (not ‘one word’? Really? Come on!), you also suggested that the material: a dynamic blend of upbeat, ballad, soul, pop, latin, original material and a theme song was ‘samey’ and that the whole thing was too quick.  

I have and do adjudicate music festivals and grade exams and diplomas and have never ‘ripped a solo singer or choir to shreds’. That would be highly unprofessional and I am surprised that you have experienced this of other examiners. Balance is key, along with constructive suggestions for improvement. Applaud people’s efforts where they are due and offer constructive criticism when it is invited (such as in an ‘examined’ capacity).


To be honest, I wouldn’t normally reply to an email like this, but your manner got my goat because a) we have received a large amount of positive feedback by email and verbally which placed your email as a bit of an odd-ball and b) your email seemed wholly unnecessary and c) if your friend in the front row had struggled to understand, perhaps he / she should have turned their hearing aid on for a choir of 65, with amplification, could definitely be heard on the very front row.


MD’s tend to take customers views with a pinch of salt, as they are largely uninformed (as I now feel is the case with yourself). We did not ask you for a review of our concert and you are certainly not qualified to provide one so please take your negativity elsewhere.


Emily


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December 13th, 2012

Upbeat About The Internet


This month I wrote a feature piece for the British Flute Society’s ‘FLUTE’ magazine where I discussed using the internet and social media to promote your music online. It featured quotes from interviews with flute players Alexis Del Palazzo, Anthony Kershaw, Kyle D Owen, Meerenai Shim, Niall O’ Riordan and Tammy Evans Yonce. Here is a reader friendly version, as my previously posted image of the article is small. 


UPBEAT ABOUT THE INTERNET, by Em Peasgood



In the 80s and 90s, my musical career started as many others did: with ability, private tuition, music college, postgraduate study and hours of daily practice. I met other musicians, joined a diary service, formed alliances, played in bands, joined an opera company, left an opera company, signed up with an agent: the list goes on but my point is this: my experiences enabled me to network face to face and integrate with a peer group of like-minded musicians who I would work with throughout my musical life; musicians who might recommend me to others, or book me for work. A verbal, face-to-face network involving jam sessions, hand-shakes and the building of relationships, one on one. 

Before the Internet, music was shared by word of mouth. Now, for the first time ever, humanity has a central nervous system through which information is shared globally. The majority of the population have broadband internet access and virtually everyone has a mobile phone.  Most of us use Facebook or some form of social media to communicate and keep up to date with our friends and family. And if we like something, we don’t wait to tell our friends in person, instead, we choose to tell the world about it by clicking “like” on Facebook, writing a review on Amazon, or rating a product with five stars on one of many review websites. Word of mouth has essentially gone online. 

In a short space of time, the music industry has changed drastically, especially since the introduction of online digital music distribution. Since 2000, sales of recorded music have dropped significantly, and the world’s biggest recorded music retailer is now Apple iTunes, a digital download store. It has made us, as musicians, reassess how we reach our audience and what being a musician is all about. And we need to embrace this change, especially for those of us with a background in traditional and classical music. Flute player and composer Kyle D. Owen says: “My journey within the music world has been rather traditional, but I realised many years ago that having an online presence is essential”.

As a musician in the noughties, I still attend jam sessions and meet musicians face to face, and I still work within my peer group of like-minded musicians. But I now also use the Internet in ways I could not have comprehended in the 90s. At least half of the musicians I now work with were introduced to me on Facebook. Nearly all of my performance bookings come from my website alone, from people willing to book my services as a musician, without having seen me perform. My YouTube videos allow clients to get a feel for who I really am and how well I perform live, without their needing to travel to a performance. Potential music students find me from a Google search, or on one of the free teaching websites on which I advertise. My blog posts lead musicians to my websites too, a pied piper, drawing my audience to me. And my audience share my blog articles and music with their friends and family, expanding my network further.

Flute player and author Anthony Kershaw says, “If you have a quality product and have no online presence you are almost invisible”, and I agree. I rely heavily on the online world, and marketing and promoting myself online has become normal for myself and many other musicians. Without it, I feel I would perish as a musician.

The Internet contains a wealth of information, resources, and opportunities for musicians, and in order to reach our potential audience our duties far exceed practice and performance alone. We need to learn to navigate this unlimited and free resource. Through the Internet, every voice can now be heard, but in the sea of voices, how can a musician stand our amongst many? 

SOCIAL NETWORKING

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Picture this: you post a photograph of your kitten on a social network site. Within ten minutes, five people have commented on it. One of them is a family member, and the rest? You do not know who they are, but they are vaguely familiar. These people are listed as your ‘friends’, but are they?

This is the scenario that causes people to avoid social networking sites like Facebook, especially for professional purposes. Isn’t it a bit impersonal and strange? Well yes, I suppose it it. But sites like Facebook do offer an easy way to meet people, which is why I love them. Do you really want to get deep down and personal when networking with potential collaborators or clients? No. Personally, I keep one Facebook account for people I really know, and one for networking and acquaintances. When it comes to social networking, I’m a bit of an old hand and know my way around. For a newcomer, it can be daunting but is worth persevering with. Social networking sites come and go and there are many options available, some more successful than others, some more suitable for musicians than others, and all with varying degrees of commitment. 

FACEBOOK

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Launched in 2004, Facebook is the most popular social networking site and the easiest to join and use. General users can create a large personal profile, write updates, upload photos and videos and ‘like’ various activities, books, and music. Musicians can create fan pages, join peer groups for networking, and, for a fee, advertise their fan pages to targeted Facebook users. 


The possibilities of Facebook are endless: you can tailor your profile to your specific needs, choosing what to share about yourself and your personality. The danger with this level of freedom is that many people are tempted to (and do) over-share intimate details of their life. You really can tell a lot about a person from what they write on Facebook and I would advise any newcomer to choose what level of professionalism they would like to maintain prior to joining, and, to avoid uploading those drunken photos from nights on the town. For musicians who use fan pages, engaging with fans is the key, as is providing quality content. “The trick is always to promote quality content. Consistent self-promotion is a sure way to lose a social media audience”, says Anthony Kershaw. 

TWITTER
 

"I was initially reluctant to join twitter because I didn’t see what the benefits would be, but I have really enjoyed it and the relationships I have built with other musicians. There is a lot of positive energy that comes from those interactions that has led to various projects. I love that I have been able to meet so many musicians from different places. It’s a great way to keep up with what the current issues and trends are in music and to have a group of people to bounce ideas off". Tammy Evans Yonce, flute player.


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Developed in 2006, Twitter is similar to Facebook but scaled down. With the capacity for only a basic profile, Twitter allows users to post small updates, or microblogs. And because the onus is on what you say, rather than what your profile says, Twitter can be hard work to get going with. But once you are settled, it provides a great forum for discussion and debate, and many musicians find Twitter to be a most successful marketing tool. 

"I prefer Twitter to Facebook and I have ‘met’ many people via Twitter from all over the world. The percussionist who is recording a piece with me on my next record was introduced to me by a Twitter friend. My next record will have two pieces written by composers I met on Twitter: Daniel Felstead and Jay Batzner. Twitter takes a couple of months of effort before it becomes fun and useful. But once you get started, it’s more helpful than any other site". Meerenai Shim, flute player.

LINKEDIN


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Developed in 2003, LinkedIn is a no-nonsense network for professionals only. With less emphasis on personality, it focuses on what you have achieved professionally and allows targeted networking within a circle of like-minded peers. I find joining peer groups especially useful for keeping up to date with trends and issues within my music community. 


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YouTube is a site where users can upload, share and view videos, and it has become popular in the music community. Many wannabe pop idols use the site and some, such as Justin Bieber, have even settled major record deals through this forum. But YouTube isn’t for the wannabe pop star. Composer Eric Whitacre uses this forum for his virtual choir, a choir consisting of submitted home-videos from 2000 voices in 58 countries worldwide. More recently, Greg Patillo, a beat-boxing flute player from Seattle, has been showcasing his skills in YouTube, receiving more than 74 millions views. Nina Perlove, the self-styled ‘Internet Flautist’, has her own channel on YouTube to which she uploads teaching and performance videos. Currently she has over 11,000 subscribers and almost five million views of her work. 

WEBSITES AND BLOGGING

At the start of my career, the concept of having a personal website was a novelty. Now, my website has become hugely important to me and I advise any musician never to underestimate the value of having one. Websites provide an instant online presence. Not only does my website tell the world who I am and what I do, it informs people of where I’m performance and what my current projects are. Through it, I receive email requests for tuition, commissions, and bookings. My website also allows me to seek a new audience; many find me from an Internet search for something else, and as a result my client and fan-base increases. 

Although it is tempting to ask for all the bells and whistles when designing your website, it is best to keep things simple: you can always expand later. With a basic website, you can at least attract private students, a mainstay of musicianship. 

Things to include of primary important when planning or redesigning your website are: 

  • good quality sound recordings
  • basic contact information
  • photograph
  • brief biography (readers want to read a little about who you are, not your entire life story)
  • calendar of performance dates. 

And keep your website up to date with just ten minutes of weekly maintenance. 

One way to draw traffic and potential clients to your website is to think of it as a resource for people. Keeping a blog or posting performance tips will keep people coming and, over time, will build an audience for your music.  

"Through the Internet, you really do have a worldwide audience at your doorstep. Therefore, everybody should have a website. There is no excuse not to and there are loads of ‘create your own website’ companies that are very affordable. Think of your website as a shop window". Niall O’Riordan, flute player and BFS Council member.

Regularly updating your blog with strong content is another key to achieving success. I regularly post blogs on my wedding band website, advising brides and grooms on how to book a wedding band. It requires one hour a week of maintenance and potential clients find my wedding band through my blog posts. Niall O’Riordan regularly posts performance tips and daily exercises on his website, and flute player Alexis Del Palazzo writes The Sensible Flutist blog, where she discusses classical music and common issues that musicians face. She says, “Writing my blog The Sensible Flutist led me to begin using Twitter as a platform to establish myself and get readership. This is turn led me to other musician bloggers who are pondering the same issues within classical music and this helped me discover my voice and solidify my identity”. 

In summary, the Internet is presenting us with a world that is becoming ever smaller. It is the central nervous system through which information is shared and it allows us to communicate freely with whoever we like, so that we are no longer limited by location and peer group. As the Internet grows, so do its users, interacting in a mutual exchange. This is why, for a musician, having an online presence is more important than ever.

Through social networking, blogs, and websites, we can develop a rapport with people we would not have otherwise met. And we can do so in a laid-back manner, without the time constraint of a face-to-face meeting, allowing relationships to develop over time. Social media will never replace good old-fashioned one-on-one communications - I, for one, will not pass on work to a musician I have not worked with before - but, social media does go hand in hand with, and is a vital part of, being a musician. Things are changing. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are here to stay. And they will eventually evolve into something new. 

As Niall O’Riordan says, “I think in this day and age it is very important to keep up with the times. We are living in a time were anybody can have instant access to your music. This has never happened before and I believe we are only at the beginning of a significant change in the music industry. In many ways the power is given back to the people because through social media everybody has a voice which can be heard”. 

Musicians need to be Internet-savvy to stand out. If you don’t have an online presence you can start simply by creating a Facebook page and a basic website. As you find your feet, you might like to add Twitter to the equation and take advantage of other tools available to you. Incorporating and even scheduling social networking into your daily life pays dividends: ten minutes a day for social networking and one hour a week for blogging. Social media has never been more convenient; most sites have applications you can install for free on your mobile phone. In my opinion, all musicians should embrace social media and the internet as a tool for furthering their musicianship. 

"We have to push the boundaries of social expectation, and that often means communication in new venues and building unexpected partnerships. We can only help each other if we are open to new ideas and partnerships. Social media, as well as new forms of communication, allow us to share those ideas, and express ourselves. We, as artists, are often leading the way because we are diving into these worlds first so that we can use them as tools to share our work. You have to be where the people are, and you can only do that if you are there yourself". Kyle D. Owen.

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Thanks to the flautists who contributed to this article:

Alexis Del Palazzo: www.sensibleflutist.blogspot.co.uk

Anthony Kershaw, Canadian flautist and publisher of Audiophilia: www.audiophilia.com

Kyle D. Owen: www.kyleowen.com

Meerenai Shim: www.meerenai.com

Niall O’Riordan: www.niallflute.com

Tammy Evans Yonce: www.tammyevansyonce.com

Read more from Em Peasgood at: www.publicemilie.com 

Page 1 of 2 for my piece in the British Flute Society ’FLUTE’ Journal, edited by Elisabeth Hobbs. You can view page 2 HERE.
This piece discusses benefits musicians can gain from using the internet and social media to promote their music and features quotes from interviews with flute players Alexis Del Palazzo, Anthony Kershaw, Kyle D Owen, Meerenai Shim, Niall O’Riordan and Tammy Evans Yonce. 
www.publicemilie.com

Page 1 of 2 for my piece in the British Flute Society ’FLUTE’ Journal, edited by Elisabeth Hobbs. You can view page 2 HERE.

This piece discusses benefits musicians can gain from using the internet and social media to promote their music and features quotes from interviews with flute players Alexis Del PalazzoAnthony KershawKyle D OwenMeerenai ShimNiall O’Riordan and Tammy Evans Yonce

www.publicemilie.com