I missed a gig last Friday and just spent an hour crying under my piano.

being a 24 year old free-lance musician is tough. At any age I’m sure it’s difficult, but especially when you’re just starting out and expecting the world.

It’s tough, it’s lonely, it’s boring and you get very complacent and angry. But you can’t really do any other job, anything else would seem like a waste of your talents, but more importantly, your time.

I have nothing happening next month.

During the lusty month of May I have no bookings… and it’s May.. and I’m a harpist, and it’s wedding season. I know that when we get into May I will get bookings and work will come (it’s the same as every month) but I’ve been doing this dance for almost 4 years now and I’m still not used to it.

Back when I was first starting out it was fine, I was playing it by ear, I had just let uni and busking on the street seemed way better than getting a minimum wage job in a coffee shop somewhere. It still is, and I would hate to have to do any kind of non-musical job, I don’t think I would survive. When I first left uni I got my residency, I had a little bit of stability and at the very least, I had work every weekend. Now I’m lucky if I have a Saturday gig. Sure, even when I don’t have a gig I only have to busk 3 days to meet my targets, but it’s the infrequency and the insecurity that I wish someone had told me about when I was starting out.

The one thing I wish someone had said to me was:

‘You will have to pay your rent with money you don’t yet have’

You don’t have that money yet. It’s not like an office job where you’ll get X amount of money every month, you will struggle and you will do really well and that’s fine! That’s the job! I just wish someone had said, ‘At some point you will panic about everything and just need to lay down on the floor on your office just because you feel too overwhelmed with your chosen career path’. I hope that if you are a young musician starting out and looking for tips you realise this is reality. unless you luck into a great gig or regular work, your life will be this.

I missed a gig.

I only realised it today, but last Friday I missed playing an event. or did I? I could argue that firstly, they only sent 2 emails, one of which was enquiring, the follow up telling me about a change of venue. And secondly, that they never actually confirmed payment, or even sent a ‘Great see you there’ email to reply.

So, it was a retirement event for a lecturer at Cardiff met uni, held at Cardiff university. Now, usually with booking through a university or a college, they take an invoice so they can pay me. This woman didn’t do that, or confirm that the quote I sent her was what she was willing to pay.

So the initial email was sent on the 6th, to which I replied to that day. She then replied on the 11th to tell me the date change. It was clear and there was a question in it, to confirm that times. I then replied but for some reason I didn’t put it in the diary… and so I didn’t remember it was happening and I didn’t do it!

This is the first time that this has ever happened… and I just panicked. What if I’ve done this with other events and not realised? what if I’ve missed loads of events that I’ve just completely forgotten about?!?! This is my constant waking nightmare that I have to live with. I already have horrible anxiety when driving to events, ‘What if I’ve got the wrong venue/date/time/my car runs out of gas/my tyres burst and I’m late and I don’t get paid and I have to refund these people and they write a bad yelp review and I never work again?!?!?!?!’ So, naturally this sent me well over the edge when I realised that I’d completely missed this without so much of a thought. And therefore, I did what any rational adult would do and got underneath my upright piano, got in the fetal position and started crying about how writing things in my dairy and going to gigs is literally most of what my job is and how if I’ve managed to fail at this then I’ve obviously failed at my job and should give up and get a boring office job with the same repetitive hours so I couldn’t screw that up.

No, it’s fine. You’re ok. One of the main reasons I completely forgot about this event is because I had a wedding on Sunday with a little bit of a nervous bride who phoned me practically every three days before the wedding. So I naturally must have been distracted from checking this email, maybe calling her office and confirming the booking.

4 emails is usually what it takes to confirm a booking, at the very minimum. If it’s someone I’ve worked for before then it’s only 2 ‘Can you do this date, time?’ ‘Yes, I’ll see you there’, that’s when I’ve worked at the venue and there isn’t any issue with the system of payment. So, there is a number of reasons why I missed this one. We’re human, we make mistakes, the point is not to beat yourself up about it, take a deep breath and try to make sure that you do better in the future. and exhale.

 

Next month, ‘You have to make your own work’

 

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New Harp, Who Dis?

Written on 22nd April 2017.DSC_0014.JPG

I know this is long over due, but I got a new harp! and I LOVE IT!!!!

So today’s blog is about my brand new pedal harp, why I upgraded, and all my harp plans for the future! So, here we go!

My new harp is an Aoyama Orpheus 46, we got it second hand from Pilgrim harps, my parents gave me the money and I have to pay them back. I was going to get a loan for a pedal harp but my parents were willing to lend me the money so that was wonderful and meant I could get an instrument that was really great! I will be forever grateful for this!

Why I upgraded.

A couple of months ago I went to the Camac harp weekend here in Cardiff, It was wonderful and I played every single harp they had on display!

and as I worked my way round I got to the pedal harps and I just loved it! playing their pedal harps it was the sound that I always imagine my korrigan sounds like. When I was at the Hilton I used to pretend that it was a big concert grand… even though it doesn’t sounds like anywhere near to an actual concert grand.

So, I was playing all these gorgeous pedal harps and I went to all these workshops with all these other harpists with big real harps and I just felt like ‘I could do that…. but better!’. And honestly, humblebrag, but 2 weeks in and I kinda am…. so humble! I know!

So we started looking for pedal harps more seriously, I had been looking at pedal harps for about 4 years at this point. So I knew the market and what I was looking for etc. We tried a little Salvi Daphne 40 that had a great sound but the owner thought he had something far more valuable than what he actually had. I saw a great Erard on the Pilgrims website. (Brief plug, if you’re looking for a great second hand harp I would always look at their website! It’s great! Their website!)

So we went to look at a Dodd and an Erard their and they also had this Aoyama. We got to look around the workshop, which was great. And play their very expensive harps! I started playing the Dodd and the Erard and they weren’t what I was looking for. As someone who plays a lot of Jazz and needs some Pedals that will really take a beating over the years, these older harps weren’t going to be up to scratch. So, I played the Aoyama, it was perfect. A little big for me, which was something I considered when buying a harp I will be gigging with. But it’s still pretty portable and should be wonderful when I finally get it out and about!

We then spent about 4 hours in traffic trying to get home!

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Today's tip: new harp who dis?

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And of course I had a play when I got home! (I didn’t bring my trolley so we dragged it up to the patio at my parents house so I could have a play!)

The Gag. It didn’t fit my car…. so I’m swapping cars with my parents so that I can actually take my harp places. My mother is really worried about me getting my harp into a car singlehandedly. So here is a video of an older shorter harpist getting her harp into a car.

I’ll be fine! (She had to get it over that curb!)

Might make one of these though! Looks practical!

Anyway, The FUTURE!

 

What’s Harpening Next?

So, I’m transitioning all my material to my pedal harp… which in reality took less than a week… guys… not wanting to brag… buuuutt. I’m amazing at pedal harp!

This was day one. (DAY ONE! let that sink in) #Prodigy

And this is 11 days later….

Guys! I’m amazing!!!! I just gotta wait until I have a car that’ll let me take it places and you better watch out!!!

Back to the point.

So, apart from being insanely good at it, one of the main reasons I upgraded was for that sweet sweet pedal harp money. Because if you have an expensive, 6foot instrument that sounds as good as it looks, then you can charge accordingly. And I will.

The other reason is the rep I can now do! I CAN DO KEY CHANGES! There is literally nothing stopping now… except that I can’t take it anywhere yet… but that will soon change! So look out other harpists, I’m coming to snatch your giiiigs!

 

They don’t have gifs for harpists snatching gigs….. so… sorry…

Anyway, the plan is to keep my Korrigan for smaller weddings and for people who want that traditional look. Also, for venues that don’t have step-free access. (Looking at you Angel Hotel Cardiff… full side eye to your crazy car park access… get it together! I did yell at them last time… I will do a full post about step-free access)

Anyway, so this wonderful new harp will be my trusty harp for the foreseeable future, or 15-20 years until I buy something new that will suit exactly what I’m doing at the time. If I’m selling out festivals and concert halls and still playing on my Aoyama, then I might buy something more impressive. If I’m still playing gigs and weddings then I might get something super portable, smaller and even more light weight.

Lever Dreams

So, I’m still going to be playing lever harp every week as I still have to busk, because I gotta pay for this big harp somehow! (seriously, I have to pay my parents back for the big harp)

I have been toying with the idea of getting a DHC for busking and concerts that an electric harp would work wonders at. I think a DHC would be a wonderful addition and would work so well with my repertoire. However, I don’t think it would actually recoup it’s investment. The Pedal harp will pay for itself in three years. my Busking harp paid for itself within the first two months. The Korrigan within the first three months. I don’t think the DHC would make it’s £5,000 price tag back within the first three to five years. Which is the general time scale I set for harps.

So that’s it!