If you’ve known me personally for a while (and have a good memory!), you might recall that my current working arrangement is a six-month trial as regards my desk job, which I’m currently doing for the equivalent of two days a week. That six months expires at the end of February (so, in a fortnight), and it’s therefore been necessary to start thinking, planning and agreeing (or compromising) with my employers as to what happens next. There’s an element of forecasting in that, as well as decision-making about the future; but inevitably it’s based on a lot of reviewing of the last six months as well.
So how far have I come? Well, I have some pretty decent promo material in place, I’ve met a lot of people and made some potentially useful connections. I’m playing in a new band that is regularly making a noticeable profit on gigs, though probably still barely offsetting rehearsal room hire and my travel costs. I’m doing at least notionally paid music jobs probably an average of about once a week, though some of them barely cover expenses and some don’t even manage that. (Note to self: be very financially cautious about profit-share arrangements in future.) And, perhaps somewhat to my surprise, I’m finding myself musically competent to all of this; the lack of conservatoire training can certainly be a CV hindrance but doesn’t, at the level and in the situations I’ve so far worked, actually seem to leave me musically inadequate to the jobs.
And, on the other side, I’m happier than I think I ever was working full time in publishing; despite all the late nights, irregular hours, long bus and train journeys, uncertainty and pressure, it’s working a lot better than a 9 to 5 desk grind at copy editing and proofreading. And my desk work hasn’t gone completely off the rails; there have been strains and I don’t think all of my colleagues are that keen but it’s never all gone totally to pot.
So where next? Well, it would be highly unprofessional of me to disclose much about a process in work that is only under way at present anyway (just as it would be to let on here who I actually work for). But it looks like this is going to be a honeymoon phase, and the next step will involve having to increase my desk hours somewhat in order to keep my job in any recognisable form. That will be tougher, but shouldn’t be the end of the world (depending to some extent on what eventual figure comes out for my new working hours); at least it will mean a bit more cash I don’t have to earn from the whims of a freelance market.
The direction of the music work is mostly far more imponderable. For the bands, or at least The Filthy Spectacula and hopefully the String Project, it is largely a question of ‘onwards and upwards’ – most obviously in the former case, where the amount of both prominence and cash we can command is perceptibly rising. But both are starting from loss-making baselines, and The Filthy Spectacula didn’t exist 6 months ago. There would be a lot of progress before either paid for many bills.
As for the one-off performances – mostly, but not exclusively, classical, orchestral and viola – they have got more frequent, but as they are almost all produced by me answering ads and I have yet to work for the same client twice, it is difficult to talk convincingly about trends. Regrettably, the increase in number of jobs has recently been largely produced by poorly paid ones – the highly valuable £100-£120 for one day’s work remain about one a month, well worth having but about a third what I would like. It then remains an article of faith in a much longer building-up period than six months for my new sole trader enterprise that the gigs will get better paid or the higher-paid ones more frequent, whichever way you look at it. But a necessary one, otherwise the books will never balance.
So there you have some shape of it: forward and past, notes and suggestions. Less of a brave new world now perhaps; more of an environment starting to be known and responded to, with its own potentials and problems, and limits to both. Less exciting? Maybe; but more tangible too. And the goal was and is tangible (or at least tradeable) benefits, not just excitement.