Blog

Working with your agent

Audition OracleThu 28 Apr 2016 @ 10:04

Working with your agent 

So, you have done your research and, prior to signing with your agent, you have made sure you are on the same page in terms of casting and career direction. You have provided them with all the information they need to generate your press kit. What next?

The first time you have an agent it is easy to think that all your problems will be solved, your diary will be full and you will never have to keep your ear to the ground for work again. You can go home, start practicing and wait for the phone to ring. For a select few this is a reality, but for the majority working with an agent is not as hands-off as it may sound.

However, with a little effort on both sides, having an agent is still undoubtedly highly beneficial.

 

Signing with an agent

Firstly, the immediate positives:

•     Your agent only gets paid when you do, regardless of how many auditions and castings they arrange. There isn't an agent out there that wants to see their client unemployed, so you both have a vested interest in making this partnership work.

•     An agent acts as an intermediary, which allows you to distance yourself from the  difficult subjects of fees/NA negotiations and employment terms and conditions.

•     Every-time you hand over your 10 – 15% commission on a contract you may have generated independently, think of it as payback for points one & two.

·      By signing you, your agent has imbued you with a certain kudos. Their belief in your abilities will translate directly to the casting world. They have invested time in creating your professional online profile and their faith in you can be infectious.

·      Smaller jobs, often falling below your agency’s commission threshold, may still be of interest to you. If you explain the potential advantages of undertaking such work, your agent may be happy for you to make a direct approach, in turn making you financially more attractive to the smaller companies.


Secondly, maintaining those positive vibes:

·      Keep in touch with your agent. Try to keep communication to office hours and keep emails and phone calls concise. Develop a rapport and a relationship but keep things professional.

·      Keep your ear to the ground. Audition Oracle is a fantastic tool to keep abreast of forthcoming opera audition opportunities. If you hear of potential auditions that you are interested in, let your agent know. Always keep them in the loop.


·      When your agent bags you that audition you have been begging for, make sure you are prepared for it. This may sound obvious but sometimes in the search for auditions, balance can be lost. Always keep your audition arias bubbling nicely on the back burner and be ready for anything!

·      When signing with your agent, you will have agreed on roles and repertoire for which you wish to be considered. However, voices and people change. If you feel you would be better suited for a role other than the one you have been put forward for, always be upfront and discuss it. Any disparity between you and your agents perspective is unnerving for all concerned. Communication is the key.

 

Permalink


When as a singer you find yourself unable to work, what next?


Audition OracleWed 20 Apr 2016 @ 12:15

When as a singer you find yourself unable to work, what next?


Support in times of need

 

This week’s blog post was due to be on an entirely different subject but I have been derailed by a chance meeting with a professional singer in Spain. It turned out she has previously had cancer of the tonsils and then after recovering from that operation has now had a cyst removed from her vocal cords. She is devastated at the idea she may never sing again for, as with so many singers, it is both her livelihood and passion.

What happens when you are studying to be a professional singer or have already been working in the field for years and serious illness stops you and your voice in its tracks? Perhaps you are unable to work for other reasons such as family bereavement, loss of hearing or emotional problems. You can't audition, you can't work, your bills are stacking up and you feel impotent. What next? How will you live and be able to afford specialist treatment when required (as for freelancers sick pay is not on the table) let alone have the time and space to recover and heal?

There is more help out there than you realise and removing the financial stress will help you to allow yourself time to recuperate properly.
 

AVENUES OF FINANCIAL AID AND FREE ADVICE/TREATMENT

Help Musicians UK - helpmusicians.org.uk

Help Musicians UK (formerly the Musicians Benevolent Fund) are an incredible charity. They have a specific Music Student Help Scheme for those studying at recognised institutions and you can check the criteria to apply here helpmusicians.org.uk/emerging-musicians/music-student-health-scheme
 
For those already working, or those retiring, there is also an amazing amount of help available helpmusicians.org.uk/working- retired-musicians

BAPAM – bapam.org.uk

The Brittish Association of the performing arts is fantastic service that offers free, specialist medical advice to help overcome work-related health problems for full and part-time professionals, student performing artists and crew. To book an appointment bapam.org.uk/perf_clinics.html

The Royal Society of Musicians - royalsocietyofmusicians.org

The Royal Society of Musicians have been helping musicians in need since 1978! They have even been known to become aware of a singers plight via other musicians and have sent a cheque through the post out of the blue! royalsocietyofmusicians.org/supporting-musicians-in-need/
 

Know of another source of financial aid?

These are just three examples of the help out there for singers & instrumentalist in need of financial assistance through no fault of their own. Please email [email protected] or comment on this post with further sources and we will update this post.

Permalink


There’s more to life than singing - Jan Capiński

Audition OracleThu 7 Apr 2016 @ 11:47

This week we have a guest blog from the talented young baritone Jan Capiński. Read his refreshing take on how the portfolio career of the modern day opera singer can have a positive affect in and out of the audition and rehearsal room. 

There’s more to life than singing

Here’s something they never told me in college - the chances of you making a living solely as an opera singer are very slim. Sounds ominous, but it’s true - most of the people I know in the business supplement their earnings through other avenues. This applies not only to the ‘struggling young artists’, but also a substantial proportion of established professionals. Teaching, church work, film extras agencies, computer programming, being a real-estate mogul (yes, I’ve actually met 2 of those), temping in offices, dog-walking, you name it - there’s probably a singer that does it. Now to the budding young singer this may seem like a sad state of affairs, but I’m here to tell you that as far as I’m concerned it’s quite the opposite.

 
For one thing, having a second income stream takes a bit of the pressure off your singing ‘career’. And if there’s one thing a singer doesn’t need in their life is to be desperate for the job they’re auditioning for. It just isn’t helpful. So while sitting at a desk may not be your dream, think of it as facilitating that dream. Then there’s the oft-overlooked fact that many of these ‘regular’ jobs mean you get to hang out with people who aren’t singers. I’d say that’s a very healthy thing to do in any circumstance. I love singers, we’re wonderful people (in fact my own ‘other job’ still has me working with singers), but we can be a bit highly strung at times, and the risk you run by only socialising with other singers it that you’ll suddenly wake up with opera as the only thing in your life. That may appeal to some, but I’d argue it’d be dull, stressful, empty, and actually negatively impact your performance.  
 
As artists we draw on experience and observation to create our work. Human stories are our bread and butter. But if you confine yourself to just being an artist, starting at the conservatoire age of 18/19, where are you going to get your stories from? How will they relate to your audience, the people you are trying to communicate with? How long before a solely operatic life leads to you becoming a self-indulgent caricature of a true artist? It’s like the snake eating its own tail, it’s not going anywhere.
 
To be a good singer, performer, artist, you need to live life. And that second job that some would maybe see as failure is actually a door leading into the world of real life and real people, where all the real stories are.
 
 Jan Capinsky White Water Rafting Jan Capinsky Baritone
Far left: Jan white water kayaking. Far right: Jan trains up for those axe wielding baritone roles!
 
But what if you don’t actually need a second income? Well, then I’d argue it’s still a good idea to find something to do with your time that isn’t singing-related. Find a hobby, even if you’re bad at it, because it’ll stretch you as a person. It’ll also help fill some of the dead time that this job inevitably brings. Sir Thomas Allen in his book ‘Foreign parts’ describes how painting keeps him on an even keel. I’ve recently taken up street/backstage photography to keep me busy on tour (and force me to look at the world differently - see? stretching!), on top of some outdoorsy stuff that I do semi-regularly. I have friends in the touring company who enjoy board games (and we play Carcassonne incessantly). Our dressing room regularly sees blokes miming their golf stroke. Look at the singers you admire as performers (not just voices) and I’ll bet behind the costume and character you’ll find well-rounded human beings. Probably nutters in one way or another, sure, but well-rounded nutters with full lives. While this may not be a hobby per se, I have noticed that singers who have kids tend to just naturally up their game a notch, because suddenly singing isn’t the most important thing in their life any more, so they get a new sense of freedom in both their voice and performance.
 
I mentioned being bad at a hobby, and I want to finish with a thought inspired by Paul Carey Jones once upon a time when I was finding singing particularly depressing. We can’t be bad at singing, if we are, we’ve failed. So while singing may be our love, it’s hardly a hobby any more, because the bar is set too high. We’re pro sportspeople, not just a group of friends kicking a ball around for fun. So finding something that we can be bad at (and still enjoy) is something worth treasuring, especially as new hobbies tend to benefit from a very rewarding learning curve - you suck at first, but the basic skills are within reach, so you see rapid progress as you grasp them, allowing you to achieve something tangible. That’s a great feeling to have. To learn a new skill, or complete a task in a job. Those are actual achievements, they feel good. That feeling is especially rewarding if you’re feeling like the singing has stalled a bit in one way or another (which happens to pretty much everyone every now and again). If singing is all you have in life, then your life stalls. If there’s more to life than singing, you can just get on with living. 

Jan Capiński

 
If you have enjoyed this blog and would like to find out more about Jan, please visit his Audition Oracle profile http://auditionoracle.com/singers/?s=539825 or his personal website http://www.capinski.com where you will find the latest information on his performing career. If Jans writings have caught your interest as much as they have ours, please read on at http://singerjournal.blogspot.co.uk

 

Permalink


The motivation behind Audition Oracle

Audition OracleFri 1 Apr 2016 @ 10:38

The motivation behind Audition Oracle

How did Audition Oracle begin?

It is hard to believe that Audition Oracle has now been running for almost three years. When I first started this venture my outlook was bleak. I was heavily in the grip of whooping cough, which proved to do exactly what it said on the tin, make you cough and whoop for 100 days. As a result I had to axe engagements from my diary left, right and centre, not knowing if I would be left with a voice at the end of it. I started to panic even more than usual about how to make ends meet if I were to maintain a career in the world of opera.

Several years ago the idea came to me to start Audition Oracle but a similar successful service already existed in K-AA. When the news came that this was closing, I knew that the time was right to establish a service of my own. However, I didn’t even have enough money in the bank to register a web domain, let alone cover my mortgage. A very special singer-friend had been nagging me to do this for a while (you know who you are!). She took me out for dinner and offered to lend me the money to get started. Although blown away by her offer I thought the best way forward was for her to pay for her first year’s subscription in advance. Her faith in me was inspiring and I immediately went home to start building a basic WordPress website. I then posted this website on Facebook and Twitter, sat back and waited, and chewed my nails. A lot!

Having come into opera via other areas of the performing arts, I had to be creative and think outside the box to find out about work. Without realising it, I had developed a reputation for knowing about auditions before the panel knew they were happening! It turned out this was a very valuable skill. People began signing up at a rate that far exceeded my hopes. Even so the last three years have been a learning curve, and a very enjoyable one. 

      

Far left with the extra chorus girls back stage during The Force of Destiny at ENO and far right as Carmen at the Minack, Cornwall 2015

Why does AO interest me?

Audition Oracle has been a revelation to me on many levels. For one thing, I have always enjoyed helping friends make connections that lead to successful auditions and contracts. Developing a tool that enabled singers to find their own work has been very exciting and motivates me on a daily basis. The business and contacts list have been growing steadily and I have been able to invest in the help of a small team of freelance specialists, my 'AO Elves', to assist with language barriers and lead resourcing.

What next?

Audition Oracle's current website launched over a year ago and was the first website of its kind dedicated to Opera singers. AuditionOracle.com not only provides singers with a work and auditions board where they can search for opportunities, it also offers them a professional online multi-media resume enabling them to display their CVs, images, audio and video clips to the numerous companies and employers that use the site. Many singers have been approached directly via the website inviting them to audition or offering them work. Beyond the 450+ visible singer profiles, there are many more private ones. Not all agents like their singers to appear on other websites so these singers can opt to stay anonymous but still stay in the loop via the work & auditions board and email updates. Companies can reach all registered singers whether their profiles are displayed or not by posting their own opportunities direct www.auditionoracle.com/auditions

There are of course many, many more plans afoot for Audition Oracle and its long-term development. More anon!

Thank you for reading,

Melanie

  Taking a look at the view from The Shard

Melanie Lodge

Director and founder of Audition Oracle

Permalink