The biz's brightest new talents tell their stories. This week it's the turn of Warner Records digital marketing manager, Luna Cohen-Solal.
How did you get your job at Warner?
“Someone from HR got in touch with me via LinkedIn! I came ...
How are the nation’s orchestras coping with the global shutdown caused by the coronavirus? Mark Pemberton, director of the Association Of British Orchestras (ABO), explains why classical musicians and organisations need more support if they’re going to be able to survive the Covid-19 crisis…
There’s no easy way of saying this: the Covid-19 emergency has placed the UK’s orchestras in a critical position.
Unlike orchestras in continental Europe and other parts of the world, which receive significantly higher levels of public subsidy, British orchestras are heavily dependent on earned income from ticket sales, international tours and commercial activity such as recordings, at an average of 50% of turnover. And for the many ABO members that do not receive public funding, the level of earned income is that much higher. With the forced closure of entertainment venues and recording studios, that income has plunged to zero.
It isn’t just in the past few weeks that this has hit the orchestras hard. Tours to Asia, a crucial revenue earner for our members, started to be cancelled back in January, and it has escalated from there, with first international touring, and then concerts in the UK, grinding to a halt. This in turn threatens the financial sustainability of our members, and the livelihoods of the musicians who work for them.
The 65 member orchestras of the ABO have different employment models for their musicians, with some, such as the BBC, regional symphony and the major opera and ballet orchestras being in salaried employment, and the rest, including the London self-governing orchestras and the chamber orchestras, operating on a freelance basis.
There are over 2,000 members of the UK’s orchestras, of which 50% are self-employed, plus 12,000 engagements annually of freelance extras.
While the support programmes announced by the government will help reduce operational costs, enabling those orchestras with salaried musicians to furlough them along with some of their management staff through the Job Retention Scheme, or freelance musicians to benefit from the Self Employment Income Support Scheme, they will not replace the loss of earned income for the orchestra itself, nor deal with the problem of outstanding fees for musicians booked before the shutdown and the fixed costs of premises.
We welcomed the announcement by Arts Council England of its support package for funded and non-funded arts organisations, bringing much-needed money flowing to offset cashflow problems, and it is good to see that the governments and funding agencies in the other home nations are beginning to follow suit.
But while this will help in the short term, it will not solve the long-term damage that will result from a sustained period of cancelled concerts and performances. With the government so far refusing to provide additional money, all the funding agencies have been able to do is implement a smash-and-grab raid on reserves and future revenue from the National Lottery to offset the immediate impact of the emergency.
To help, the ABO is liaising on a daily basis with the Department For Digital, Culture, Media & Sport to flag up our concerns and to push for further support to help the survival of the UK’s orchestral sector. We were delighted that our voice, added to that of many others in the music industry and beyond, helped to secure the support package for the self-employed. We are liaising with HMRC to ensure that our members can maximise Orchestra Tax Relief and with the Treasury on extending further support to charities. And we are in regular communication with the Musicians’ Union and other support organisations to ensure that we have a shared agenda on helping musicians survive the shutdown.
The UK’s orchestras are a success story, building on public investment to maximise revenue from earned and contributed income, and reaching audiences of over four million a year, along with over 700,000 children and adults through their learning and participation programmes. And they are cultural ambassadors for the UK, giving over 200 concerts in 40 countries to showcase the best of British music-making. This crisis puts that success under threat.
It’s the uncertainty that makes this worse. We do not know how long the lockdown measures will last, and when venues can re-open. We are seeing summer festivals and opera seasons close one after the other. In the meantime, the bills pile up.
The ABO and its members are doing what they can to make a grim situation that bit better. Because it is in all our interests to make sure that when things finally return to normal, the music hasn’t stopped.
This month marks 10 years of Jamie Cullum’s Jazz Show on BBC Radio 2. Here, he recalls his early days as an artist, interviewing heroes like Paul Simon, Wynton Marsalis and Van Morrison, plus some of the misconceptions about jazz. Oh, and the time he ended up at Clint Eastwood’s house...
Being on radio was a lot harder than I anticipated…
“I don’t want to sound too casual about it, but I started it as a fun adventure. I certainly never struggled to talk about music in a passionate way, but feeling like being on the radio was natural took a long time. Musicians often think of jumping into radio but, actually, being a broadcaster is a different skill. It’s about drawing people in, particularly if you’re not playing Top 40 bangers. When you’re presenting music that is more on the niche side of things, it’s all about making people want to listen before you press play. I’ve always been a mixtape maker, I’ve always been someone who likes to communicate about music I love. In fact, I remember my PR would beg me to talk more about my music in my early interviews, because I was too busy talking about other people’s!”
I actually prefer being the person asking the questions...
“I remember Michael Parkinson saying to me that it’s all about asking questions that you’re intrigued to know the answers to. For example, everyone warned me about what it would be like to interview Van Morrison. And, actually, I’d been listening through his albums throughout the lead up to interviewing him and his lyrics are so dense with imagery, I just thought, ‘I wonder what he’s reading at the moment?’ I asked him that question and it took him completely off guard, in a good way… I have gone in nervous, but generally the really great people don’t need you to have a PHD in their B-sides, they just need you to be engaged in the music. Paul Simon and Wynton Marsalis were two I felt really nervous about beforehand because I absolutely love their music and know they are real scholars and wordsmiths. Thinking about what they brought to the table made me feel quite intimidated, but I was well-prepared and they appreciated the care I had taken.”
Ten years ago, jazz was perceived as being…
“Totally beard-scratchy and non-inviting. One of the reasons why I never really took to that feeling is because I discovered so much jazz through hip-hop and the culture of record collecting, it always felt more modern. In terms of the stereotype now, I think there’s still a bit of that feeling that it might be a bit beard-scratchy and a bit up itself sometimes, or that there’s no tune or whatever. I think a lot of younger jazz musicians still enjoy joking about The Fast Show Jazz Club sketch, because the fact is it’s just funny, and we’ve all been to a jazz gig that’s a bit like that… [laughs].”
I self-produced my first album for £480 in a village hall…
“Actually, it may have been slightly less than that. Mind you, that’s quite a lot of money by today’s standards. At the time, I was at university, knee-deep in student loan debt, and making my money three or four nights a week by playing piano in jazz, covers and wedding bands. I was living in student accommodation with five or six other people in about the dirtiest house you’ve ever seen. I was really happy to have created something from nothing, and it was a strange experience because we literally just had two to three hours to record it. We just played and barely listened back to it while we made it because we just wanted to get it done. My plan was just to have something extra to sell at gigs, it wasn’t supposed to be a demo tape or try to get a record deal. In the pre-internet era, the idea of being a musician for a living was so abstract because I grew up in the middle of nowhere.”
The most surreal moment of my career was…
“When I wrote the theme for [2008 film] Gran Torino and we recorded it at Clint Eastwood’s house… Sitting next to him and recording it and him loving this music I’d written, that was an amazing thing. He’s a big jazz fan, which is part of the reason I managed to get him on my radio show as well – he used to hang out with Miles Davis! Again, he was another one of those stars where people would say he’s not easy to interview, but he really loves to talk about music.”