One question that many of my friends regularly ask me is, “Yes, but what do you actually do?”.
The life of a musician is a slightly odd existence to many (including my better half, who doesn’t really know what I get up to, even when we are currently spending months together in lockdown during the Covid-19 crisis!!). I thought that I would take this opportunity to tell you a little more about my day-to-day life and the sorts of things that go on behind the scenes, which enables me to appear – as if by magic – on your wedding day and play you down the aisle.
Practise Makes Perfect
Yup. After all these years of playing, I still have to practise. Lots of people seem to believe that it just stays in the fingers. But ultimately, my fingers are like Wayne Rooney’s legs – they need to keep in shape (hmmmm!!) and therefore need to train every day. To be able to arrive and play for several hours, bluntly take hours of prep. I usually set aside one full working day per gig of practise time, just to make sure that my fingers are ready and raring to go. Some days I practise more, some less. Partly it depends what state my fingers are in, but it all adds up and is absolutely necessary to ensure that I’m always ready to play. And that’s without…
Included in all of my fees are the ability to have music arranged by me specially for your event. This can take hours, to find some suitable sheet music, work out how I can make it work on the harp and finally learn the notes. Each new piece that you would like takes the same, time-consuming process. But it makes it special. That’s why I do it. For every new request I have (or any new Ed Sheeran song which I imagine will be a wedding hit!) I spend about a day creating a version that I’m happy with.
Telling the World I’m Here
Advertising. Every small business’ Achilles’s heel. We all hate it. But we all need to do it or we would have no customers. For me, this includes time posting on social media, creating and maintaining a website, writing advertisements for industry-related magazines and improving my search engine rankings. It also includes attending wedding fairs, which take up about two days for each fair, once I’ve got all the printed material sorted, arranged a set-list to play and got everything ready. All of this roughly works out to be an hour a day, just spent staring at my computer… one of my most hated activities!
Looking after the Babies
The Babies (Baby and Baby Baby), are the affectionate and somewhat ironic names of my two 6-foot tall concert harps. These beauties are my life. Without them, I just can’t do my job. Sadly, harps do not appear in your life as if by magic. Concert harps are some of the most expensive instruments money can buy, and coupled with their relative rarity, means that many harpists have to invest in two of the beasts, just in case something happens to one as ‘courtesy harps’ just don’t come with the insurance policy…! Each of them requires an annual service (honestly!), fully comprehensive insurance and new strings (especially when the weather becomes suddenly much hotter / colder / wetter / drier, which is errr… all the time!!) along with much tender, loving care to keep them in good shape. Imagine the time and costs associated with buying and running your family car, multiply it by two, and you’ve just about got it. This of course has to be added up and averaged out per booking, just to make sure that everything makes sense financially.
Maintaining the Transport
Okay, so it’s just a Ford Mondeo, but I still need it to get me to each and every gig. Without the Tank (I seem to have a lot of names for inanimate objects in my life), I can’t go anywhere, so making sure it’s in tip-top shape is part of the day-job. I just can’t risk it not working… and so I guard my AA membership card with my life!
Paying the Mortgage
Yes, I know, we all do that. However, to enable me to house the Babies, plus practise and teach I have to have a Music Room. Sounds grand… but really it’s just my office. This space, however is a crucial part of my life and enables me to work (as anyone who claims ‘use of home as office’ from the delightful HMRC would understand). Any house move that we make, we have to budget for me to have a downstairs space, with flat access to the front door and an off-road carparking space. Easy? Well. Let’s just say, estate agents don’t always know what a harp is…!
Talking to You!
Each and every client who I am lucky enough to receive an enquiry from, I obviously need to reply to. Sometimes that by phone, sometimes email. Sometimes it’s Facebook or Instagram. Each enquiry takes time to read, process and respond to, along with all of the follow up communication to ensure that everything is just right for your booking. And that’s if I am lucky enough to become your harpist. Sometimes, it doesn’t work out and a booking isn’t made. But it’s still time that needs to be accounted for and takes about another hour a day. If you imagine that each message that you send me takes ten minutes to read and reply, plus creating booking forms, music lists, etc, then multiple that up to the number of emails that each booking rightly needs, that’s quite a lot of time sitting at the laptop dealing with paperwork!
I am one of the luckiest people in the world. I play music at weddings, I mean, it’s not exactly a miserable existence! But it is my job. A job I love. But still a job and so it has to make financial sense. If not, I might as well do something that doesn’t take me away from every family and social event for nine months of the year. I’ve been married myself (a long time ago, and in fact would have been married for a second time had the Covid Crisis not happened!) and appreciate that sometimes it’s easy to forget that all of your suppliers are not there just to make your special day perfect. Of course, that’s what makes us tick. But the bottom line is that we are all at work. Yes, wonderful work. But it’s still what puts food on the table for all of us. Hopefully this little post will give you a little insight into some of the logistics of what working in the wedding industry means and how we all exist to make it all perfect for your special day.