Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Singer Website Media

This article first appeared at auditionoracle.com 

These days, to market yourself successfully as a singer you need a website. More than the pin-board (or what have you) on which to advertise, you need things to pin up. Here are some ideas for what you might try to put up on your website (or the social media sites that you use to connect with people). Some may seem very familiar but you may surprise yourself by what you can have missed.

 1. Words.

(See? We told you it would seem obvious.)

There are a number of ways in which you need to attend to what you write about yourself and your work though. Just like a CV there are different things to cover: introducing yourself; listing what you have done; talking about your capabilities, interests and availability. Perhaps you might want to write a news feed or a blog - just like the column on which you are reading this post. This may demonstrate the way in which you think professionally, or even show that you bring more to (say) an opera role than your vocal technique.

All the time remember that your writing style, not to mention accuracy - spelling, grammar, correct spelling of names and use of diacriticals (accents) - give an indication of your attention to detail. Or simply just how much you care. Make sure reviews & quotes are accurate and properly attributed. Wherever possible link to the original online piece from which a quote is taken.

2. Pictures.

Two things. Firstly, a good, clear, high resolution headshot is important as a focus point for advertising and also for programmes if you are employed as a soloist. Make sure your headshot is reasonably current (e.g. don't use a picture with a beard if you've shaved that off) and that it reflects who you are. Try not to make it fussy - it will become either distracting or may be inappropriate for some gigs.

Secondly: do try and get/find pictures of you doing what you do. Perhaps a friend has taken a picture of you at a curtain call. Or even in action. Have a look online - perhaps someone in the audience has taken a snap of you and shared it ("i went to this awsum concert check out the amazing singer lol" [+ image]) is not as rare as you'd think. (For example, here's a flickr account for an opera-goer who loves taking photos of curtain calls - and many high-profile artists are grateful in return)

3. Audio. You can spend as much money as you like on lovely studio headshots (hey, you're worth it) but remember, the audience come to hear you sing - and more importantly, those who might employ you are principally interested in how you sound. These days its fairly straightforward to buy a voice recorder and set it up discreetly at the back of a performing space. Still, you might want to get a professional recording done. Whether it's in a studio or in a performance space, make sure the acoustic is fairly clear.

We were at a singers' forum in 2012 where an agent despaired at websites with galleries with dozens of photos but not a single audio clip to listen to. Don't neglect this.

4. Video.  Video is ubiquitous nowadays. Good video camcorders can cost less than a voice recorder. Even HD video can be recorded on a smartphone and (roughly) edited on an app. The audio feed on smartphones and video cameras tends to be less good but the opportunity for a client or an audience to see you doing what you do is valuable.   Tips
  • Read what you write about yourself out loud. Get someone else to read it for you. Try not to use contractions or acronyms without writing them in full once, first (eg. "... worked at Welsh National Opera (WNO). Also for WNO...)
  • Check your links. Just as you keep your CV up-to-date make sure that links have not become obsolete over time.
  • Permissions. Credit third parties who take photos or record audio or video for you. Always make sure that the pianist/orchestra/conductor with whom you are working is alright with you recording something for personal promotion before you even set up the devices.
  • Don't use rubbish media (poor quality recording or you singing flat) simply as it's all you have.
  • It's difficult unprofessional to selfie (yes, I'm using that as a verb!) at work. If you've got a supportive friend who wants to hear you, get them a comp and ask them to press 'record' before you perform or take a photo afterwards.
People continue to be protective of being recorded. However, as it is almost impossible to control the capturing of audio-visual media as almost everyone has a means to do so, it is best to embrace the situation. Organising media for your website is mostly about taking the initiative about how you are perceived: it's difficult to contradict someone saying that you're known for, say, being a baritone in a bear suit if that's the only picture of you available online, which someone else took and distributed, tagged with your name. If you've got context for that photo on your own site, as well as other more conventional pictures or videos then the public will be able to see how mono-dimensional unique images or recordings are - and come to your site first in future. Making media is essential to selling yourself as a singer - and in this glass-half-full world of possibility for doing it you should think about it as part of your professional preparation.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Malevich, Tate Modern

This is a classic retrospective for Tate Modern to stage, a show that gives us the work of a proper, if curiously peripheral giant of Modernism. I knew about the Suprematist Black Square (1913/15 but a 1923 version in this exhibition)... and that was about it. One double-takes in the opening room which is full of what appear to be works of contemporaries or stylistic exercises but are in fact all Malevich's work in the first decade of the twentieth century: a Matisse-like figure lumbers across one canvas and Fauvist individuals squat in another; cathedrals are buried in the thick, misty impasto of what might be a Monet cathedral contrasting with a glowering Viennese Secessione landscape.

Then there's an explosion of cubism, impressive canvases that flirt with Futurism and Vorticism. Figures that might have been by Fernand Leger become costume designs for an opera (Victory Over The Sun) about harnessing the elemental power of the solar system itself. Here is a artist of considerable ability and ambition.

This is what makes the final two rooms of the exhibition so crushingly sad, two spaces in which energy and drive, prospecting an aesthetic of the future, is stopped in its tracks and wiped away. All the abstraction of the central rooms (regular visitors to Tate Modern must surely, as I do, have a associated reaction to simply being in room 7 at the centre of major retrospectives now!) is pulled back to producing figurative art that would fulfill the political reach of a totalitarian state. Three figures remain in the final room with an odd, existentially void black backdrop, the visual equivalent of a middle-period Shostakovich symphony. The late self-portrait (1933) is a travesty, a parody of a 17th century work, pre-war postmodernism.