Monthly Archives: November 2012

Making a PPL claim

pukingAs a musician, I lack the ‘admin chromosome’.  This means that doing things like accounts, paperwork and form-filling makes me ill.

So doing a PPL claim is not top of the list of fun things to do on a Monday night.  But if you have played on a commercial recording, you should be registered, to receive royalties.  With the help of this video, I’m asking you to feel the fear, grab a bucket, and do it anyway.

PPL (Phonographic Performance Limited) collects royalties on behalf of musicians who have played on recordings that are broadcast on TV and Radio.  It’s not a lot, but if the track is popular then it can build up to a significant sum.

Sometimes, your contribution to a recording is registered with PPL by the record label, more often, you have to do it yourself and the PPL website, in my experience, is not the most user-friendly experience, until you have navigated its quirky features.

This video takes you through the steps of a claim, in a way that I believe works!  If I have made any errors or omissions (as I was vomiting whilst making this, obviously) please comment here.  To see the vid in better detail, watch full-screen on the Vimeo page.

Virtual muso starter kit

I was the first!  Alright, I’m sure loads of people were doing it before me, but when I set up 12 years ago, being a virtual musician was still a rarity.  Now plenty of musicians are adopting the model.

I’m sometimes asked for advice, and although I know absolutely nothing, I tend to give it anyway.  So here are my suggestions for getting in on the virtual session thing, also known as remote sessions, or i-sessions or whatever you want to call it.

Play an instrument, well.  Or in my case, fairly well.  If you can’t make a better sound than samples, practise some more.

Play with feel.  Samples sound bloody amazing!  They just ‘feel’ shit, so your feel as a player is what will get you work.

Be an improviser and arranger.  Playing what other people have written for you limits your opportunites.  Most producers and composers will come to you with a rough idea of what they want, but your contribution is more than just playing, it’s creating the best lines for your instrument.  And as an arranger you have more of a musical identity than a performer.  Avoid asking ‘what do you want me to play?’

Work with other musicians.  If you are a flautist, hook up with other woodwind players to offer your orchestral section.

Specialise.  Avoid pretending you can play all instruments in all styles.  No-one likes a blagger.  This is particularly important if you play an instrument that is quite common. Sorry drummers and guitarists.  Aim to offer something more unique.  If you have tubular bells and timps, tell the world, don’t worry about the limited need for a rare instrument; the world is your client base, and it’s frikkin’ big.

Diversify.    Write music for your instrument, for production libraries and loops packs.  If you have your own projects on the go, you never have that dreaded moment when you realise you have no work.

Be flexible, be adaptable. You’re not turning up at a certain place at a certain time. This is different way of working. Forget the old rules. Get involved with projects, even if it means pitching for free.

Have a decent recording set-up – good mics, pre-amps, live space. Don’t take the piss with tatty stuff.

Get a website and blog.  I don’t see the point of making it look corporate, unless you are trying to be a stuck-up git.  Be personal, chatty, approachable.  Blog some, and not just about how great you are, write about your passion for your thing, and show your insider knowledge.

Chat on Twitter.  In the days when I schlepped round studios, I reckoned you needed to hang out in them to get work.  Twitter is the new studio kitchen (and toilets probably).  And don’t just tweet about what you are doing, be sociable, have a laugh (ok, I know I’ve been guilty of blowing my own trumpet a bit too much).

Make videos.   Blogging is good, making vids is better.  Don’t stress about giving away secrets, share your expertise (also known as ‘exposing your working practices’).  Publishing online shows you know what you’re talking about.

Help others.  If you set yourself up as some sort of specialist, expect others to want to ask you questions.  Don’t be an arse and ignore them, respond, offer your opinion, encourage, be compassionate.

And the final rule is – be yourself, project your own identity, which may mean ignoring this advice completely.

Here are some other virtual musos to check out.

Dominik Johnson
Hugh Davies
Hugh Lawrence
Session Solutions
Chris Alpiar
Marc Papeghin
Sandro Freidrich
Dave Chapman

A bit of fundraising for creative industries folks?

Sometimes, as a freelancer, you do a small piece of work for someone, or they do something for you; something that doesn’t take a lot of time and in the grand scheme of things doesn’t deserve an invoice.

How about instead of the usual conversations – ‘I must pay you something’, ‘it took no time at all’, ‘buy me a beer sometime’ – we had a charity giving page instead?  So that both parties feel that little bit of work and the respect it has earned has a tangible benefit?

Invoicing for small amounts is a bit of a pain, but if your work could generate 10 quid for a charity, then it has a very real value.

Am I barking?  Or could I set up a creative industries justgiving page, benefitting a well-respected charity, like Macmillan?

Teetering on the edge of a yes vote for this idea? Check out this guide to happiness!

Update: the charity page has gone live at