The Huntingdonshire Business Network (HBN) had a fascinating visit to see Dame Evelyn Glennie, renowned solo percussionist – and discovered that there was also a surprising amount of business acumen needed to be an independent artist in the modern world.
Having literally created the concept of a solo percussionist, Evelyn found herself increasingly in demand and rushing around the globe at the behest of agents and events. In one of the few breaks in a hectic schedule, the moment of enlightenment came on a simple post-it note on the wall at a meeting with her small dedicated team. It simply asked, “Who owns your business?”
It was time to answer “Evelyn Glennie”.
Stopping to think about where you wanted to be, what you wanted to achieve and how to get there was that key stage at which so many of us small businesses fail. Even artists have to deal with the practical realities of when to get paid, logistics of moving material and products around, and most of all, business development.
Used to having shattered preconceptions of what a percussionist does, Evelyn and her team began to change the rules in how an artist finds work and gets paid for it. Rather than relying simply on agents, Evelyn increasingly used social media to reach out both to the audience, the venues and promotors who organised events. Facebook and particularly Twitter overtook paper advertising – and also reached out to new audiences.
Taking control of her own business also meant being open to new opportunities and collaborations – with dance groups, scientists and of course other musicians. There was also space to engage in more socially minded activities. And of course there are the masterclasses, speaking engagements etc.
A lovely vignette was the story of The Letter. It had been a busy tour and Evelyn returned tired and expecting the usual mass of accumulated letters. Her desk, however, was empty, bar a tray with a solitary letter and a cup of tea. Oh my, what could this portend? Bad news perhaps? It was the letter from the Palace notifying Evelyn that she had been chosen to be Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2007 New Year Honours. And this year, she was appointed to the Order of the Companions of Honour (CH) in the 2017 New Year Honours.
When the tables were turned and we recounted our varied business interests, Evelyn was not only genuinely interested but saw connections and links either to her experience or possible useful connections.
It was a relaxed, personable meeting as conversation and questions bounced across the room, intermingled with laughter. Unpretentious, unselfconscious, Evelyn Glennie was a gracious host and we all left grateful for an informative, educational and entertaining couple of hours in conversation shared with other local small businesses.
And a special thanks for being game for our group photo with the newest, if apparently reluctant, human percussion instrument!
Re-Print by kind permission of Dr Chris Thomas of Milton Contact Ltd