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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

On business, payment and the arts,
with classical music agony aunt ALICE McVEIGH

? 'Dear Alice,

I'm fed-up with the profession and looking for a sideline (at least) that I can combine with it, with luck beyond the recession, and possibly even taking over from it. A friend of mine said I should form an entertainment agency, but surely anything to do with the arts is suffering at the moment?
Name withheld

Ask Alice

Alice Hi Withheld,

I'm afraid the last part of your letter is true -- at least as far as I know. Also, it takes money (as well as nerve) to set up a new business in the current economic climate. Also remember, you'll be competing with established agencies, most of whom have been going for years if not decades. You might personally have to work for almost nothing for a while, just to get going.

I guess my advice would be: if you're really burning to run an entertainment agency -- or to set up any business -- then go for it. Otherwise, you'll wind up wondering what fantastic things might have happened if you had. But if you're not all that sure, my advice would be: give it a miss.


? 'Hi Alice,

I am owed money and was told I would be paid three weeks ago, then one week ago and yesterday on the day. I'm afraid to complain, in case they don't want me again, but I have to because of my student debt etc. What should I do?
Student in London

Ask Alice

Alice Hi Student,

If you're owed money then you must ask for it: firmly but politely, but not before you would reasonably expect to be paid. This is because: You will never get asked again if you sound aggrieved or aggressive, but you may never get paid at all if you are afraid to mention it. Therefore you must steel yourself to phone or email the fixer and to say, 'Really sorry to bug you when I'm sure you're snowed-under' (everybody likes the idea that they're busy and hugely sought-after) 'however, I still haven't been paid for that fantastic Berlioz concert I played back in 2008. (Give date and venue here.) Very much looking forward to seeing you again, Best, A Stu Dent.'

If you've received neither apology nor money within a week, a tougher line may be needed. ('I would be grateful to receive payment for the Berlioz concert 1/5/08 as soon as possible. With thanks in advance, A Stu Dent')

If you hear nothing thereafter, try this:

I assume my previous messages have gone astray. However, I am most concerned not to have received payment for 1/5/08, and plan on approaching the Musicians Union with regard to this matter should I not receive full payment within seven days.

If you still get no joy within a week you are fully entitled to write the following:

I have told the MU about the non-payment for 1/5/08 and I hope that all your cherry trees die and all your kids fail their eleven-plus and that all your strings snap just before a mega-solo. People like you make the profession a place for no-hopers / a no-holds-barred disaster zone / a laughing stock. In addition I have contacted the tax authorities with regard to your paying in cash (when you pay) / your buy-to-let flat in Docklands / your bad breath in hopes that you will be investigated / strung-up / sent to live in Scunthorpe.
Bugger off.

Good luck!!!

Copyright © 1 May 2009 Alice McVeigh, Kent UK

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