The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #123446   Message #2720533
Posted By: GUEST,Tom Bliss
10-Sep-09 - 07:47 AM
Thread Name: The Ol Boys Folk Club & Festival Network
Subject: RE: The Ol Boys Folk Club & Festival Network
My ears were burning.

Just for the record - referring back to the OP - the root cause of my 'retirement' was not lack of bookings, but lack of bums.

Yes, there are some friendship-based 'cliques' (most very welcoming if you approach them right), and some business-based 'networks' (all very welcoming if you offer a decent product) in folk music (as in everything else) but by and large it is a meritocracy - with different criteria applying in different cases (e.g. pulling-power / skill / 'authenticity' / entertainment value etc, according to the demands of the gig in question).

Yes, some people didn't book me because they didn't like what I did, and some because they DID like what I did, but felt it was wrong for their event, or just didn't have space that time. Others didn't book me because they were afraid I'd not pull enough people (they were right), and they had plenty of people to book who would.

But there was no cartel - not in terms of bookings anyway. I had more than my share of club and festival gigs, usually on the big stage at some point, and occasionally as a headliner. I have absolutely no problem with 99.9999% of bookers - and I'd do exactly the same as them if I was a promoter.

No, the problem was that folk music tends to appeal to people who are rather conservative (small c) and less likely in later life to risk turning out for an act they fear may be poor or dull - not least because there are quite a few acts around who are indeed (to them, anyway) poor and/or dull, but who still get booked by people who do like them for one of the above reasons.

You following this?

I certainly can't blame the bookers. Nearly everyone who could book me did so, and most of them have become friends for whom I have massive respect. (And my greatest respect remains for the many who booked me and lost money, but still booked me again - and sometimes again and again, never breaking even on any of the gigs)!

So am I blaming the people who stayed away (famously at one Scottish gig 100% of the audience!)

No - because why should they come out to see someone they may well not enjoy? It was my job to persuade them I was worth a punt (yes it's the promoter's job to do the actual pitch but he can only work with my material and reputation) - and, ultimately, I failed.

The real problem was that the national folk audience is too small and too fragmented for someone like me to join up the drops, and become a small fish in a sustainable ecosystem.