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Getting Gigs in the UK

Kara 28 Nov 08 - 04:37 AM
Big Al Whittle 28 Nov 08 - 06:07 AM
Johnny J 28 Nov 08 - 06:11 AM
TheSnail 28 Nov 08 - 06:52 AM
BB 28 Nov 08 - 07:26 AM
Johnny J 28 Nov 08 - 07:41 AM
Johnny J 28 Nov 08 - 07:43 AM
Bernard 28 Nov 08 - 08:09 AM
Sandra in Sydney 28 Nov 08 - 10:13 AM
Johnny J 28 Nov 08 - 10:51 AM
Big Al Whittle 28 Nov 08 - 02:52 PM
BB 28 Nov 08 - 02:53 PM
the lemonade lady 28 Nov 08 - 06:52 PM
the lemonade lady 28 Nov 08 - 06:54 PM
Betsy 28 Nov 08 - 08:24 PM
Maryrrf 28 Nov 08 - 11:25 PM
Barry Finn 29 Nov 08 - 12:02 AM
The Villan 29 Nov 08 - 03:23 AM
Barry Finn 29 Nov 08 - 03:49 AM
The Villan 29 Nov 08 - 03:54 AM
Phil Edwards 29 Nov 08 - 04:53 AM
GUEST,Faye Roche 29 Nov 08 - 05:02 AM
greg stephens 29 Nov 08 - 06:19 AM
Richard Bridge 29 Nov 08 - 09:26 PM
Kara 30 Nov 08 - 04:36 PM
Phil Edwards 30 Nov 08 - 04:56 PM
Johnny J 01 Dec 08 - 07:24 AM
Kara 01 Dec 08 - 06:30 PM
Kara 02 Dec 08 - 09:38 AM
Phil Edwards 02 Dec 08 - 12:01 PM
Kara 02 Dec 08 - 04:55 PM
Phil Edwards 02 Dec 08 - 05:15 PM
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Subject: Getting Gigs in the UK
From: Kara
Date: 28 Nov 08 - 04:37 AM

Hello

I am a singer/songwriter. I play folk, alt-country. I have been playing and writing my own materiel for many years. I play with a wide range of different artist all of whom are fabulous player and people. Having spent the last 15 years living and working in mainland Europe, I am looking for gigs in the UK for 2009.

Is the UK folk scene as closed as it is reputed to be?
How would you go about getting gigs over here?
Anyone want to be my manager?

Here is My myspace

Looking forward to your top tips


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Subject: RE: Getting Gigs in the UK
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 28 Nov 08 - 06:07 AM

well if you get any good tips - pass them on to us on mudcat.

I don't know if you heard, but the economy's under threat and all the folksingers are unemployed.


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Subject: RE: Getting Gigs in the UK
From: Johnny J
Date: 28 Nov 08 - 06:11 AM

"Is the UK folk scene as closed as it is reputed to be?"

Not if you're any good.


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Subject: RE: Getting Gigs in the UK
From: TheSnail
Date: 28 Nov 08 - 06:52 AM

"all the folksingers are unemployed"

Tautology.


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Subject: RE: Getting Gigs in the UK
From: BB
Date: 28 Nov 08 - 07:26 AM

Not exactly helpful, folks!

Kara, if you're looking for solo bookings, it would be better if your MySpace stuff was just you, or that you had a demo you could send out that is just you, otherwise it might be misleading.

I think all you can really do is contact clubs/venues direct. Find them on the Web. Look at the sort of guests they book, and ask yourself whether your style would fit into their programmes. If not, don't waste your time or the organiser's by chasing a booking there.   

It's not easy to get into the folk club scene, as many club organisers are reluctant to book names that are unknown. If you're able to go to clubs to do a floor spot, it might help, but I would suggest that you contact the organiser before doing so, and make it clear that you're hoping for a booking from it.

Unlikely that you'll find a manager, and I wouldn't know who to suggest you contact in that regard.

Sorry if that all seems rather negative, but I think it's realistic.

Barbara


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Subject: RE: Getting Gigs in the UK
From: Johnny J
Date: 28 Nov 08 - 07:41 AM

Kara,

Sorry if my remark sounded a bit flippant but it's basically true.

There are openings and opportunities in The UK. However, form my own experience of helping to organise gigs and from what I've observed over many, many years I'd like to make the following points...

Firstly, you would probably best to contact the smaller clubs especially those which have a more adventurous booking policy. The larger clubs tend to need "bums on seats" and would be less inclined to book an unknown quantity although they might consider doing so if looking for a support(paid or unpaid).

This brings me to my next point. I'm afraid you'll also have be prepared to visit several clubs and offer to do a few unpaid spots to get yourself known. Have a wee holiday over here and approach a few clubs re this. That way, you'll get your name known a little more and "word of mouth" between different organisers counts a lot when future bookings are being considered.

Of course, if you can manage a few paid gigs that's a bonus and there will be possibilities. Smaller clubs in our area(Edinburgh), for instance, would include The Wee Folk Club and Leith. The latter would almost certainly consider you for a support as would The Edinburgh Folk Club I'm sure.

There's also other types of clubs and acoustic music venues which are not connected with the so called folk scene. Singer songwriting clubs also exist such as "Out of the bedroom" in Edinburgh but these will be everywhere. So, why not spread your wings a bit further?

There's also several organisations who promote folk and roots concerts on a regular basis. These aren't folk clubs although they're mainly run by enthusiasts too. They will also be interested in seeking out support acts.

Of course, there's a lot of hard work involved in contatcing all these organsiations, sending out publicity, CD samples etc but I hope my thoughts have been of some help.

Good luck.


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Subject: RE: Getting Gigs in the UK
From: Johnny J
Date: 28 Nov 08 - 07:43 AM

Thanks Barbara.

I tried to redeem myself but I was too late. You got in first... :-))


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Subject: RE: Getting Gigs in the UK
From: Bernard
Date: 28 Nov 08 - 08:09 AM

Those who think the UK Folk Club scene is 'closed' make the mistake of trying to get gigs to suit a tour they are trying to put together.

At Lymm Folk Club we often get emails from artistes and agents looking to fit someone in a couple of months hence - as we tend to be booked well over a year in advance, this isn't practical.

Why book so far in advance? Well, it's simple - the 'Catch 22' is that we must get in first to secure the 'big names' who pull in the crowds - Martin Simpson, Vin Garbutt, Boo Hewerdine and so on - all of whom are a sell-out before the date.

As a performer looking for gigs I can sympathise with those having difficulty. There are a lot of artistes who pull a crowd, which means us lesser-known mortals have a harder time securing the remaining available slots.

Whilst pre-arranged flor spots may bring limited success, it takes a long time and hard work to build up a reputation. There really isn't any such thing as an 'overnight success'.

Booking guests on the strength of a CD is not advisable, because some performers record well but cannot hold an audience. I'm not going to name anyone, but we had a guest who was booked on the strength of their CD alone, and they played for almost the entire evening without even speaking to the audience! No-one disputed the technical ability, but the delivery was more suited to wallpaper music at a wine bar.

Not all performers are like me - grab the audience by the throat and make them sing! - but there must be a little 'patter' for the audience to warm to - so they want more. Folk is predominantly an audience involvement environment.

When Steve Tilston first started appearing as a solo artiste his audience skills were poor, almost the the point of being sullen... but he very quickly got his act together and no-one could accuse him of that now!


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Subject: RE: Getting Gigs in the UK
From: Sandra in Sydney
Date: 28 Nov 08 - 10:13 AM

Australian duo Cloudstreet went to UK on a working holiday & travelled around for months in their van visiting clubs & doing floorspots to get known. Since then they've been back on a number of occasions, again for months each time & done quite well.

good luck!

sandra


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Subject: RE: Getting Gigs in the UK
From: Johnny J
Date: 28 Nov 08 - 10:51 AM

Hi Sandra,

Good to hear from you. I know you've been to The Wee Folk Club(Paddy's club) and we've had you at Edinburgh Folk Club too last year.
Enjoyable nights and the audiences continually "pick up" from year to year. It all takes time and hard work.. I know.


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Subject: RE: Getting Gigs in the UK
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 28 Nov 08 - 02:52 PM

yeh and you could lead a life of piety. die - go to heaven. come back as a visitation from the celestial city and appear in a blaze of glory and a puff of smoke - and the chances are they'd still say, very nice would you like to come back and play for nothing next week as well......?

Okay here's the lowdown:-

there are three dj's. two agents. You will find their names out if you look or ask anyone face to face.

Otherwise the only people on the scene making even a vestige of a living have been here since at least the early 1970's and really preferably a bit longer than that.

there are people with monstrous amounts of talent and the work ethic of a hebrew slave who never get a look in.

getting a break in the UK pop/showbiz scene is a breeze compared to the folk world.

The folkworld is a great place to get started as a performer. You can find out if you've got the bottle to perform there. Otherwise don't go near it. It will kill your ambition and talent and break you heart.


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Subject: RE: Getting Gigs in the UK
From: BB
Date: 28 Nov 08 - 02:53 PM

Sorry, Johnny, that wasn't directed particularly at you - in fact, yours was at least vaguely positive!

As you say later though, most of it's down to sheer hard slog in one way or another...

Barbara


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Subject: RE: Getting Gigs in the UK
From: the lemonade lady
Date: 28 Nov 08 - 06:52 PM

Open mics and folk sessions/clubs... hawk yourself around until someone decides to pay you. Maybe house concerts are the way to go here.

Sal


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Subject: RE: Getting Gigs in the UK
From: the lemonade lady
Date: 28 Nov 08 - 06:54 PM

here the latest threads in this

sal


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Subject: RE: Getting Gigs in the UK
From: Betsy
Date: 28 Nov 08 - 08:24 PM

This is a nice thread - Bernard and WLD have compressed the reasons why most of it isn't THAT easy.
The fact of the matter is getting Gigs in the UK is not as easy as one would wish as there is already an amazing amount of indigenous talent around.
There are more talented performers (pro rata)now in the UK than there were when (say) Paul Simon came scrounging bookings in the 60's.
I say "scrounging" in the nicest way, because lots of singers at the beginning of the revival had to "sell" themselves.
We have lots of discussions on Mudcat about what is , and isn't Folk , but at the end of the day it often to leads us the conclusion that ................
Best of luck anyhow.


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Subject: RE: Getting Gigs in the UK
From: Maryrrf
Date: 28 Nov 08 - 11:25 PM

It is difficult to get booked if you haven't been seen live, but it can be done. Here's my experience - in 2002/2003 I was self employed as a massage therapist and also doing gigs - by combining the incomes from these two activities I hoped to make a living. I did scrape by but just barely, and had to go back to a real job, but at least I gave it a shot. Anyway I decided I wanted to try to organize a tour for myself in Scotland. I'm in the USA, so I couldn't very well go around and do floor spots. I started working on it in March, hoping to set something up for November. I started by trolling the internet and getting contact info for folk clubs in Scotland. I reviewed the guest lists and looked for the ones that seemed inclined towards traditional folk, which is what I do, as opposed to singer/songwriter or folk rock. I also put up a thread on Mudcat asking for suggestions, and got some pointers and advice. I then contacted the organizers either by e-mail or by phone. This turned out to be extremely labor intensive. A lot of the links and phone numbers were outdated, I reached many people who were no longer running the club, or whose clubs had gone out of business. But I must say that the Scottish folk club organizers I spoke with on the phone were invariably nice and friendly and helpful. Lots of times if they couldn't book me they suggested others I might try. If I got the go ahead, either from the phone call or in response to my e-mail (which directed them to my website) I then sent them a demo CD and a press kit. Mind you my press kit is not all that impressive, but it contained a bio, a photo, a list of venues I had played, etc. The demo CD had 4 songs - two were live and two from my studio CD. I made sure the song selections were what I considered to be my best work, and also that it was a mix of fast and slow. I packaged it in a nice jewel case with a photo and my contact info on the cover. In due time I followed up on the CD to see if they'd received it and asked if they'd book me. I ended up with 10 paid bookings in Scotland and one in Northern Ireland, betweeh late October to late November. I ended up staying in Scotland for six weeks. (Luckily I had a place to stay and didn't have to pay for a hotel or I wouldn't have been able to do it). I felt like that was a pretty good result. The concerts were reasonably successful and I think if I hadn't had to go back to the day job I could have possibly built on that tour and set up another one for the following year - if you've got a 'resume' of folk clubs that have booked you it opens the door to others.   I also arranged to do floor spots in some of the clubs who didn't book me, and possibly could have approached them if I'd toured again as the floor spots seemed to go well.

Based on my experience, here's the advice I'd give:

- Starting in March to book a tour in November was very late in the game. You really should start over over a year in advance

- Have a nice website and a good demo CD that showcases what you do, and be sure to include some live cuts. Now that there's You Tube you'd probably want to have a video up on the net that they could see. I think now more people might be willing to just look at a Myspace page or website, but most people I contacted wanted a demo. In some cases the demo had to be listened to by a committee at a meeting.

- Be polite and don't be a pest but be sure to follow up after you've sent the demo.

- Clearly define what you do, and do the research - either on the internet (Mudcat is a good place to start) or by asking people, as to what clubs might have an interest in your niche. In my case it was traditional ballads. Some clubs were delighted with that, others told me politely that I was too traditional which was fair enough. If you read the club's website and review the list of guest performers you can often get an idea of what the club is looking for.

- Mostly it will be the smaller clubs and those who have frequent guest nights that will take a chance on an unknown. The ones who only have guests once a month will probably stick to "known" performers.

It takes persistence and determination and if you're trying to get booked on the basis of a Myspace page or demo CD you have to make sure your material is well chosen and well performed - be sure it's your absolute best work.   

Much of this echoes the advice that has already been given, but I thought it might be helpful to hear about a firsthand experience. Good luck!


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Subject: RE: Getting Gigs in the UK
From: Barry Finn
Date: 29 Nov 08 - 12:02 AM

Thanks Kara for starting this thread.
My partner & I (Finn & Haddie) are both trying to get bookings during late JUly, we've been booked for the Scarborough Seafest & I was going to start a thread like this myself.
Thanks Maryrrf, BB, Johnny J, Bernard, WLD & others for your postings.

Johnny J you said
"There's also several organisations who promote folk and roots concerts on a regular basis. These aren't folk clubs although they're mainly run by enthusiasts too."
Could you expand on that?

Bernard
"grab the audience by the throat and make them sing"
Love that

Kara, as we are not songwriters though we've written a few, more in the traditional vein & we don't do alt-folk, I don't think we'd be lookibng at competing for the same sort of venues so I hope you'll forgive me for tagging along on your thread. We do more shanties, focusing strongly on the songs from sailors of color & do prison worksongs (think chain gang)

see us at
Finn & Haddie
www.FinnandHaddie.com

Finn & Haddie's MySpace
www.MySpace.com/FinnandHaddie

finfam41@verizon.net

Thanks to all & any

Barry


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Subject: RE: Getting Gigs in the UK
From: The Villan
Date: 29 Nov 08 - 03:23 AM

Barry
Your myspace account doesn't load becuase you did it wrong.
You put for the link http://www.mudcat.org/www.myspace.com/finnandhaddie

Here is the correct link
http://www.myspace.com/FinnandHaddie

The same for your own website. You put
http://www.mudcat.org/www.finnandhaddie.com

Here is the correct link
http://www.finnandhaddie.com/


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Subject: RE: Getting Gigs in the UK
From: Barry Finn
Date: 29 Nov 08 - 03:49 AM

Thanks Villan, for the correct link
How foolish of me

Barry


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Subject: RE: Getting Gigs in the UK
From: The Villan
Date: 29 Nov 08 - 03:54 AM

A mistake Barry, but definately not foolish.


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Subject: RE: Getting Gigs in the UK
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 29 Nov 08 - 04:53 AM

I first saw Zoe Mulford a couple of years ago, doing a floor spot at Chorlton FC; she'd recently moved over here from the States. She had a bit of a professional air about her, & I wasn't surprised to learn that she'd built up a bit of a performing c.v. (or résumé) over there. I see her name around the place fairly regularly now. I saw her again the other night - doing a floor spot at Chorlton FC. (She plays a mean banjo.)

There is no, rpt no, quick route to making a living on the folk scene. There is a long and hard road to getting bookings fairly regularly, but an awful lot of that road is the same road you'd travel if you were a rank amateur like me. I'd say your first step is just to get out there and sing and play - there are lots of opportunities to do that. Get yourself known that way, and then start talking to organisers - a lot of whom, by that stage, you'll already know. But don't give up the day job.


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Subject: RE: Getting Gigs in the UK
From: GUEST,Faye Roche
Date: 29 Nov 08 - 05:02 AM

I don't think that success is the folk world is any easier or harder than success in any other field of music.

If you want to be a classical musician you go to college, work like hell for 3-4 years, then audition for a job with an orchestra or try to make it as a soloist or by forming your own ensemble, which, I guess, is just as tough as trying to crack it as a rock or pop artist.

In rock, you form a band, write your songs, play gigs in pubs where no-one is the slightest bit interested in you, try to build up a following, get a record deal, etc., etc. Not easy.

Popsters, I guess, start by working with cover bands. (I had a taste of that once- never again!) Most of them probably stick around the club/function circuit. OK, they may make some cash but who wants to play "Agadoo" every night? Of course, you could always try The X-Factor...

Jazz- I would guess that it's as hard, or harder to break into the jazz scene than any of the others.

Wow! Just thinking about all this makes me realise how lucky we are; all those clubs where you can showcase your talent and (eventually!) get booked! What more could you want?


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Subject: RE: Getting Gigs in the UK
From: greg stephens
Date: 29 Nov 08 - 06:19 AM

The English folk club obsession of booking acts a long time in advance, sometimes upwards of a year, effectively prevents a lot of foreign acts from putting tour together, however interesting they may be. A lot of local acts, too, come to that. This is often justified by "it's necessary to get the big name acts secured", but a quick glance at a lot of club's schedules will show this is not actually the case. They book very small names singer, who only live down the road, months or years in advance as well. The folk music scene in Ireland, I always felt, gained greatly by booking weeks or a month or two in advance, rather than many months or years. Acts in Ireland are also much more cooperative with each other in switching gig dates around to aoccommodate each other's touring schedules.
   Having said that, you can get gigs in England, not everybody books that far in advance, luckily, and not evrybody is ultra-cautious. A good Myspace is good. A good demo is good. Even better, I think, is evidence of having done gig before, and what kind of gigs. If I want to book an act into a pub, I want to know if they've done pub gigs before, and how they have gone. If I want a band for a barn dance booking, I would like to ring a caller who's worked with them to get the lowdown. Etc etc.
So be prepared to say to a potential booker "give the organiser of the XXX club a ring, I played there last week".
If you haven't got a track record: well, like everyone says, get out and play for free as often as possible. If you are any good(or more accurately, if people like you), you will get offered work.
And be prepared for a lot of disappointments!


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Subject: RE: Getting Gigs in the UK
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 29 Nov 08 - 09:26 PM

I think if you play American folk and alt/country, or euro-celtique, or if you can and will work as a jukebox on legs, there is a relatively richer vein to be mined in pubs and working men's clubs and so on, if you can get a decent agent, than if you largely do 1954 definition English folk or modern self-penned songs "in the tradition".


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Subject: RE: Getting Gigs in the UK
From: Kara
Date: 30 Nov 08 - 04:36 PM

Thanks to everyone whose posted on this tread, some very helpful stuff.

Weelittledrummer, "I don't know if you heard, but the economy's under threat and all the folksingers are unemployed. " I'd have thought that times of ecomonic hardship, were just the times when people need more folk singers? Busking has certainly picked up since everyone doesn't think they are rich anymore. I did my first gigs in the 70's supporting a band called The Little People. So should be fine hey...

JohnnyJ "Not if you're any good. " thats a bit of a tricky one. Ive been doing it for 30 years so I must think Im good sometimes, did you have a listen to my myspace? What do you think?

BB, thanks a lot for that, good stuff. Im not nescessarily looking for solo gigs, although there is some stuff on my space that is just me, Sisters of Mercy for example. Id rather play as a duo or more. As it says on myspace, I play with a lot of different people

Bernard, got anything for 2010 then?


Whats the general opinion of open mics and floor spots. The ones that I've been to are mainly pretty low quality acts and very poorly attended. But maybe Im just looking in the wrong places..


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Subject: RE: Getting Gigs in the UK
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 30 Nov 08 - 04:56 PM

The ones that I've been to are mainly pretty low quality acts and very poorly attended.

The ones I've been to have almost always been packed. They're a great way to put your songs in front of a lot of other people, many of whom are fellow performers. As for quality, what's the worst that can happen? If it's good you'll be in good company, and if it's poor you'll stand out.


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Subject: RE: Getting Gigs in the UK
From: Johnny J
Date: 01 Dec 08 - 07:24 AM

Kara,

Sorry about that. Hopefully, I redeemed myself in my next post though.

Barry, re the other organisations who promote folk and roots music , I was thinking about this sort of thing...

http://www.lonesomehighway.co.uk/

This organisation mainly promotes Americana/country music etc but, in many cases, they'd have support acts which may but not necessarily be of the genre. There are, of course, similar types of organisations who will organise more traditional, folky, or singer songwriter concerts too. In theory, these could be profit making but those involved will generally just be covering their costs.


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Subject: RE: Getting Gigs in the UK
From: Kara
Date: 01 Dec 08 - 06:30 PM

Thanks Johnny J
you are completely redemed if you feel redemption was ever nescessary


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Subject: RE: Getting Gigs in the UK
From: Kara
Date: 02 Dec 08 - 09:38 AM

Hey Pip Radish, where are the good packed ones???


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Subject: RE: Getting Gigs in the UK
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 02 Dec 08 - 12:01 PM

Chorlton for one - one song per performer per night, thanks to what the traffic people on the radio would call SWOP (sheer weight of performers).


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Subject: RE: Getting Gigs in the UK
From: Kara
Date: 02 Dec 08 - 04:55 PM

So is the audience made up of just musicians or are there normal people there too?


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Subject: RE: Getting Gigs in the UK
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 02 Dec 08 - 05:15 PM

About half musicians, plus a few musicians' partners and friends. On an average night a quarter to a third of the audience is made up of non-performing regular listeners.


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