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Tom Bliss Article -So long and thanks

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Kampervan 07 Mar 09 - 10:22 AM
olddude 07 Mar 09 - 11:07 AM
John MacKenzie 07 Mar 09 - 12:05 PM
SunrayFC 07 Mar 09 - 02:21 PM
wysiwyg 07 Mar 09 - 03:05 PM
treewind 07 Mar 09 - 04:18 PM
Joe Offer 07 Mar 09 - 06:24 PM
Tattie Bogle 07 Mar 09 - 07:16 PM
The Villan 07 Mar 09 - 07:48 PM
BusyBee Paul 07 Mar 09 - 08:25 PM
Kampervan 08 Mar 09 - 05:20 AM
GUEST,Ian Bruce 08 Mar 09 - 06:19 AM
VirginiaTam 08 Mar 09 - 06:36 AM
GUEST,Ralphie 08 Mar 09 - 06:58 AM
John MacKenzie 08 Mar 09 - 07:18 AM
treewind 08 Mar 09 - 07:31 AM
Folkiedave 08 Mar 09 - 07:50 AM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 08 Mar 09 - 07:53 AM
Leadfingers 08 Mar 09 - 08:02 AM
BB 08 Mar 09 - 08:21 AM
The Villan 08 Mar 09 - 08:32 AM
John MacKenzie 08 Mar 09 - 08:35 AM
VirginiaTam 08 Mar 09 - 09:02 AM
Howard Jones 08 Mar 09 - 11:09 AM
GUEST,John from Kemsing 08 Mar 09 - 01:05 PM
The Sandman 08 Mar 09 - 02:34 PM
Peace 08 Mar 09 - 02:42 PM
Ian Fyvie 08 Mar 09 - 02:55 PM
Northerner 08 Mar 09 - 03:02 PM
Peace 08 Mar 09 - 03:03 PM
The Barden of England 08 Mar 09 - 05:12 PM
Linda Kelly 08 Mar 09 - 05:19 PM
melodeonboy 08 Mar 09 - 07:09 PM
the lemonade lady 08 Mar 09 - 07:14 PM
GUEST,Warpy 08 Mar 09 - 09:58 PM
GUEST,Mr Red 09 Mar 09 - 06:53 AM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 09 Mar 09 - 08:01 AM
SunrayFC 09 Mar 09 - 09:12 AM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 09 Mar 09 - 11:55 AM
DonMeixner 09 Mar 09 - 12:44 PM
SunrayFC 09 Mar 09 - 01:10 PM
henryclem 09 Mar 09 - 01:16 PM
GUEST,guest ifor 09 Mar 09 - 01:28 PM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 09 Mar 09 - 01:38 PM
Dave the Gnome 20 Mar 09 - 05:33 AM
Bonnie Shaljean 20 Mar 09 - 06:55 AM
GUEST,Rafflesbear on leave 20 Mar 09 - 08:36 AM
Joe G 20 Mar 09 - 09:44 AM
GUEST,Golightly 20 Mar 09 - 11:31 AM
Dave the Gnome 20 Mar 09 - 11:47 AM
Bernard 20 Mar 09 - 12:15 PM
Mitch2 30 Mar 09 - 11:32 PM
katlaughing 30 Mar 09 - 11:54 PM
Dave the Gnome 31 Mar 09 - 12:17 AM
The Villan 31 Mar 09 - 01:06 AM
The Borchester Echo 31 Mar 09 - 03:48 AM
Banjiman 31 Mar 09 - 04:00 AM
Folkiedave 31 Mar 09 - 04:11 AM
The Borchester Echo 31 Mar 09 - 04:14 AM
doc.tom 31 Mar 09 - 04:48 AM
The Borchester Echo 31 Mar 09 - 05:02 AM
IanC 31 Mar 09 - 06:57 AM
The Borchester Echo 31 Mar 09 - 07:16 AM
doc.tom 31 Mar 09 - 09:41 AM
The Borchester Echo 31 Mar 09 - 10:06 AM
The Borchester Echo 31 Mar 09 - 10:13 AM
matt milton 31 Mar 09 - 10:15 AM
oggie 31 Mar 09 - 05:25 PM
The Villan 31 Mar 09 - 05:45 PM
The Sandman 31 Mar 09 - 05:50 PM
treewind 31 Mar 09 - 06:13 PM
Folkiedave 31 Mar 09 - 06:19 PM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 01 Apr 09 - 04:49 AM
The Borchester Echo 01 Apr 09 - 06:04 AM
matt milton 01 Apr 09 - 06:07 AM
Banjiman 01 Apr 09 - 06:32 AM
matt milton 01 Apr 09 - 06:58 AM
Will Fly 01 Apr 09 - 07:05 AM
The Borchester Echo 01 Apr 09 - 07:22 AM
The Villan 01 Apr 09 - 07:47 AM
matt milton 01 Apr 09 - 07:48 AM
Folkiedave 01 Apr 09 - 08:07 AM
matt milton 01 Apr 09 - 08:13 AM
TheSnail 01 Apr 09 - 08:18 AM
GUEST 01 Apr 09 - 08:23 AM
Mitch2 01 Apr 09 - 08:24 AM
Will Fly 01 Apr 09 - 08:50 AM
TheSnail 01 Apr 09 - 10:19 AM
TheSnail 01 Apr 09 - 11:03 AM
Mitch2 01 Apr 09 - 11:17 AM
TheSnail 01 Apr 09 - 11:27 AM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 01 Apr 09 - 11:46 AM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 01 Apr 09 - 12:02 PM
TheSnail 01 Apr 09 - 12:53 PM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 01 Apr 09 - 01:23 PM
The Sandman 01 Apr 09 - 01:27 PM
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Subject: Tom Bliss - So long and thanks
From: Kampervan
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 10:22 AM

Just read the article by Tom Bliss, in the latest Living Tradition, entitled 'So long and thanks for the gigs'.

On the face of it, I find it very sad that we haven't been able to build the infrastructure of suitable venues to support a viable body of professionals.
It's no good having a restricted number of big name headliners without a large pool of other good perfomers to provide the support.

I think that most of us mnkow that's it difficult to make a living from the folk circuit, but has it reached critical level?


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - So long and thanks
From: olddude
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 11:07 AM

Until we can get the mainstream people listening again I am sad to think that you are right. What it will take I think is some hard exposure. Venures like Youtube, soundclick, myspace help to get the music out and people (especially the young) listening. If we can get people to listen again then radio stations will again start playing .. until then I think sadly as the years roll by the music is lost to living rooms and porches ...


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - So long and thanks
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 12:05 PM

Less venues available, less money around, more administartive problems like PEL's
Price of drink?
Too many festivals?

By which I mean, if you are a gigging folkie, but not among the chosen few who get endless repeat bookings at festivals, it is a struggle to earn a living.


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - So long and thanks
From: SunrayFC
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 02:21 PM

Well, when I started out (some time ago now) we had a choice of clubs every week. Now, with many closing, or turning into sessions and others moving to monthly, etc etc, it comes down to a lot less gigs available.
I do see the same names on the club gig list year in year out, so it gets tougher for people to break into. And in the end you have to have BOS people (bums on seats) Club organisers can not shoulder losses, and neither should they.

What the answer is, is probably too much to say in this little box.

But as club organisers we have to work hard to promote this genre.

As to the performers...with petrol, agents fees, etc etc it ain't easy.

BUT, lets keep working at it.

http://www.sunrayfolkclub.co.uk/


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - So long and thanks
From: wysiwyg
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 03:05 PM

In the US a lot of folk music runs on coffee-- not alcohol. Perhaps a rethink on UK venues might find a few loopholes in the PELS stuff and the other financial stuff?

~S~


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - So long and thanks
From: treewind
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 04:18 PM

Switching from alcohol to coffee won't solve any entertainment licensing problems, and as pubs will often let a club have a room for free (because of the extra drinks sales) I can't see it directly solving any financial problems either.

There is a case for moving away from pubs, but it's not about drink. Village halls and other community venues can have at least twice the capacity of a pub function room. A well run folk event in such a building could pay the booked artist much more than a old-style folk club would. I've spoken to two club organisers this year who are deliberately moving from a cheap anything-goes format to a concert format (higher prices, no floor spots) - one is doing very well, and the other hasn't had time to tell yet, but he knows that some of the audience have actually said they were discouraged from coming to the club because of poor quality floor spots. And all of the really dead clubs (tiny aging audiences) seem to be in pubs.

There's still a need for the informal session/singaround format, of course, and pubs are still good for that. There remains the problem of how a budding performer breaks though from session culture to the semi-pro concert, but that's the same with all kinds of music. In the case of the organisers I mentioned above, one runs a pub and has music and song sessions there, and he can spot talent from behind the bar...

Anahata


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - So long and thanks
From: Joe Offer
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 06:24 PM

Is the article online, Kampervan? I looked at the Living Tradition Website, but didn't find it - only Issue 80 is available online. Tom's article is apparently in Issue 82 - looks like the Website is a month or two behind.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - So long and thanks
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 07:16 PM

My copy only arrived in the post this very morning, so give it a bit longer?
Tom is listed as coming to Ediburgh Folk Club on 6th May (with Tom Napper) so hope this is still on).


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - So long and thanks
From: The Villan
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 07:48 PM

I am passionate about using Village Halls.
They are the centre of the community and IMHO are more stable than a pub these days.
At least at Faldingworth, we only get the people who want to come along and see the performers, in a friendly environment.
I am not sure yet how the recession will affect us, but at the moment it is very healthy. I believe we have a varied program, with good quality entertainment.
http://www.faldingworthlive.co.uk


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - So long and thanks
From: BusyBee Paul
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 08:25 PM

Tattie Bogle - saw the Toms today at Queensbury - they are doing the tours so you should be fine for Edinburgh on 6th May.

Deirdre


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - So long and thanks
From: Kampervan
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 05:20 AM

Joe
The article is indeed in Issue 82.
My copy arrived on Saturday 7th and it was the first thing I read. There's a good article from Sid kipper to look forward to as well.
I can't find it online, so I guess that you'll have to be patient for a few days yet.

Sorry..


Regards

K/van


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - So long and thanks
From: GUEST,Ian Bruce
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 06:19 AM

Perhaps some of you waiting to read the article online (and it may be a few months behind for commercial reasons) should stump up a very reasonable subscription fee for 'The Living Tradition'. It is an excellent read and by supporting it you would also be supporting various other folk activities.
Ian


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - So long and thanks
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 06:36 AM

The Villan is right about Village Halls. Very good idea. In some areas halls have been under threat by high utility bills, council taxes, lack of community use and drooling land developers.

The problem is in the planning, arranging, garnering talent, marketing events, printing and selling tickets. The little folk clubs I have visited in Essex aren't up to this much time, let alone money investment.

Seems to me, in the economic downturn, people are going to be looking out for value for money entertainment that is close to home. Fewer people can afford festivals, big concerts, shows in the big cities, etc. But they still want some culture. The financial crunch could be a bonanza for singer/sonwriters. Which could also fuel new interest in folk and traditional music.

So what is the best way to start organising these concerts? Needs advocates all over the country to push the project along.

Ok. climbing down off dream cloud now.


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - So long and thanks
From: GUEST,Ralphie
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 06:58 AM

Re Village Hall gigs, I seem to remember that there is or was an organisation based in Yorkshire (?) that does precisely that. They apparently have a network of halls around the country and organise tours. I think that they Vet the acts they use, so as to be suitable. Then they just push the artist in at one end of the tour and they come out two weeks later.
And because of the quality of artists booked, it became a must see event (weekly or monthly, not sure).
Fo people isolated in a small village, maybe no pub, no Post Office, it must have been a real lifeline.
I have no contact details, for all I know it might have ceased. Maybe Johnny Adams might know if he reads this.
Also many years ago, Andrew Cronshaw organised a tour of Village Churches off his own bat. Places I had never heard of! Obviously those of you who know Andrews music, it would be ideally suited to a tiny village church!

Just my 2 pennorth, but I would agree that touring Folk Clubs exclusively is getting harder and harder. I'm amazed that Tom has stuck it for so long. All those hours of phone calls unreturned, E Mails. Mail shots, etc etc.

Good luck Tom.

Ralph Jordan


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - So long and thanks
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 07:18 AM

Coffee houses are noisy, and require amplification. Although many UK folk clubs do have this, traditionally they are unamplified, and require both the audience to listen, and the singer to project.
I have sung in pubs and cafés, and I don't like doing it. I prefer to try to encourage people listen to what I'm singing by vocal dexterity, not force them to, by electronic overpowerment.
Microphones etc have their place, but that place is to enable people to hear, when they WANT to listen.


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - So long and thanks
From: treewind
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 07:31 AM

Ah - I've made this mistake before, confusing a "coffeehouse" with a café

I hope Jacey Bedford won't mind my quoting her in reply to me making the same mistake recently:

'coffeehouse'. This always causes confusion over here because the term is so close to 'coffee bar' and immediately gets us thinking of the sort of cappucino place in the town centre which is basically a daytime cafe. I'm thinking old fashioned Wimpy bar here - not even Starbucks. (Anybody remember the Aloha in Barnsley where all the cool kids hung out in 1968?)

In the USA and Canada a coffeehouse is an event not a place. Sometimes (rarely) they do take place in venues which are regular cafes but more often they happen in community halls and church basements (like church halls but usually underneath the church and occupying the same footprint - so it's a pretty big room - sometimes with a stage). Just to be perfectly clear these are not run by the church but they are community rooms for hire - often in Unitarian churches which are pretty free and easy.

So someone will decide to run a coffeehouse, get a committee together and run it just like a folk club except that since there is no bar there will usually be a catering committee and they provide (for sale) teas and coffees (wide variety and proper fresh brewed stuff) baked goods and sometimes fresh made sandwiches and a hot dish, too, like chilli or chowder. The committee arrives early, sets the room up (and PA if there is one - which there often is) and then quite often has a meal together with the artists (again courtesy of the catering committee or a delivered in pizza). Then there's a big clear up and the finishing polish to the set up before the audience arrives.

So a coffeehouse gig is definitely not to be confused with playing a gig in the local Starbucks or Burger King."

Anahata (quoting Jacey)


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - So long and thanks
From: Folkiedave
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 07:50 AM

And being free of alchol has nothing to do with alcohol.

It is the event that needs a licence. Put on "regulated entertainment" and the event needs a licence.

Let me quote an obvious exanmple.

The "Flash Mob Happening" to film the T-Mobile advert at Liverpool St. Station (actually a carefully choreographed event) almost certainly needed a licence.

It was a performance, it came under the heading of regulated entertainment and it was to some extent to entertain the public. The fact that no charge was made is irrelevant.

So - I am sorry but moving from a pub will not help. And Ian Bruce is right - buy the magazine.


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - So long and thanks
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 07:53 AM

Just to clarify, I do mention the village hall Rural Touring network (HQ based in York, yes, Ralph) which is an excellent scheme - I have 30 gigs through them this winter - and call for a big expansion (why should it be only rural halls that benefit.

However, in this area we are competing with other genres of music, drama, puppetry, storytelling, lectures, hypnotists, jugglers, drum ensembles, string and jazz quartets, novellists playing mandolins (yes, Louis does them too). The competition is fierce, with three 'sells' to conquer. 1) Getting into the rural scheme menu, 2) getting village the hall committees to buy, 3) getting the locals to turn up. It takes a LOT of work to set up a show with major publicity costs, and usually a lot more kit to install - so the end show fee for the night, after costs, is about the same as a medium club. (This is my current show Tales of Time and Tide)

So yes, village halls may be part of the solution, but no magic bullet. House concerts could be another - but both will take longer to develop that I have time to wait - though mayb e things will change is I wind up in, say, education, rather than as currently planned, TV

Tom

PS The ed has asked me not to post the article online for a while yet.


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - So long and thanks
From: Leadfingers
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 08:02 AM

Its a constant source of confusion twixt UK and USA , the connection with Music (of ALL kinds) and Pubs . The Pub as a Social centre was until fairly recently vitually unknown in America , while it has traditionally been THE place for any kind of local gathering in UK.


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - So long and thanks
From: BB
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 08:21 AM

The other thing about the Rural Touring circuit is that you have to deal with different Rural Touring schemes in different parts of the country. It's not just a matter of getting in with the Rural Touring Forum and getting a tour throughout the country - you have to persuade each individual scheme to put your show on their 'menu'.

Barbara


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - So long and thanks
From: The Villan
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 08:32 AM

The rural arts scheme works very well if you don't plan your events too far ahead. We have used that scheme once for The New Rope String Band. Its a very good scheme.

However, there are some drawbacks.
Sometimes, 2 village halls maybe 5 miles from each other get the same gig in the same week. Result is that the organisers finish up fighting for the same audience (well thats what its like in Lincolnshire)

You have to say what acts you want a couple of months ahead, with no guarantee of getting what you want.

So if you have a well organised venue, that plans ahead, it basically doesn't work.


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - So long and thanks
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 08:35 AM

Thankfully we have Highland Arts, otherwise we might never see people like Eric Bogle, up here in the wilderness.


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - So long and thanks
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 09:02 AM

Fluvanna County High School, Virginia held what they called a Coffeehouse event in the school cafeteria way back in 1996 or 97. And again in early 2000's. Attracted both students and parents to perform as well as a good audience. Comprised of songs from 60's up to then current as well as poetry and dramatic readings, jazz trio, and sundry stuff.

Tom, it might be a pretty cool to put together a teaching show and send out to schools in the UK. Your story telling (song descriptions) ability is strong and engaging. Ever consider looking at QCA curriculum and teachernet and taking a bash at writing some lesson plans to go with your show? Or adapting your some of your descriptions to compliment current curriculum?

Just a couple of ideas.


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - So long and thanks
From: Howard Jones
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 11:09 AM

Has anyone tried running house concerts in the UK under the new licensing laws? Perhaps I'm being pessimistic, but I have a nagging suspicion that it would be so overwhelmed by red tape, health and safety, noise limitation, fire regs etc that it would be an utter nightmare.


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - So long and thanks
From: GUEST,John from Kemsing
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 01:05 PM

Howard, I fear you are right on. The H&S requirements alone for providing prepared food to the public are ,I understand, quite onerous to say the least.

    Regarding the "coffee house" event I attended in Amherst, Mass., it was just that. A coffee bar on the high street that allowed the students from the local Uni. to hold there club there. One of the acts was a shadow show illuminated by candles.


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - So long and thanks
From: The Sandman
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 02:34 PM

it is a sad day when any professional ,decides to give up .


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - So long and thanks
From: Peace
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 02:42 PM

I am confused by this thread. Who's giving up music?


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - So long and thanks
From: Ian Fyvie
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 02:55 PM

On 'value for money - close to home'.

Complex singaround club history and policy differences with our club's Vice President and our usual Hostess meant that I decided to try a new Club based exactly on what I thought a club should be.

This was two years ago before recessions but I decided to try a Club based on a 'local community' where I'd known various people through non-folk activities over the years.

Luckily there was a distinctive and very suitable away-from-the-city-centre pub on the edge of these streets of largely 'gentrified' terraced houses.

So I arranged five dates (Tuesdays) spread over 10 weeks with the Publican and advertised all these dates - by leafleting - the whole local area. It worked! We found lots of new singers and listeners - and very soon converted to 'every tuessday'.

The format, by the way, was free singaround - the same as our existing club nights, but this time went for the function room instead of saloon bars my colleagues were insisting on*.   

The audience turned out to be about 50-50 local residents and existing Club supporters; and two new local people who came along not knowing each quickly formed a duo and have already had a Guest spots at Payclubs and produced their own CD album (see Myspace//Heartree - excellent songwriters).

If you're worried about the health of your local club or the local folk scene generally, why not try as I did - take folk to a brand new audience?

Two thing I would say though are 1) advertise your new club to be a permanent event. It's no good putting lots of ifs and buts into your publicty. 2) If it doesn't work, you will probably have made a contact or two for the next time you try a new folk night.

The club? Its Brighton Cellarfolk Song Club and meets at the Round Georges pub in the city's Kemptown area - in Sutherland Road.

*As to my colleagues who were against a function room, our bar Club's Vice President is now a stalwart and regualar singers at Cellarfolk, but our Hostess from two years ago comes along very rarely - and not been along at all for a long time.

Hope this helps   (Cellarfolk includes a number of Mudcat contributers among its singers! - come and see us!!)


Ian Fyvie


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - So long and thanks
From: Northerner
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 03:02 PM

Put some school gigs on the road Tom. Your shows must tick so many boxes when it comes to the National Curriculum. Our schools are desperate to find things that will stimulate children. You must be covering literacy, creative writing, music, history and geography.

Add a little bit of storytelling into that and you have the library ciruit too.


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - So long and thanks
From: Peace
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 03:03 PM

Tom, when you have a moment, would you please message me? Thanks.

Bruce


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - So long and thanks
From: The Barden of England
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 05:12 PM

I'm sad to hear this news. One of the nicest people I have met is throwing in the towel. I just hope you can continue on a semi-pro basis, otherwise we are the losers without a doubt. I for one will miss you Tom.
John Barden


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - So long and thanks
From: Linda Kelly
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 05:19 PM

Its not jut venue and licensing its having people with the time and commitment to run the clubs in the first place.


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - So long and thanks
From: melodeonboy
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 07:09 PM

I second John Barden's comments.


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - So long and thanks
From: the lemonade lady
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 07:14 PM

I regularly go to this place and it's been going for years. Works really well in my neck of the woods.

sal


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - So long and thanks
From: GUEST,Warpy
Date: 08 Mar 09 - 09:58 PM

I think Treewind has highlighted the real problem with the demise of folk clubs. Poor quality floor spots do not encourage a new audience to return to a folk club. We are too kind to the deluded self indulgent singer and musician that think they are good and in truth are awful.I would love to go more often to local clubs but each time I go its the same really dire stuff on. The local amateur scaring away the audience that would have supported the talented touring folk artist.


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - So long and thanks
From: GUEST,Mr Red
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 06:53 AM

Folk is and was principally about folk. If they don't survive then folk music won't.

If the commercial end of the genre cannot be supported it is sad but not not the end of Folk World. We need a full spectrum for our enjoyment, not for survival. But even in hedonistic days of the "me generation" folk survived, and in the upshot of the hedonism, our glorious depression, people will discover the delights of actually doing things for themselves.

Though the twists and turns it takes as the influx of newbies come in with their new-fangled notions may be a shock to us. Make that - "will".


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - So long and thanks
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 08:01 AM

Fair point Cresby, and a fair cop too. But it may not be quite as simple as that. Have you read the full article, and did you see this? Obviously I'm making a slightly different point there, but the second part, about the dissemination of material, post 'oral/aural process,' and the championing of folk music outside of the current silo, is relevant, I think.

Those of you who have read the article will have noted that I'm not only concerned about the reduction in guest bookings, but also the root cause of that; namely regulars choosing not to turn out for guests, specially those they've not seen before. This is perfectly reasonable, of course, but it's unfortunate for organisers and new artists (and ultimately the folk world, if you accept my argument above) as long as it remains difficult to get non-folk-club people through the door for reasons raised by others above.

Tom


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - So long and thanks
From: SunrayFC
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 09:12 AM

Deciding which floor singer one includes on a guest night is a judgement. I can only assume that when I started out I was probably dreadful (and some may say, still dreadful). But I was given a chance. And I think I have improved.

I admit I try to choose wisely at the Sunray as to which singer to include in the running order. And yes, some singers can be dreadful and risk turning off your hard-earned audience. But it is useful for people striving to improve and get somewhere to face a reasonably sized audience.

And it is up to the audience to tolerate such support singers. Blimey, at the Sunray there is no door charge- and they still complain!!!

Actually, 99.99% of our audience love the club and continue to support us. And it's a hard-earned audience, as I have said- they don't come easily.


http://www.sunrayfolkclub.co.uk/


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - So long and thanks
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 11:55 AM

I'm sure Sunray's a great club, Bob, and I'm sorry I never got there, but I'm not talking about a few less able singers in an existing audience. I'm trying to encourage a really wide view, because I think I see a long term trend developing. The joining-in end of the folk movement is fine and healthy, and the pay-quite-a-bit-for-a-good show end is fine and healthy. But the wonderful compromise upon which the movement was founded, with its balance between participation and performance is, in places, creaking - and if it cracks, and the movement fragments, there could be long term detrimental effects at both ends.

This compromise, in which guest artists are welcomed by loyal club supporters who trust the organiser's judgement and turn out even if they won't get a sing, is still in great shape in many clubs. But not as many as once. And if every club becomes full of people who are not interested in guest nights, while they also remain unattractive to people who love folk music but don't like clubs (I have a few hundred on my mailing list for the record), then that compromise will die.

This may be inevitable, but if it is we'll need some other ideas to fill the gap and re-connect the two ends of the folk world - such as, perhaps, a bigger hall circuit, house concerts, fee-paying open mics, more folk on TV and lots of ideas we haven't had yet.

I'm want people to think hard about all of it.


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - So long and thanks
From: DonMeixner
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 12:44 PM

As of right now the rest of this year will as good as any in the last 20 for the band I have played with. One bar we play in, Coleman's, in Syracuse NY books us on a yearly basis. Add to that the new band I am in and we have a busy schedule. This is a good thing for me as the jewelry business is just about down to stiffle. Here in Central New York State therr are more venues than there ever have been and live acoustic music is thriving. There have been a couple legit coffee house type joints that have opened here in the last few years.
( Seamus, contact Burritt's in Weedsport,NY)

I am by no way suggesting I live in the economic promised land for folk singers. This year won't tell the story. It will be in November we will the feast or the famine. But right now things aren't too bad.

Don


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - So long and thanks
From: SunrayFC
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 01:10 PM

Tom- be careful. You wrote a very articulate article. The more you now say the less value it will have.

Trust me!


But its my opinion.

You wrote the article- stop there!


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - So long and thanks
From: henryclem
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 01:16 PM

We always seem to arrive at this assertion that dreadful floor singers are driving away otherwise willing audiences. This has currency as an argument if numbers (listening rather than participating/performing) are significantly lower on singers' nights; but in my (admittedly localised) experience we get as many, if not more, non-performers on an ordinary club night as we do when there is a guest. And often (frustratingly) a really great singers night, when the room is packed out, is followed the next week with half the numbers!

The local hall circuit is definitely worth developing, though : there is a wider audience than would ever think of coming to a folk club which finds itself royally entertained by the likes of Tom with his show; and they do come back for more - I've seen Tom McConville a couple of times at a local Arts Centre - packed out both times -
where maybe a half-dozen were recognisably Folk Club habitues.

Pubs disappearing, or changing their side/upstairs rooms to restaurants etc, may signal the end of the traditional venue for participatory folk music. The danger is that it's not just the venue, but the music itself which is lost. I love the informality, the sociability, and the sharing which is still the very essence of a decent club. On guest nights as well!

At present, they're using Woody Guthrie and Dylan on TV ads; presumably because they enhance the appeal of the products being sold. Taking "our" music into different settings, finding out how far that wider appeal extends, is a challenge for all of us.

I'll see you, Tom, at the end of the month in Devizes - a special club for lots of reasons.

Henry


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - So long and thanks
From: GUEST,guest ifor
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 01:28 PM

Tom will appearing at the Valley Folk Club in the Ivy Bush Pontardawe at 8.30 on friday the 20th March.All welcome!
ifor


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - So long and thanks
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 09 Mar 09 - 01:38 PM

Hi Henry, I think you'll find that the folk-loving people who are not keen on floor singing, and who therefore never go to clubs, are completely different individuals to those who come or don't come on singers or guest nights. So the issue is slightly more complex.

These No-club Folksters would in fact enjoy the floor singers if they came (they darned well should!) but they've either been disappointed in the past, or they've never get beyond the Old Stereotype image barriers.

I suspect that the issues for Club-loving Folksters around singers vs guest nights are more to do with A) atmosphere - singers nights are frequently (I'm sorry to admit) much more fun than guest nights, because even good guests can become boring after 90 minutes, so even clubs where standards are 'not an issue' can be worth a visit, and B) perhaps cash, in that singers nights are usually cheaper than guest nights.

Important distinction.

T

PS We're working on a new version of N&S with T taking the vocal. It's considerably better than my solo one.
    Threads combined. Messages below are from a new thread.
    -Joe Offer-


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Subject: Tom Bliss - State of the nation address
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 05:33 AM

I'm sure Tom won't mind the tongue in cheek thread title:-)

There is an excelent article by Tom in The Living Tradition on various aspects of the 'folk scene' (How 60s of me!) and why he is packing in one of his parts in it. I am sure all will join me in wishing Tom all the best and I hope you will all read and inwardly digest. It is rather difficult to externaly digest anyway...

Feel free to discuss. Not that you need any encouragement!

DeG


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - State of the nation address
From: Bonnie Shaljean
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 06:55 AM

Here's an alternative link to the online issue

http://content.yudu.com/Library/A14rpp/LivingTraditionMarch/resources/index.htm

I know this is something of a commercial (I have nothing personal to gain from it), but since Living Tradition is being generous enough to give us a whole magazine online for free (and a very good read it is, too) I think - as news - it's fair to pass on the following blurb from their newsletter. And kudos to Tom for such a valuable, thought-provoking, truth-illuminating article.


CURRENT ISSUE OF LIVING TRADITION NOW ONLINE
 
We are still experimenting with ways to make more material from the Living Tradition available for casual readers and to extend features for our subscribers.  We have again put the whole of the current issue online, plus an online version of our Festival Listing section (as published in Issue 82). You can read it, print out parts of it, and you can forward the links and invite friends to see it.   If you haven't seen the magazine recently, we hope that it will tempt you to subscribe.  Please pass this link on to any of your contacts who you think may be interested.  Please also encourage them to register for our free email newsletter so that we can keep them in touch with developments: www.folkmusic.net
 
There is a feature on the Living Tradition Summer Schools in the current issue of Living Tradition.  This is a major part of our work and something that we are sure that many of you would enjoy.  Can I encourage you to check out the article or the Summer Schools website.
 

http://www.livingtradition.org.uk/summerschools


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - State of the nation address
From: GUEST,Rafflesbear on leave
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 08:36 AM

every word rings true

one big block to new talent breaking through is a club policy of booking a year in advance - so you have to be ripe to appear at the time of booking but you will not get to appear until 12 months later - no flexibility at all


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - State of the nation address
From: Joe G
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 09:44 AM

An excellent article as one would expect from Tom - thanks for posting the link David- I didn't realise the magazine was on line.

Tom departing will leave a huge gap on the folk scene - I am just hoping he will still be able to do a few local gigs in the W.Yorks area and will continue to write & record such superb songs - I think the comments about Smooth Ops/BBC ring very true - I have frequently been driven to depair by the fact that artists like Tom seem to be ignored on R2 whilst some the Young Turks & Old Guard (as he defines them) are played repeatedly. Nothing against those artists at all of course but it would be nice if there was space for more of those who exist somewhere between.


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - State of the nation address
From: GUEST,Golightly
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 11:31 AM

Tom's article in Living Tradition is honest and comprehensive, but I don't think he's necessarily burned his bridges by 'coming out' with his views. I've always admired his willingness to contribute to Mudcat et al in his own name and I don't think he ever says anything unreasonable.

It's an old joke that the best asset a folk musician can have is a partner with a job. I just can't help thinking of gigs I could have gone to but didn't.

Good luck to Tom.


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - State of the nation address
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 11:47 AM

Out of interest our club is predominantly singers/local heroes to utilise Tom's phrase. I would dearly love to have more 'journeymen' there but with the audience being set in their ways and the other organisers unwilling to raise the admission I doubt if we could afford many:-( Oddly enough we have Johny Silvo on in early May (is he journeyman or old guard?) but that is now an annual tradition in itself! I have tried to get other evenings booked where I have booked such journeymen but they have sometimes failed due to what I now know is bad planning on my part! Thanks to Tom for the insight into how dificult it is to publicise someone who is not well known in the area and how easy it is for the organiser (me!) to assume the artist will 'bring their own audience'. I am far from making excuses - I agree with everything Tom says but how do we now turn this around? Or is it too late?

Cheers

DeG


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss - State of the nation address
From: Bernard
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 12:15 PM

Tom gets air time on Oldham Community Radio - and he will be popping in to the studio for a chat in the near future. We make a point of showcasing the 'Journeymen' (the Hometowners with Tony Downes for our St Patrick's Special, for example) and new talent.

As for turning this around, I believe the way most folk clubs are run these days tends to preclude this. Unless you are a 'big name' or well-known at the club, it is unlikely that you will attract a big audience.

Lymm Folk Club (formerly 'The Railway') is booked around a year in advance - and Tom was our guest last night (Thursday 19th). Unfortunately it's 'Catch 22' - if you don't get in first, the guests who will pull an audience are booked... so maybe it's the Guests' collective fault?!!

There is no simple answer... I've been waiting 40 years to be an overnight success... I can count on one hand the number of folk club gigs I get in a year - and one of them is usually Lymm folk club!

I pull in a good audience, but try telling that to a club where I'm relatively unknown, even locally.

I'll have a think about this and post more when I've time and I'm not 'at work'...! Sorry about that rude word!
    Threads combined. Messages below are from a new thread.
    -Joe Offer-


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Subject: Tom Bliss's article in TLT
From: Mitch2
Date: 30 Mar 09 - 11:32 PM

Has anyone else seen the excellent article by Tom Bliss in the current edition of The Living Tradition? In it he explains why he is retiring from the folk scene and offers some reflections upon it.

First of all, Tom, along with many others, I'm sorry that you're packing it in. I agree with almost everything that you write in your article, but I think that it's worthy of some discussion.

Tom talks about the necessity of maintaining a core of professionals to develop the folk music movement. I couldn't agree more. Whereas there is a strong network of willing and able (to varying degrees) network of amateurs who keep the home fires burning, it is true that the pros represent the figurehead of the folk movement.

Many will disagree with me, but look at it this way; there are plenty of amateur orchestras, rock bands and jazz groups, all playing in local venues for nothing more than their own personal satisfaction. All very laudable, and many of them are excellent. But- they don't advance the cause of their chosen spheres of music. That's the job of the London Philharmonic, U2 and Gary Burton (just names that came immediately to mind at random; per-lease let's not get sidetracked!)

He goes on to bemoan the paucity of gigs for up-and-coming new performers. I would question his figures slightly, but essentially he's right; the clubs are run and populated mainly by people of pensionable age who (with the utmost respect for all of them) will not be active for that much longer.

What he doesn't go into, and it's something that concerns me as a performer, listener and lover of folk music, is the long-term future of the movement in general.

Let's suppose that the folk clubs last another ten years or so, which is a realistic estimate, given the age of the organisers and audiences. What will the knock-on effects be of their demise?

Traditionally, the folk clubs have been the breeding-ground for new performers. (1) You start off by doing floor spots. (2) If you're any good, clubs begin to book you. (3) After a few years you get a national reputation. (4) You move onto the festival and arts centre circuit. If there's a way to short-circuit the process and move directly to stage 4, bypassing stages 1 to 3, I'd love to know how to do it, (I really would!) but I don't think there is.

So what happens when the folk clubs cease to exist? With no new performers breaking through, the festivals will continue to book the same names year in and year out. They are understandably reluctant to take a chance on new faces, so we will begin to see a preponderance of the same established artists going round and round, year after year. All very well for them- or is it? What happens when the punters have seen Seth Lakeman and Kate Rusby at every festival they've attended for the last five years and are offered the same choice at every event this year? No disrespect intended, but might they not decide to give them a miss this time? Might they wish for something new? Where is it going to come from? When they decide to give this or that festival a miss this year, the festivals will begin to lose their audiences and close down. Give it another ten years or so and we could see the death of British folk music, with no platforms left even for the most established artists. And bear in mind that the old guard of whom Tom writes in his article will eventually go into retirement themselves. If we continue on the way that we're heading, I'd give the UK folk music movement another 20 years at most.

What's to be done? There are other posts on this board about venues such as the Magpie's Nest in Islington, that are heralded as the saviours of folk music. Sorry, but... the Magpie's is my local club, if it can be called that, but I stopped going there some time ago. It's been written about before so I won't dwell on it; suffice to say that Sam Lee does a great job in organising it, but he deserves a better class of clientele. If you want to listen to a loud folk-rock band or a full-on Irish jigs 'n' reels band in a noisy pub environment, fine. If you want to appreciate the ballads and tunes that form the core of the folk tradition, performed in a setting in which you can appreciate the nuances of the performer's delivery, don't bother.

(By the way, I can't understand why people pay to go to the Magpie's just so that they can chat with their mates or ring their friends on their mobiles. There are about five other venues within a few minutes walk that offer live music, including folky bands with free admission, so why stump up the price of a ticket?)

The other venue that I visit quite often is the Green Note, just a short tube ride away in Camden. It's a great venue for performer and audience- a quiet, listening venue where people go to appreciate the music, not talk over it. I'd like to think that that's the way forward as well, but the brief is more for blues, world music and jazz, rather than traditional folk. This is not to demean it in any way- it does a grand job, but it's not a stage for the traditional singer. Apart from that, I don't know any other venues like it, except the Acoustic Routes club in Cambridge. And for a performer, getting into these places is as difficult as getting into an arts centre or festival.

When I got into folk music in the 1970's it was exciting. It was a young person's thing. I was 17 when I went to my first folk club and I was probably the youngest person in the room, but the oldest was probably around 30. And on an average night we had about 80 people crammed into the club room, regardless of who was the guest. What's happened since then is that the remaining audience has grown older, but very few youngsters have joined it.

Of course, then, we were revolutionary. We wore our CND badges with pride, drove our Citroen 2CVs (once we were old enough to get a licence and afford the driving lessons) and lived the lifestyle. We might be trainee computer programmers by day, but every club night we were the Blacksmith, the False Night on the Road, or we might be waking up, after sleeping on the pallet on the floor to say "good morning America, how are you?" or going down to the river with Suzanne. My God, it was exciting back then, if a bit naive. Why has this music lost its appeal to the teens of now? Could it be lack of TV coverage or lack of a credible folk music magazine? (Sorry, fRoots, but you lost touch with the club scene a long time ago.) Back then, at least we had the folk page in the "Melody Maker" and even a folk records top ten!

Where I do slightly disagree with Tom is that his experience is not entirely typical. He is a performer of his own original songs (note that I carefully avoid calling him a singer-songwriter!) I've seen him and thoroughly enjoyed what he does- he writes some good songs, is a superb performer and an entertaining raconteur. But.. (sorry about this Tom...) he ain't traditional. And the tradition is still at the heart of the English club scene. So it's probably a little bit easier for performers of traditional material to get gigs than it is for him.

Nevertheless, sorry to say, I see the UK folk scene dying a death within 20 years. Anyone have any rescue plans?


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss's article in TLT
From: katlaughing
Date: 30 Mar 09 - 11:54 PM

It's always helpful if folks include a link to what they are talking about, esp. for those of us who don't live there and may not be familiar with the references: The Living Tradition Magazine.


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss's article in TLT (UK)
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 12:17 AM

Previous threads [above] but I don't think Tom's article can get enough publicity, so this one is doing a grand job in putting it in the spotlight again:-)

Cheers

DeG


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss's article in TLT (UK)
From: The Villan
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 01:06 AM

Quote fromMitch2
>>And the tradition is still at the heart of the English club scene. So it's probably a little bit easier for performers of traditional material to get gigs than it is for him.
<<

Would you like to expand on that and name the performers of traditional material who get the gigs, as you see it, so that we can understand where you are coming from?


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss's article in TLT (UK)
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 03:48 AM

First, define this "tradition".

It hasn't actually existed for a century, if it ever really did. Poncy, middle-class "collectors" weeded out what they thought was fit for parlour consumption, bowdlerised the lyrics, ironed out a few tunes and ignored or lost christ knows how much in the course of their meddling and muddling.

Then after 50 or so years, along came "the revival", and the "f*lk club".
Rewriting (often "in the tradition", though not always declared) continued apace.
Tom Bliss, to give him his due, always acknowledges his sources when he produces self-written material which continue the spirit of that nebulous monster which we call "the tradition".
He (and many comparable artists) is very, very good but he quite simply cannot make a living in the current messy, disorganised set-up.

This is because too many "f*lk club organisers" think (or wish) it's still 1963 and performers will come out for a tenner because fuel for their transport drops like manna from heaven and they don't have the living costs of "normal" people. These "organisers" also know what their audiences want (or imagine they do) and so impose the same old same old who shuffle on with arms visibly twisted, to perform for (not much more than) a tenner.

To far too many blinkered souls in the "f*lk club" mafia, any sniff of "professionalism" is, curiously, anathema. They won't face that in this crumbling, late-capitalist, madly competitive economy, music is a business like any other. Of course, the tradarts ought to be treasured and heavily subsidised as, for instance, just across the Channel, but no, this is England and we still have the hopelessly shambolic "f*lk clubs". Just.

Is it really going to take 20 years for them to collapse entirely? Meanwhile, out in the real world, trad music plays on and on and on.


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss's article in TLT (UK)
From: Banjiman
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 04:00 AM

1963..... I wasn't even born, oh, and a I run a club.

We had about 60 in on Saturday night (and we really are in the middle of nowhere) for The Young'Uns & Rebekah Findlay. None of the performers were born in 1963 (by a long way) either.

We put on a mixture of performers who present trad and more recently written material. No floor singers, we actively encourage professionalism..... and pay the artists as much as we can.

Diane, are you suggesting that pros and aspiring pros would be better off without clubs like ours? I really can't follow that logic.

Tom's article is a useful reference point, it is undoubtedly tough out there.


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss's article in TLT (UK)
From: Folkiedave
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 04:11 AM

Nevertheless, sorry to say, I see the UK folk scene dying a death within 20 years. Anyone have any rescue plans?

The UK folk club scene may be dying - I am not sure. Well run folk clubs seem to survive OK.

The idea that the folk scene will die a death could only be writtten by someone walking around with blinkers.

Let me give you some examples. In the "hey-day" of folk clubs in the 60's/70's there were two or three melodeon players. Nationwide.

There are now two top class ones in Sheffield alone! Richard Arrowsmith and Matt Crum. Add all the others I see around and it is very lively. There were a few good fiddle players. We could form a symphony orchestra with quality fiddle players in Sheffield.

By the way, I can't understand why people pay to go to the Magpie's just so that they can chat with their mates or ring their friends on their mobiles. There are about five other venues within a few minutes walk that offer live music, including folky bands with free admission, so why stump up the price of a ticket?)

I can't understand it either. But then I can't understand why people buy expensive fizzy lager when there is a quality real ale on sale.


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss's article in TLT (UK)
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 04:14 AM

Paul, I haven't been to your club but from what you've told me, no.
I did say some (possibly the majority of "organiser" / committees) were far from realistic and blinkered, though obviously not all.

What I am saying is that blokes like my grandfather (who lived but a mile or two from you) was a traditional musician for social and ritual dance before WWI. He returned and found no teams left to play for. He and his mates continued to perform music among themselves till his death in 1959. He never saw a f*lk club, nor even knew what the term "f*lk music" was. But he played it, and people like him continue to do so and will, whether on platforms or not.

However, such structure as exists today is clearly unviable as it prevents professional musicians from plying their trade. To everyone's loss.


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss's article in TLT (UK)
From: doc.tom
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 04:48 AM

Even ignoring your sweeping global generalisations, Diane, please reconcile these two quotations from your postings.

"First, define this "tradition". It hasn't actually existed for a century, if it ever really did. Poncy, middle-class "collectors" weeded out what they thought was fit for parlour consumption, bowdlerised the lyrics, ironed out a few tunes and ignored or lost christ knows how much in the course of their meddling and muddling."

"blokes like my grandfather was a traditional musician for social and ritual dance before WWI. He returned and found no teams left to play for. He and his mates continued to perform music among themselves till his death in 1959. He never saw a f*lk club, nor even knew what the term "f*lk music" was. But he played it, and people like him continue to do so and will, whether on platforms or not."


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss's article in TLT (UK)
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 05:02 AM

Reconcile them? They're two irreconcilable concepts, that's the point.
People will create, rearrange and play their music regardless of those who come along and stick labels on what they do.

The "collectors" had an agenda of sorts. This was usually to "save" music from the clutches of ignorant peasants. The musicians just played and sang it, because it was theirs.

What Tom Bliss is getting at (seems blindingly obvious to me) is that the current circuit is hopelessly inadequate to support more than a handful of professional (i.e. "paid" artists. Doesn't, of course, prevent all the rest (who may or may not be "professional" technically) from performing in their own time but this does not, obviously, pay mortgages.


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss's article in TLT (UK)
From: IanC
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 06:57 AM

Hi

I have a slightly different take on all this. To me "folk" isn't a movement and certainly doesn't require people to sign up to CND or drive 2CVs. Never did.

"Folk" - if you want to call it that - is just something I do. And my family for some generations. It doesn't necessarily involve performance (few of my family ever performed much in public, though quite a few knew and sang traditional songs) and the idea that it can in some way be "developed" by professional performers seems odd to me.

I love listening to music and am more than willing to pay to see professional performers (went to see Katherine Tickell a couple of weeks ago) but I think of them in the same way as any other full-time paid performers (like Pink Floyd - went to see them do "Dark Side of The Moon" 35 years ago). Good luck to them, very few are other than excellent, and I hope they do well and get paid more than they currently do.

Please don't patronise me, though, by suggesting that these people are in some way "developing" the tradition that I'm continuing when I go next door for a few pints and a sing with my mates and the rest of the people in The Rose & Crown. It's not professional music and may not always be that good, but it's participative and people get pleasure out of it - either by doing it or by listening to it.

We keep being told (the history is at least 200 years old) that our traditional culture is "dying out" or even dead. When I was a child, my parents sang around a piano in the village pub. Now there's no piano but a lot of guitars (sometimes too many, perhaps). Some of the songs we sang have changed (they didn't have The Kinks and The Beatles then) but many are the same

I suspect that quite a few people who regularly got to Folk Clubs don't even know that these things are happening. I didn't realise till I was over 20 that what was happening all around me could be described as "folk" and I'm still not sure that it's helpful to do that.

I'm quite sure that it's a shame that Tom Bliss is retiring fro "The Folk Scene". All I can say is that it wouldn't be possible to retire from the kind of scene I'm part of.

:-)
Ian


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss's article in TLT (UK)
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 07:16 AM

Might be useful if people read what TB has to say. In case your browser can't handle the bookmarking, it's pp 16 - 19.

http://content.yudu.com/Library/A14rpp/LivingTraditionMarch/resources/index.htm


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss's article in TLT (UK)
From: doc.tom
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 09:41 AM

Diane said: "Reconcile them? They're two irreconcilable concepts, that's the point."

Am I missing something here? She also said: "this "tradition"... It hasn't actually existed for a century, if it ever really did." AND "my grandfather was a traditional musician... He and his mates continued to perform music among themselves till his death in 1959."

It only serves to confuse if you use the same terminology for two different things at the same time - THAT's the point.

TomB


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss's article in TLT (UK)
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 10:06 AM

My grandfather was was not a "f*lk" musician but a player of traditional tunes for Morris and country dancing before WW1, that is to say, over a century ago. Obviously, I didn't know him and learn tunes from him till right at the end of his life. Neither he nor I, at that time, knew what a f*lk club was (largely because there were approximately two in existence), nor did we call our music anything.

Wasn't till the next decade, well after his death, that I started going to that US coffee house import, the f*lk club. Granddad would have been astonished (and probably highly pissed off) had he known that before the decade was out I'd be working for the EFDSS. Doubtless he'd have recommended that I strangle all those Kennedys and Karpeleses when I had the chance . . .


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss's article in TLT (UK)
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 10:13 AM

. . . anyway, have any of you (apart from the OP) actually read TB's piece (which I linked to above) yet?

Cos it's NOT about Wot is F*lk? or who's more "traditional" than who? It's asking what future (if any) is there for professional, itinerant musicians (and not whether you approve of them or not).


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss's article in TLT (UK)
From: matt milton
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 10:15 AM

"He (and many comparable artists) is very, very good but he quite simply cannot make a living in the current messy, disorganised set-up.
This is because too many "f*lk club organisers" think (or wish) it's still 1963 and performers will come out for a tenner because fuel for their transport drops like manna from heaven and they don't have the living costs of "normal" people"

I think that's a very partial view. I think it's more than a bit off to put the majority (entirety?) of the blame on folk clubs. I imagine in most cases they pay what they can afford to pay.

The folk clubs that I'm familiar with charge what they can get away with charging (ie a price that will cover the costs and pay something to the performers but will nonetheless ensure a sizeable audience). Yes, a folk club could charge £15-20 per ticket, but I know plenty of people who would find that a struggle. Yes, a folk club can always do more publicity, but there are limits to the amount of time a (non-full-time) club organiser can put in outside of their day job.

I've only really found out about folk clubs in the last 5 years. Having some experience of the indie rock scene, the jazz scene, and the free improvisation scene, there have been many occasions during all these debates when I've had to resist asking "what makes folk so special?"

Meaning that I've been genuinely surprised to hear the expectation voiced that anyone could sustain a living *exclusively* and *entirely* within one genre's national live music network. Nobody expects to do that in rock music or hip-hop music. Instead you get a following, get a record deal and try to sell albums. If you don't manage that, it becomes a hobby/semi-pro hobby.

I started to think that maybe jazz music was anaologous, and then remembered that the examples I was thinking of were either the jazz equivalents of your Seth Lakemans or Martin Carthys, or they were working musicians who played weddings and parties too and who taught during the day.

I got the impression, reading that article, that a problem was being described that doesn't really have a solution. Folk music is one music among many vying for funding today and I don't personally see that it should have any more of a default claim to funding than other musics.


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss Article -So long and thanks
From: oggie
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 05:25 PM

I'm with Diane on this. There are too few professionally organised folk clubs who bother to sell their wares beyond the aging group who have always come and are now dying out. There are also too many "folkies" who sneer at Kate Rusby, Seth Lakeman or Show of Hands who go out and do the business.

The Carthy's, Garbutts of this world who have name recognition and still play the clubs aren't going to go on for ever. What happens then? If your idea of heaven is a group in the corner of a pub singing the songs you've sung for forty years ("keeping alive the tradition old boy") I suppose it isn't a problem. If you have a wider agenda for the music that we're supposed to be interested in then it is!

I find it scary that when I started going to clubs at fourteen I was the youngest there and nearly forty years on I'm still one of the youngest.

Steve


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss Article -So long and thanks
From: The Villan
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 05:45 PM

>>There are also too many "folkies" who sneer at Kate Rusby, Seth Lakeman or Show of Hands who go out and do the business.
<<

I would put them on in an instance at Faldingworth Live.

However, as i have already been told. The village hall is not big enough and it would cost too much.

I think you will find Oggie, that quite a few of us try and book artists like you mention, but know we can't afford them.

At that level, I am notmally told that I need a hall that will accomodate at least 200 poeple and will have to charge a ticket price that is getting on to theatre ticket prices.

So its basically - sorry chappy, your hall is too small at 100.

Believe me I have tried.


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss Article -So long and thanks
From: The Sandman
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 05:50 PM

I have just been spending hours,trying to negotiate through train websites,to get cheaper advance train tickets,to try and make nmy easter tour worthwhile financially,it does your head in.
quite frankly, I can make more money teaching music,in the comfort of my own home,the only reason for doing gigs,is because I enjoy singing and playing,financially its not sensible.
while I am away,I am also cancelling music lessons,and losing further income.
if I live to 65,and become available for reduced travel,it might become viable again.Dick Miles


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss Article -So long and thanks
From: treewind
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 06:13 PM

"they pay what they can afford to pay."
Yes, but when the audience turns out to be three men and a dog, talking about "what they can afford to pay" is addressing the wrong question.

"folkies" who sneer at Kate Rusby, Seth Lakeman or Show of Hands who go out and do the business
Tom's thesis seems to be that if you aren't KR, SL or SoH, you can't do the business.

In the early days of the folk revival people came to hear an unknown guest at their local folk club out of a sense of adventure and because they liked the music, and because the whole folk scene had an air of youthful subversion about it.

Now we are living in a celebrity culture. If the artist hasn't been on TV, the Proms or at least Radio 2, nobody wants to know. Not enough anyway.

Anahata


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss Article -So long and thanks
From: Folkiedave
Date: 31 Mar 09 - 06:19 PM

Yes, a folk club could charge £15-20 per ticket, but I know plenty of people who would find that a struggle.

Went to see Bellowhead at Sheffield University. £15.00 a ticket no discounts for OAP's like me. Packed. 650 folk.

Went to see Alistair Anderson, Catriona McKay, Donald Grant, Peter Cropper - look him up!! £15.00 per ticket. Packed. 250 folk.

There is a lot of stuff around that people will pay for.

Sheffield is not the richest part of the country by any means.


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss Article -So long and thanks
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 04:49 AM

Well thanks for all these thoughts (specially Mitch2 for much to chew on) - I've been away saying goodbye to Devon and Cornwall.

Obviously I think it's an important debate, so perhaps I should just clarify a couple of things..

MATT2: You may have seen me only doing my own songs, but I also do a full evening of Trad Only, and when with Napper do mainly Trad - so that's not really the issue, plus I have a sheaf of letters here from fully trad Journeymen, who agree 100% with what I said.

DIANE: You'll note that I carefully don't blame organisers. Yes a few could do a bit more, but the ones who do everything and better are still having problems. Those problems lie in the marketplace (demographics, image, history etc), and the solutions lie elsewhere.

IANC: If you don't appreciate the symbiosis between trade musicians and 'your scene' please think again. I've made the case as eloquently as I can on many occasions here and elsewhere, as have others better qualified than me.

MATTMILTON: I think there are solutions, but they're not the usual suspects. See below.

ANAHATA: Nearly right - I'm not saying only KR SL and SoH can do the business, I'm saying the next generation of people who WILL do the business will be scary few if we don't find some new flower beds.

I hope I've made the case for reform. Let's concentrate on ideas rather than problems.

1) The folk world, specially those who feel like IanC, need to understand how the Pro/Am yin/yang thing actually works (and always has) and therefore what's in it for them.

2) We need to strengthen the small venue circuit. An Association should help, as would more recognition from FAE and the other Movers Shakers and Gatekeepers. (Newcastle could do more too - where are the 20-something story-songwriters for example - people love 'em)?

3) House concerts need to become commonplace. 15 bodies at £8 in a normal small semi can be viable to rescue a club or tour. Clubs who get good attendance on singers nights but no-one on guest nights should consider hiving off the concerts to a house, attracting the core who do want guests plus additional friends who don't like singarounds, while leaving the singaround to flourish in public (not least as a billboard). Struggling singarounds can do likewise, specially any with venue or licence problems. Also a network of stand-alone HCs, ideally building up till they can even hire a larger venue - but that's not crucial.

4) Massive extension of the Rural Touring scheme into towns and cities - using the existing Schemes. This is a staggeringly cheap way of funding Trad and other arts using a proven business model. The government is looking for ways to support Folk Music (they have an unspent fund) this would be my best recommendation.

5) Much more good RAFT music in the media (Roots, Accoustic, Folk and Trad). Leave this one with me.

6) I have more but i need to take my Duet to the garage.

Tom


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss Article -So long and thanks
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 06:04 AM

Sloppy, complacent "organisers" whose mantra is "we've always done it like this" contribute to the poor image, do they not?

Y'know, the sort who have a day job which leaves (they say) insufficient time to run their venue. They "haven't time" to sort out an adequate dressing room or overnight accommodation for guest artists or ensure that they are paid the rate for the job. Indeed they often resent paying them at all. It may be a minority but one is one too many and yes, performers can and do vote with their feet.

But so can punters. They should be far clearer in stating what they do want instead of leaving it to the "hardpressed" organiser to decide for them. Then. of course, they have to pay for it but I don't think £10 - £15 a throw is at all unreasonable for the privilege of seeing a good, headline professional act.

It's what small, independent venues (e.g. Slaughtered Lamb, Spitz, Cargo and that ilk) charge and they're always packed because they are far more congenial.

At one very well-run venue I know, the organisers work hard in the interval talking to individuals in the audience, seeking their views and inquiring (if someone's been absent for a while), just why they haven't been supporting the club and what would entice them to come more regularly. From this has grown a "beginners' session" where wannabes can improve and, eventually, progess to open performance.


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss Article -So long and thanks
From: matt milton
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 06:07 AM

"Went to see Bellowhead at Sheffield University. £15.00 a ticket no discounts for OAP's like me. Packed. 650 folk. "

"Went to see Alistair Anderson, Catriona McKay, Donald Grant, Peter Cropper - look him up!! £15.00 per ticket. Packed. 250 folk"

I'm not sure Bellowhead is all that relevant to this discussion: they're pretty much the most bankable folk act in the UK right now. It would be pretty depressing if Bellowhead *weren't* selling 650 tickets at £15 a head. They're not really the sort of in-between journeyman musicians the mag's article was addressing.

And I'm very pleased to hear that the second line-up you mentioned managed to attract 250 people at £15 a ticket - that's highly impressive.

I could add examples such as the Goose Is Out club in East Dulwich too - they also routinely attract 100+ crowds at £10+ a ticket.

But I remain unconvinced that you can simply hoik up ticket prices at folk clubs to that degree at the pub function room/church hall level and make it work.

I note that that Alistair Anderson, Catriona McKay, Donald Grant, Peter Cropper gig was at The Round which would appear to be an arts-council-funded Sheffield equivalent to, say, the Cornerhouse in Manchester, the Barbican in London, the Sage Gateshead etc etc There's an irony in that audiences seem to be prepared to pay a premium to see Bert Jansch at the Roundhouse, or Martin Carthy at the Southbank – subsidised venues – that they query when it's a pub backroom.

I'll also note that there are a lot of musicians in Bellowhead, and that there are four musicians in that last line-up.


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss Article -So long and thanks
From: Banjiman
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 06:32 AM

"Then. of course, they have to pay for it but I don't think £10 - £15 a throw is at all unreasonable for the privilege of seeing a good, headline professional act."

To charge £10-£15 a head would be a huge leap of faith for me at KFFC. We charge £5 for club night s £20 for weekends.... and I guess put on acts who are in this price league. I think this fits with our remit in the overall network. We do put on some established acts but we also see ourselves as fulfilling the need to provide a platform for less well established but excellent acts.

This means we lose money on some events and make money in other ways [on bar, the good old raffle and food (at weekend events)] that subsidise these. I've now built up a healthy fighting fund that will allow us to take further risks in both directions..... bigger names who demand a bigger guarantee and unknowns where we need to subsidise.

We have a max capacity of about 80 (venue is licensed for 104 but by the time you get the stage etc in....). I do have limited tiime (sorry Diane!) full time job and our own gigging to take care of, hence running a monthly rather than weekly night.

I'm not sure we should be trying to push our prices up much..... this would force us into a position of having to only book those who have already "made it" . There are plenty of other succesful venues doing this (those listed above + Twickfolk, Faldingworth Live! etc). I'm convinced we already occupy a useful niche.... but would invite comments and challenges on this view.

Back to work........


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss Article -So long and thanks
From: matt milton
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 06:58 AM

I don't know about Spitz (now no longer a venue) and Cargo, but the Electroacoustic Club at the Slaughtered Lamb is very, let's say, "selective" in what they pay and to whom.

With all those venues, their admission price varies according to the stature of the performer. (As you'd probably expect it to.) But to properly address the problem highlighted by the mag's article you'd need the "premium performer" prices to be the default. (I'm not saying that this isn't workable: it might well be)

There are clubs that pay well, there are clubs that don't pay at all. There are clubs that will put you up, there are clubs that won't. Some are great publicists, others aren't. Some clubs pay support acts, some don't. Chacun a son gout. I suspect most performers doing the rounds probably get the measure of the lay or the land pretty quickly ,and adopt a "swings and roundabouts" attitude. As you say, performers vote with their feet, but they also quite often are content to play quite crappy venues, simply because they know there are good ones towards the end of the week.

This is not a peculiarity of the folk scene, it's universal.
It is the same across all music genres in the UK: rock, jazz, funk, indie, hip-hop, you name it.

I think all of Tom Bliss's suggestions above are very good ideas. Were they to work, they would generate a national folk network that genuinely could sustain professional careers entirely within that system, utterly independant of the market forces that conventionally sustain professional careers in all other forms of music. That would be unique - and the envy of other niche musical forms.


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss Article -So long and thanks
From: Will Fly
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 07:05 AM

The economics - and often the drudgery - of being a solo performer make it difficult for many musicians to make a comfortable living from it. I'm aware that these same "many musicians" get into playing in public for the love of it, and being paid was initially a secondary consideration. However, unless you're a "name" (define that how you will) and can afford to pick, choose and ask a considerable price for performing, then earning a reasonable living becomes a never-ending quest for moderately paid gigs with endless travelling and endless uncertainty. That I learned a long time ago.

Here are some simple economics: if I wanted to live in the style that I live in at the moment - modest comfort - with money got purely from performing, I would have to work around 5 nights a week for 46 weeks a year at £200 each and every night. This gives time for breaks and makes allowances for times when the gigs will not come. Calculate for yourselves the possibility or otherwise of doing that. Add to this travelling time, the cost of overnight stays if you can't make it home between gigs, getting bookings, organising publicity, getting a home life, etc., etc., etc. This is not just folk performers we're talking about here - it's performance in general. For example, I have very clear memories of getting back down to Sussex at 4am after playing a support gig for Showaddywaddy in Southport for £100 - total for the band. This was nearly 20 years ago - but £100 wasn't a lot then (between 3 of us) with hours of travelling, waiting around, etc.

So what does the journeyman solo musician do to make a decent living - especially when the gigs don't come? Well, you teach, if you can; you make CDs and DVDs, trying to get the best quality for the cheapes prices, if you can; you do workshops; you combine and re-combine with other musicians to play in different outfits - duos, trios, bands - just to get the extra cash; you exploit net esources such as YouTube, MySpace and FaceBook; you get Arts Council funding...

"Whoah! What did you say? Arts Council funding?. Because you play folk music? Why should folk music get special funding? Is it superior to jazz, or rock, or rap, or country & western or on a par with classical music? It's just another form of entertainment, isn't it - what makes it so special...?"

Not my argument, necessarily, but you get the drift of the 'man in the street'. So, my message would be: if you want to get special funding, support, help, etc., for this genre of music, you have to convince people that the music itself is special, and different, and important. And you have to seriously ask yourselves - is it?

Answers in a plain, brown envelope - but not to me, please.


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss Article -So long and thanks
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 07:22 AM

The Spitz is still a venue, it just sadly had to move out of Spitalfields. It's very good at publicity, sending out weekly emailings. Many still remember a Sunday lunchtime gig when Dr Faustus followed a Japanese techno band.

I' m sceptical of the concept of a "national folk network", I mean how many times has this been tried before? I was involved in the British Federation of Folk Clubs and the Folk Directory in 1969. These represented only those who bothered (or wanted) to be herded into categories. Sunsequent similar attempts haven't got all that far. Musicians are musicians and frequently (nay, preferably) often work across genres.

Organisers need, surely, to be aware of what's out there and take note of what their clientele wants and also be able to persuade them to take in what they don't yet know they want.


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss Article -So long and thanks
From: The Villan
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 07:47 AM

>>Y'know, the sort who have a day job which leaves (they say) insufficient time to run their venue. They "haven't time" to sort out an adequate dressing room or overnight accommodation for guest artists or ensure that they are paid the rate for the job. Indeed they often resent paying them at all. It may be a minority but one is one too many and yes, performers can and do vote with their feet.<<

Whilst I agree with Diane's comments above, it is not always feasable or possible to manage all of those things, irrespective of whether you are working or not.

When I book a guest, the fee is normally the first thing that is agreed. I tend to ask what their fee is, knowing what I can afford. More often than not the fees tend to fall into what I can afford, so there is normally no further discussion on that point. If the fee is more than I expected, I then have to be very open about what I can afford and ask them if they are prepared to meet my amount. there is always negotiation, but it is always up to the performer if they want to accept or not. If we can't agree, there isn't a booking. No hard feelings - move on to the next.
I always check if they are going to require being put up and deal with that accordingly.Always, the performer get a private room with a bed and breakfast next morning.
I then ask if they need a meal on arrival and that is never a problem from our point of view. If they want a meal, they get one.
We are limited for changing rooms, however, we can normally offer the kitchen, which is very clean and normally big enough to use.

Thats how we work and I am sure many other organisers adopt the same procedure.

Thats the easy part.

The hard work part is doing all the promotion to ensure we get a large enough audience to cover the cost. We never assume that people will turn up. We make sure people are made aware of each event. Its then up to them if they turn up or not.

On the day the stage and chairs have to be laid out. The bar has to be stocked up and everything clean and tidy before the audience arrives.

We have our own PA technicians who arrive at 5pm to set up the PA an be ready for the performers to soundcheck them by 7pm.

We try to make all visitors feel welcome and our main concern from that point on is that we all enjoy the evening, including the performers.

Its one massive jig saw puzzle, but we are fortunate enough to have some very dedicated people who are able to get on with their part of the jigsaw puzzle independantlyand knwo what they are doing, and we all pull together to make the whole event come together.

Afterwards its the taking down the PA clearing chairs and stage and making the hall ready for the next day.

A lot of hard work, but very rewarding. All of the above needs to be seemless, so that people paying to see the concert, have an enjoyable evening.

It requires a group of hardworking people who are dedicated to making it happen, and thats exactly where the above comment by Diane is so relevant.


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss Article -So long and thanks
From: matt milton
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 07:48 AM

Where's the Spitz venue? I thought the former Spitz promoters were now putting on events at a number of different places: Cross Kings, Kings Place, Vortex and Cosmo Bar?


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss Article -So long and thanks
From: Folkiedave
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 08:07 AM

Bellowhead etc....

Matt I was really making the point that there are people around who will pay £15.00 per head. I am sure the same people will pay proportionately lower prices for proportionally less-well-known acts.

Some time ago I went to see Lau (before the folk awards) at a village hall in the middle of nowhere. That was £12.00 per head.

Now it may be that people will only pay that sort of price for top acts (though Lau and Bellowhead had support) but it does show people will pay.


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss Article -So long and thanks
From: matt milton
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 08:13 AM

"The government is looking for ways to support Folk Music (they have an unspent fund)"

Tom , I'm curious, could you say any more about this?


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss Article -So long and thanks
From: TheSnail
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 08:18 AM

It'll be interested to see whether Tom, once he has retired from the road, starts off by opening up his living room to house concerts or goes straight for running a full scale folk club.


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss Article -So long and thanks
From: GUEST
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 08:23 AM

both - but remember I will be in Alderney. Hope you can afford the air fare Bryan


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss Article -So long and thanks
From: Mitch2
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 08:24 AM

I've just found this thread as I see that my initial post, which was originally a new thread, has been appended to it. I didn't see the original thread so I've duplicated some of what was said there. However- to reply to some of the points raised from my last post...

First, none of what follows is criticism- it is fact, based on my own experiences of playing at clubs throughout the UK.

Go into almost any UK folk club and you'll see a group of mainly 60+ year-olds performing mainly traditional music. If you're a newcomer trying to get gigs, it's easier to get them by playing trad. music, as your audience will already know the songs, or at least be receptive to the genre. You just have to sell your performance. (Yes, and your personality, audience rapport, etc.- let's accept that you have to do that whatever you perform.) If you're playing your own songs you have to make two sales: first the music, then yourself.

As Tom says in his article, clubs are closing or having fewer guest nights. You have to be wearing blinkers NOT to see this. OK, YOUR particular club may be bursting at the seams with a famous guest every week and a constant influx of fresh young new audience members, but if it is, I can assure you that it is the exception! Oh and yes- I know that YOUR club welcomes and books performers of all types of music, including singer-songwriters, so don't rap me on the nuckles; again, you're the odd one out!

I repeat; like Tom, I'm not criticising the club scene- I still love it- or the valiant work of those who keep it going. But if it doesn't attract a young new audience it will inevitably die out, thereby removing the platform for new performers trying to launch their careers.

Compare these scenarios:

1970's - Regular peak-time TV programmes featuring The Spinners, The Corries, Steeleye Span, a weekly late-night programme with John Pearce, mainstream entertainment programmes with guest spots from Jake Thackray, Julie Felix, The Fivepenny Piece and Pentangle. A weekly national 1-hour radio show which includes a live recording from a different folk club each week. Terry Wogan playing Ralph McTell on Radio Two. A national folk magazine (Folk Review) which focuses on the action at club level. A weekly folk page in Melody Maker. Clubs that feature weekly guests and are full every night.

Now - Mike Harding. A scattering of clubs that feature weekly singarounds with 15 people sitting in a circle.

Yes, we have more festivals, and there's nothing wrong with a singaround- I still enjoy them. But they don't raise the profile of the music, and, as I wrote before, the festivals will not survive unless they can draw on new performers from the club circuit- no-one wants to go on seeing the same artists year in and year out, however good they are. Apart from that, how many of today's leading bands and artists will still be going in 20 years?

I STILL love the club circuit and extend my appreciation to those who struggle to keep it running. I will lament its passing.


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss Article -So long and thanks
From: Will Fly
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 08:50 AM

I repeat; like Tom, I'm not criticising the club scene- I still love it- or the valiant work of those who keep it going. But if it doesn't attract a young new audience it will inevitably die out, thereby removing the platform for new performers trying to launch their careers.

My take on it, from local experience, is that you'll find the "young new audience" in sessions and open mics and not in clubs. We had - at a rough estimate - 7 people under 30, out of a total of around 15 musicians at our recent local Sunday session. The others were old geezers like me strutting our stuff to the youngsters and learning new things from their take on the music. Very productive and very enjoyable. You won't find this sort of ratio of -30s to +30s in most conventional folk clubs.I'm happy to say that, at the session I've been running for the last 6 months or so, the majority of attendees are under 30 - and I've made every effort to get them to come along and join in. They're a huge asset - they bring a breath of fresh air to the proceedings and they learn something from the older and more experienced performers.

The age of people who get up at the pub open mics I've attended has also been mainly under 30 or up to mid-30s at most. And, yes, I know the stuff that's played is not your session repertoire - but that's where many of the up-and-coming entertainers and audiences of the future seem to be, down here at any rate. If I should, by chance or design, get up and do something at these open mics, I'm very conscious of the age difference. Luckily, I get treated with respect, and it's sometimes a bit of an eye-opener to the young things that such an ancient herbert can still get feet tapping.

These people may never attend a folk club in their lives, and may never want to. If they don't, it means that the music has moved elsewhere for the moment.


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss Article -So long and thanks
From: TheSnail
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 10:19 AM

Tom (I presume)

both - but remember I will be in Alderney. Hope you can afford the air fare Bryan

Excellent news. Two more venues for the touring professional.


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss Article -So long and thanks
From: TheSnail
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 11:03 AM

Mitch2

As Tom says in his article, clubs are closing or having fewer guest nights. You have to be wearing blinkers NOT to see this.

This seems to have become the standard way of avoiding producing any actual evidence that clubs are closing, just state it as being blindingly obvious. Perhaps they are, but in this region, I know of one club that opened but didn't last very long and three which have opened since then and still appear to be going strong despite the fact that two of them are once a month on the same night. Could someone please produce some actual evidence? Then we might be able to see why they are closing (if they are) and offer solutions.

I repeat; like Tom, I'm not criticising the club scene- I still love it- or the valiant work of those who keep it going. But if it doesn't attract a young new audience it will inevitably die out, thereby removing the platform for new performers trying to launch their careers.

If the young don't want to come to the clubs run by the old farts, isn't it up to them to organise their own platforms? I'm glad to say that some are.


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss Article -So long and thanks
From: Mitch2
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 11:17 AM

OK, Snail; from my own experience (often repeated):

I phone the organiser of a club where I've had a successful gig last year and ask if (s)he'd like to book me back this year. The reply: "We've had to cut down on our guest nights. We can't fit you in this year but we'd love to fit you in next year." I'm currently taking bookings for spring 2010.

Will- there are open-mic clubs all over the place where young singer-songwriters can go and strut their stuff to each other. Do these ever book paid professional or semi-pro guests? Do they accept people singing traditional material? Talking, again from my experience, the answers are "no" and "no".


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss Article -So long and thanks
From: TheSnail
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 11:27 AM

I'm sorry, Mitch2, but one anecdote doesn't add up to hard evidence that "clubs are closing or having fewer guest nights". Do you know why they've cut down on guest nights? We certainly wouldn't book a guest two years running, no matter how successful and he wants to book you next year.


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss Article -So long and thanks
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 11:46 AM

"Two more venues for the touring professional."

I'm afraid not. I would have to find an additional £300 on top of the fee to cover the air fares (there are no ferries and it's too far to swim), so it can only be visiting chums on holiday and locals, which sadly rules both out of the circuit.

I know you think I have no right to comment because I don't run a club, but I think everyone else knows that already so perhaps you can stop saying it now. And anyway sarcasm seldom works on web forums. Cheers Tom


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss Article -So long and thanks
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 12:02 PM

"one anecdote doesn't add up to hard evidence"

Artists who spend 15-30 hours a week ringing round for gigs are the only people who are likely to know what's going on nationally. The people who talk to me, both club organisers and touring artists, are not liars or fools - and the feedback is unanimous, even if not technically 'hard evidence.' If anyone wants hard evidence they could always ring 200 or so clubs (I've spoken to 400 in the past couple of years), and ask them if they have reduced the number of guest nights in the past 5 years or not. Then they could try to ring all the clubs that have closed altogether to check that they really have gone away. It would be a great service to folk, and I'm rather hoping that we may have a volunteer on this very thread..?


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss Article -So long and thanks
From: TheSnail
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 12:53 PM

Tom, you are the one making the claims. You wrote a long article on the strength of it. Can we just have some FACTS?


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss Article -So long and thanks
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 01:23 PM

I'm sorry everyone - I'll not be posting to this thread any more because I have no appetite for conflict. Bitter experience tells me that no matter what evidence I produce Bryan Creer (uniquely, and for reasons I've never fathomed) will merely contradict me, and will go on doing so until our keyboards melt. I've said all I have to say.

Good luck with your clubs and careers - so long, and thanks for all the applause!

love

Tom


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss Article -So long and thanks
From: The Sandman
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 01:27 PM

Snail,apart from your own club,and a few clubs local to you,how do you know what is going on nationally.
I will give you some facts,when I first started gigging in 1976,Iwas regularly booked back at clubs every year,in fact one club Faversham,used to book me every six months,Stoke on trent used to book me every year,Fighting Cocks Kingston every nine months,Stockton every year,Highgate folk club booked me every six months,Eastbourne lamb every nine months,[there were two guest booking clubs in Eaatbourne],ALDGATE Folkclub booked me every six months.
there were two guest booking clubs in Macclesfield,two guest booking clubs on the isle of wight
orpington[green street green] folk club booked me every year.Croydon Folkclub,booked me every year,Icould go on and on
guest weekly guest booking clubs were so numerous and 70 percent of clubs rebooked me yearly.
the point is that the clubs were full enough and had changing audiences,so the organisers could do this.


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss Article -So long and thanks
From: The Sandman
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 01:29 PM

quite right, Tom.


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss Article -So long and thanks
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 01:45 PM

Mark Steel's In Town is currently being broadcast on R4 (18.30 - 1900). Tonight, it's Lewes and MS has concluded already that its residents are barking.
No-one's doubting that things are reasonably rosy at the place where the gastropods go (whatever pub it's in now). That's not the point. It's what goes down in that wicked world outside, throughout the the length and breadth of this land that Tom Bliss is talking about.

I was contemplating posting something on the lines of what Dick has just done, but I just knew Bryan Snail would object that I don't go round gigging and I don't run a venue either. Still, it's surely indisputable that, even now, I get to considerably more venues than he does, and that lots more current performers relate their experiences to me than they do to him. What, after all, wouod be the point of telling him? He always knows better than you . . .


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss Article -So long and thanks
From: TheSnail
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 02:42 PM

Captain Birdseye

Snail,apart from your own club,and a few clubs local to you,how do you know what is going on nationally.

I don't Dick. That's why I'm asking.

I will give you some facts,when I first started gigging in 1976...

Er, Dick, that's 33 years ago. A lot of clubs closed in the eighties. What I am asking for is information about what is happening now. I am not contradicting anything because I am not being given anything to contradict.

If we are going to solve The Problem, we need a bit more to go on than "folk clubs are dying".


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss Article -So long and thanks
From: Folkiedave
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 02:46 PM

Will,

Tonight I am off to a session in the University Arms Sheffield. It is only young (under 30) people. Most are under 25. There'll be a load of fiddles, couple of melodeons, an accordion, guitar, couple of flutes etc etc. There will be no place for a pro - or semi-pro musician or singer. Upstairs there will be a rapper side dancing - some are old and some are young - unnder 20 for example. I don't conclude that the folk music scene is dying from that. In fact I conclude the complete opposite.

Young people don't go to folk clubs. So?

Three weekends ago DERT was jammed full of young people doing sword dancing. Anecdotal evidence suggests it was 50% young people under 25. All having a damn good "folk" time.

There is a huge folk scene out there and it is lively.

You are right the club scene may be dying and I am happy to accept Tom's evidence - but that is not the same as saying the folk scene is dying. It isn't and there is loads of evidence to show it isn't.

All that publicity and radio shows etc didn't last to the eighties did it? But the young people whose parents were into folk music and encouraged them to play an instrument did. Folkworks lasted and so have the people who went there.

Whenever I go to a festival (and I go to loads), there are lots of young people there.

I really do dislike this doom and gloom scenario when all the evidence I see is completely the opposite. (And yes I go to folk clubs too).


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss Article -So long and thanks
From: TheSnail
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 02:53 PM

P.S. Dick, the Lamb at Eastbourne is still open and still booking guests.


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss Article -So long and thanks
From: Will Fly
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 06:33 PM

Folkiedave - I agree with you. There are loads of young people at folk-ish events - they my not be in the clubs but they're certainly out there. The point I was also making in my post that, whatever your musical genre or taste, being a professional performer is a hard road to travel, and that many professional performers have other strings to their bows (no pun intended) to make ends meet. So the folk road is a hard one at the moment.

Well, so is the jazz road, from what I can see. When I was playing jazz in Brighton in the late '70s/early '80s, there was a huge jazz scene, with gigs everywhere. Mostly gone now. A shame, but there it is. I've known well-intentioned people start up jazz venues around here in the last 10 years - they run for a few months and then fold. Because the audience, for any number of reasons, just isn't there. Well, that's life. If you make a decision to become a professional musician, you have to face the facts of the business - and sometimes they're unpalatable ones. It's sometimes similar to being an actor - where I'm told that 90% of the profession are "resting" at any particular time!

It is very sad when dedicated professionals can't get a break in what they've chosen to do, but you can't necessarily change Joe Public's taste.


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Subject: RE: Tom Bliss Article -So long and thanks
From: Folkiedave
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 06:54 PM

Any musician, of whatever genre will find it hard.

Maybe for the moment the day of the professional miusician is over and then we will only have semi-pro musicians. The rest of the time the semi-pro will spend their time teaching!!

Not a bad thing - the more teachers - the more students the more musicians.

There will still be people pushing the boundaries and charismatic figures who draw crowds. Betcha!

Blatant plug - I shall be talking about this with one of the younger generation of musicians on my show on Friday.

Seek out "Thank Goodness It's Folk".


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