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Success in the Folk World?????

Banjiman 16 Apr 10 - 07:36 AM
Howard Jones 16 Apr 10 - 08:38 AM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 16 Apr 10 - 08:54 AM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 16 Apr 10 - 09:03 AM
Morris-ey 16 Apr 10 - 09:05 AM
mattkeen 16 Apr 10 - 10:52 AM
treewind 16 Apr 10 - 11:06 AM
MikeL2 16 Apr 10 - 11:23 AM
Banjiman 16 Apr 10 - 11:34 AM
John P 16 Apr 10 - 11:57 AM
theleveller 16 Apr 10 - 12:04 PM
Marje 16 Apr 10 - 12:08 PM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 16 Apr 10 - 12:31 PM
Banjiman 16 Apr 10 - 12:35 PM
Marje 16 Apr 10 - 12:55 PM
Mavis Enderby 16 Apr 10 - 02:38 PM
The Smiler 16 Apr 10 - 02:40 PM
The Smiler 16 Apr 10 - 02:48 PM
Mavis Enderby 16 Apr 10 - 03:09 PM
Tootler 16 Apr 10 - 03:47 PM
stallion 16 Apr 10 - 07:57 PM
GUEST,Russ 16 Apr 10 - 10:55 PM
Banjiman 17 Apr 10 - 06:04 AM
Marje 17 Apr 10 - 06:36 AM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 17 Apr 10 - 06:43 AM
stallion 17 Apr 10 - 07:27 AM
Maryrrf 17 Apr 10 - 10:35 AM
theleveller 17 Apr 10 - 02:39 PM
Steve Gardham 17 Apr 10 - 03:54 PM
Allan C. 18 Apr 10 - 06:27 AM
Betsy 18 Apr 10 - 04:04 PM
Phil Cooper 18 Apr 10 - 07:51 PM
GUEST,Bardan 18 Apr 10 - 09:06 PM
GUEST,Steamin' Willie 19 Apr 10 - 04:54 AM
Ralphie 19 Apr 10 - 05:07 AM
Howard Jones 19 Apr 10 - 06:14 AM
Tim Leaning 19 Apr 10 - 06:34 AM
Tootler 19 Apr 10 - 06:34 PM
Jim Carroll 20 Apr 10 - 03:43 AM
Banjiman 20 Apr 10 - 03:50 AM
GUEST,Steamin' Willie 20 Apr 10 - 04:14 AM
Ruth Archer 20 Apr 10 - 04:49 AM
Bonzo3legs 20 Apr 10 - 04:55 AM
theleveller 20 Apr 10 - 05:12 AM
Ruth Archer 20 Apr 10 - 05:24 AM
GUEST 20 Apr 10 - 08:05 AM
Jim Carroll 20 Apr 10 - 08:44 AM
GUEST 20 Apr 10 - 10:28 AM
GUEST,Guest Jon 20 Apr 10 - 11:49 AM
Stringsinger 20 Apr 10 - 12:40 PM
GUEST 20 Apr 10 - 05:16 PM
Jim Carroll 20 Apr 10 - 05:27 PM
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Subject: Commercial success in the Folk World, why?
From: Banjiman
Date: 16 Apr 10 - 07:36 AM

Prompted by another thread and not wanting to pull it further off topic I wanted to explore why it is that some artits are commercially succesful.

Crudely there seem to be 2 schools of thought:

1/ They're lucky (and get picked up by the right agents, record labels etc)

2/ They're brilliant and much better than others in their chosen field.

Whatdo you reckon?


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: Howard Jones
Date: 16 Apr 10 - 08:38 AM

The same reasons as success in any field - you need talent, hard work and luck. Excess in any of these areas may help to make up for deficiencies in the others, but you won't get anywhere without having all three to some degree.


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 16 Apr 10 - 08:54 AM

I don't know. It would be interesting to broadly identify what features might be shared in common among commercially successful folk artists?


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 16 Apr 10 - 09:03 AM

I've no idea if 'luck' really comes into the equation? It might do, if one is 'lucky' enough to suit a burgeoning trend in the commercial side of the folk world. Otherwise, youth and beauty are definite enhancers of fortune in all walks of commercial life. As of course is talent and skill.


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: Morris-ey
Date: 16 Apr 10 - 09:05 AM

Being young and attractive is no bad thing either...


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: mattkeen
Date: 16 Apr 10 - 10:52 AM

There must be very few FULL TIME professional folkiies in Britain.

When you consider that you can go and see the very best in rooms with under 100 people in, it gives you a real idea of the lack of money in the industry.

But I agree with others that its the same as success in any feld, talent, hard work and luck are key elements


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: treewind
Date: 16 Apr 10 - 11:06 AM

Being young and attractive is no bad thing either...

A well known young folk performer who fits that description recently told us how hard it was for young performers to get gigs... so that's not entirely it.

Marketing and promotion is a real skill and takes hard work. Some are better at it than others, and a lot of folkies don't whole-heartedly believe in it either.

"There must be very few FULL TIME professional folkiies in Britain."

Correct. And those who come closest do a lot of teaching because performing doesn't pay the bills.


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: MikeL2
Date: 16 Apr 10 - 11:23 AM

hi

I think that the most important requirement is dedication.

You have to want to do it and be prepared to put up with pitfalls and disappointments along the way.

It can be a lonely life especially if you are a solo performer.

Of course you need some talent and luck but IMHO in the folk world at the moment youth and physical attraction count for less than in other musical genres.

cheers

MikeL2


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: Banjiman
Date: 16 Apr 10 - 11:34 AM

So if "Commercial" success is defined as being able to support oneself from musical activities (including teaching but mainly gigs/ music sales) what is the predominant factor?

I saw on another thread where it stated that 9 out of 10 people who think they are as good as the succesful pros are deluding themselves. Is this correct?

Do you really have to be young and attractive to "make it". Are there any notable exceptions to this (i.e made it after their young and pretty period!)?

I accept most of those who have made it are very talented in one or more areas. (I really do!). I'm very happy to watch them.

I've also seen those with very high profiles disappoint (consitently in one case) in the live arena when judged by any objective criteria I could think of (technical ability, audience reaction, audience interaction).... but still get played consistently on national radio and get a top line or near top line billing at festivals. Is this down to luck, effective marketing or something else?


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: John P
Date: 16 Apr 10 - 11:57 AM

I always though the definition of a successful folk musician is one whose spouse has TWO jobs . . . .


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: theleveller
Date: 16 Apr 10 - 12:04 PM

As Steve Knightley sang in 'Be Cruel', "the more you practice and the harder you try, the luckier you seem to be....funny that!"


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: Marje
Date: 16 Apr 10 - 12:08 PM

I suppose the folk world is quite different from many other musical genres in that many folkies are perfectly happy to get together and make their own music without ever attending paid gigs. This means that those who are trying to make a living are competing with the free or near-free events that people set up - club singarounds, sessions, folk weekends, etc. They're also competing with lots of very competent singers and musicians who have little or no inclination to market themselves commercially and who will happily perform just for the love of the music. Also, many of those who regularly do paid gigs and who market CDs of their music are also quite happy to join in local sessions and perform for free.

I can see that if your goal is commercial success, you may find it a bit frustrating to see lots of perfectly enjoyable events featuring similar music to yours taking place without anyone making any money.

I have no real solution to suggest, but I do appreciate that without the contributions of many of the pros, our musical heritage would be much the poorer. I do try to support paid events when I can - like to attend concerts, clubs and festivals from time to time, to hear people whom I might otherwise never hear performing live, and also to hear showcase gigs by people whom I've also heard playing for free in clubs and sessions.

Oh, and I don't think youth and beauty are critical. If you look at the artists who draw big crowds at clubs and festivals, many are neither young nor pretty (I'm not naming names, but you can surely think of some examples).

Marje


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 16 Apr 10 - 12:31 PM

"This means that those who are trying to make a living are competing with the free or near-free events that people set up - club singarounds, sessions, folk weekends, etc. They're also competing with lots of very competent singers and musicians who have little or no inclination to market themselves commercially and who will happily perform just for the love of the music. Also, many of those who regularly do paid gigs and who market CDs of their music are also quite happy to join in local sessions and perform for free."

Good point.
I think it must be very tough for anyone wanting to succeed in the professional arena. And much as I love singing on an amateur level, it's certainly not something I'd want to attempt. There are a lot of competent amateurs out there, and as has been said elsewhere the 'divide' between amateur and pro. is far less defined than it may be in other areas. So what the magic 'something' is which gives an artist that all important leg-up, is a jolly good question.


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: Banjiman
Date: 16 Apr 10 - 12:35 PM

"I can see that if your goal is commercial success"

Not mine! There's not a lot of call for mediocre banjo players who sometimes sing a bit! I'm quite happy with singarounds and the odd unpaid or semi-pro gig that comes my way.

Merely picking up on another thread around a topic that interests me


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: Marje
Date: 16 Apr 10 - 12:55 PM

You've hit on an important point there, Banjiman. For many of us who play/sing in an informal, amateur way, "success" may have nothing to do with making money. It may be learning to play an instrument, discovering how to sing harmonies, or simply finding a whole new social life through folk music. I'd say my involvement in folk music is hugely successful in personal terms but I've rarely made any money from it (nothing like as much as I've spent on it!).

But I suppose the original question was about the minority who do all this and also want to make a living from it. And I honestly don't know what the secret is - obviously, because if I knew how to make a living from having this much fun, I'd be rich and famous by now!

Marje


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: Mavis Enderby
Date: 16 Apr 10 - 02:38 PM

"There's not a lot of call for mediocre banjo players who sometimes sing a bit"

Oh bugger - that's me pension plan gone then...

Pete.


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: The Smiler
Date: 16 Apr 10 - 02:40 PM

LOL :-)


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: The Smiler
Date: 16 Apr 10 - 02:48 PM

When you are good as this bloke, you know you are successful, even in heaven.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nyE3LzSJ-wQ


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: Mavis Enderby
Date: 16 Apr 10 - 03:09 PM

"Do you really have to be young and attractive to "make it". Are there any notable exceptions to this (i.e made it after their young and pretty period!)?"

I can't think of any recent artists off the top of my head but there must be some? The story of Uncle Dave Macon, who turned pro in his fifties, must have been repeated through the years, I'd have thought?

Pete


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: Tootler
Date: 16 Apr 10 - 03:47 PM

Talent, hard work and luck as others have said are important. Also important is ambition.

I believe that many of those who "make it" (however you define it) are in some way driven and often succeed in the more commercial sense because of their desire to succeed - their ambition.

I had an interesting discussion on this theme with some friends last weekend. It came out of a comment on one of the performers that evening who has a fine voice is no mean songwriter and we were wondering why some succeed while other, equally talented people don't. They cited an example of a friend whose ambition was to be famous and she had chosen folk music because she felt it was less crowded than other musical genres. In effect she was in folk music as a means to another end rather than for the music itself.


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: stallion
Date: 16 Apr 10 - 07:57 PM

it is indeed a strange one, the cornish "choir" that were recently signed could have been anyone of dozens equally talented shanty/singing groups..... they had marketability in the sense of the romantacism of the "Singing Cornish Fishermen" The music was part of it but it was the image they portrayed that was required as much as the music. Was that luck? Banjiman, the missus is a brilliant performer (no disrespect to the banjo player but she is special), you both must be exasperated as to how many hoops one has to jump through to get the recognition, ahhhh if only life were fair. And yet there is a (successful) folk musician whom I, and another famous folk legend confided to me, think is an Asshole, isn't life a bitch. The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary. So keeeeeeeeep on working!


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 16 Apr 10 - 10:55 PM

Being in the right place at the right time can't hurt.

Russ (Permanent GUEST)


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: Banjiman
Date: 17 Apr 10 - 06:04 AM

Stallion, this thread really isn't about me or mine!

I know me place and Wendy is just enjoying the ride at the moment (remember, she only started gigging 2 years ago), no frustration here!

Burton, there might not be much call for mediocre banjo players but I have heard that oud playing bluesmen will be the next big thing......


The thread was stimulated by an interchange between Ruth Archer and Crow Sister in the Unaccompanied Trad Groups thread:

"a view that "if so-and-so's kid can suddenly be a folk celebrity, well then I certainly could have been too, if I'd just tried hard enough and had the right breaks."

"As I say, this line of thinking, nine times out of ten, is self-delusion. But it certainly generates its fair share of sour grapes at times."

I just wondered if folks felt this is correct or not.


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: Marje
Date: 17 Apr 10 - 06:36 AM

To avoid the "sour grapes" aspect, it's still possible to leave oneself out of the picture and form a view based on other people's successs or lack of it. And it has to be said that there are some performers getting regular gigs at clubs and festivals who are (in my view, and that of other posters here) no better than many of the amateur artists who, despite their best efforts, fail to get the attention that they seem to deserve.

I dislike the idea that if you simply want it enough, you can do it. This smacks too much of TV competitions where they keep on asking "How much do you want to win?" and the contestants say, "Oh, it means EVERYTHING to me. I've been singing/playing/acting/cooking since I was 6 months old. This is my dream, and there's nothing else I want to do..." etc.

It's not enough to want to be successful - it requires talent, dedication (which means working hard at your skill and also at presentation and marketing) and, I think, a degree of luck, which may entail having a relative or friend in the business who can help you get the first big break, being good-looking, finding a good accompanist or co-performer, living in the right place, etc.

Perhaps what we need here is some comments from those who have made it professionally - or are they all too busy rehearsing or performing?

Marje


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 17 Apr 10 - 06:43 AM

As for being so-and-so's kid, obviously it's helpful in any field! And although I don't really take a great deal of notice of the commercial side of the folk scene, it's only recently dawned on me how many of the younger acts were 'raised in the tradition' and are second generation folk artists. While this might look superficially like nepotism, without the second generation of artists, frankly I don't really know how many (if indeed any?) younger artists there would be making this music and taking it to a wider audience?

But are average folkies 'deluded' in imagining they are equal in talent or ability as successful artists? I'd say I've met a few who are naturally extremely talented and many others who are not so talented. A few might possibly have the *potential* to be at least as good as any of the more successful acts out there that I've come across, but I've not heard them complaining about their lack of breaks or indeed comparing themselves to anyone successful.


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: stallion
Date: 17 Apr 10 - 07:27 AM

Whoa Banji I am on your side it was tongue in cheek, although as far as the missus is concerned i am one of her biggest fans and you have made, and are still making an enormous contribution for the greater folk world both organising and performing. I would give anything for W's tallent. The point I was trying to make is sometimes tallent and hard work are not always a gaurantee to monetary success and to me that is unfair. And yet sometimes the tallentless make it, i think it is extraordinary, especially with all the electronics now, you don't even need to carry a tune. I think maybe success is a different measure in different people. I gauge personal success in the folk world if the audience leave feeling happy and enjoyed themselves no matter how large or small an audience is, the other thing that I have got out of it, other than singing with lots of people and making some great music and great venues, are the friendships I have made on the way I have met some wonderful and tallented people from all over the world. That is what I feel is successful, not made any money, indeed it inveriably costs me money and we are not inundated with requests for gigs and packing venues but that doesn't bother me cos the singing is the thing that drives me, and sharing it
Pete


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: Maryrrf
Date: 17 Apr 10 - 10:35 AM

Just jumping in here from a perspective of someone who puts on a (small)concert series and has done some performing as well. Luck, talent, skill, dedication, etc. all play a part. Personal connections, be it family members in the business or influential friends, can help too in facilitating a performer getting gigs they wouldn't have gotten otherwise. Let's say you're trudging along, playing small folk clubs, and someone you know gets you a spot in a prestigious venue or festival. You then list this venue as a place you've played, and it tends to 'raise your stature'. And lets say you know someone who writes reviews for a well known publication, and your CD gets a good review. (The good review may be well deserved, but as we all know reviewers are swamped with CDs from unknown performers, and the personal connection might be necessary in order to get the CD listened to in the first place). Thats another feather in your cap that raises your profile.

In a sense, you either have 'connections' or you don't, but connections can be nurtured (and I'm not talking about fawning and brown nosing)- but just being friendly and courteous.

Professionalism and dedication is definitely a quality that is totally under the artist's control, and I think it can make or break a performer. That includes such things as showing up on time for the sound check, having a well rehearsed, well prepared set of songs or tunes that is appropriate for the venue, and having good publicity material, including hi res photos. I've been amazed at the talented people that either don't have websites or whose websites are very poorly done or outdated, provide no bio or quotes for me to use when I advertise their concerts, don't follow up, don't answer emails or return phone calls.   Publicity does make a difference, and for a performer, being good at self promotion (without taking it over the top into arrogance) is an important asset.


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: theleveller
Date: 17 Apr 10 - 02:39 PM

Success, in my book. is having people enjoy what you do - especially when it comes as a bit of a surprise. I'd hate to have to do it professionally but I have the greatest respect and admiration for those people who travel from one end of the country to the other, not knowing whether they'll be performing to a packed house or a couple of drunks, putting up with a lot of hassle, often for a ridiculously small amount of money, and for what? To share with us their wonderful talent and send us home with a smile on our faces and the memory of a wonderful night's entertainment. I know I couldn't do it but I'm sure as hell glad that there are those who do.

Thanks folks.


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 17 Apr 10 - 03:54 PM

Being a good juggler helps, and I don't mean throwing your balls in the air! I know many pro performers, but very few of these put bread on the table by solely performing. You certainly need some breaks and you can say goodbye to a normal family life. These young ones are trying to do it before they have families, but I doubt if many will keep it up once the patter of tiny feet start. Often seriously talented people musically are also talented in other ways, which helps.


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: Allan C.
Date: 18 Apr 10 - 06:27 AM

Success? Well, heck! I once made as much as $21 dollars for a gig! But then I had to split it among the other members of my trio.

Seriously, though, I truly believe that the formula that Howard Jones offered above is about as close to being accurate advice as anyone might have to give. However, the "hard work" part should be defined largely in terms of marketing. It seems almost axiomatic that artists of nearly any sort fall way short of the mark in terms of marketing their talents, hence the term, "starving artist". One of the most valuable seminars I ever attended was geared entirely toward marketing strategies such as could be used by artists. It included a section on figuring out the sale value of your product in terms of what you did to produce it. Here is where many people sell themselves short. But, then, you still have to keep an eye on whatever the market will bear.

I suppose what I am recommending is that if you should discover a seminar or short course in marketing, it may prove useful. I daresay that there are many not-so-good artists out there who are doing rather well because they are marketed skillfully.


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: Betsy
Date: 18 Apr 10 - 04:04 PM

One or two nice replies in here.
Try catching up on Vin's life 40 years of anonimity.
Life is relatively bit more comfortable than those days of sleeping on peoples couches, especially when they kept him talking til 3 in the morning and going from Leeds (say) to Sidmouth the next night knocks the shit out of you even if you're a fit 20/ 30 something.
Unfortunately , I think you might have to measure success against two different levels ie people who seem to make a living out of Folk Clubs and concerts, and, those who used to make a living out of the same but moved on, Barbara Dickson, Billy Connolly, Mike Harding etc.
In concluding ,Vin's wife - Pat works her bloody socks off - even though Vin has an agent to organise bookings which might be the earlier referred - Marketing.
The final thought Vin and Martin Carthy (and others?) don't drive so THAT'S another huge complication.
Sounds like an idyllic life going round the country singing your songs , collecting your fee at the end of the night, but Jeez - it's a hard game which demands 101% dedication.


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: Phil Cooper
Date: 18 Apr 10 - 07:51 PM

Andrew Calhoun once wrote a great article for Sing Out Magazine about success. In it he mentioned the notion that if you are able to play for an audience coming out to see you at all, you're successful. Yes, it's nice to make some money out of it. But, do people leave your performance feeling they've gotten something of value?


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: GUEST,Bardan
Date: 18 Apr 10 - 09:06 PM

Practise is the first step I think. (But the biggest one- the others are irrelevant if you don't sound good.)

Knowing people has got to be big as well, (or knowing good agents/managers etc... who know people.

Individuality. (In sound, appearance, name, everything really. That makes you memorable and recognisable.)

Too a certain extent (and oddly in contradiction to the last one) being part of a general trend.

A certain ammount of business acumen/general craftyness.

A lot of these would bleed into each other anyway, and they can all be luck influenced as well.


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: GUEST,Steamin' Willie
Date: 19 Apr 10 - 04:54 AM

Just remember the excellent post in the thread about sayings you don't hear in folk clubs;

(I paraphrase) "Will the banjo player please go back to his Porsche, he has left his lights on..."

Talent is a good starter for success, but only as a starter. I recall the Daily Mirror "voting" the guitarist out of The Bay City Rollers as the best guitarist in the world. Luckily, he was embarrassed enough about this to tell another newspaper that in the studio, they used session guitarists...

If you must climb the ladder to success, remember there is a bloke at the top of it who says, "Hi, I'm Cess.."

If however, success is something other than paying the bills. Well, most of my artistic heroes aren't those I see on the telly, but many of them I have had a pint with, asked how they do that complicated cadence.....

Methinks success and respect can be confused, and respect may not pay the bills, but you could always rob a bank.


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: Ralphie
Date: 19 Apr 10 - 05:07 AM

John Kirkpatrick wrote a song many years ago (recently re-released on his Going Spare album) called.
What do you do in the day?
Very apt, and worth seeking out!


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: Howard Jones
Date: 19 Apr 10 - 06:14 AM

The folk world is a genre where it is possible to be successful (in terms of recognition and achievement) without being a full-time professional musician. I'm thinking in particular of the ceilidh circuit, where most of the best-known bands and callers are largely made up of part-timers who earn their livings in other ways.

There are many musicians who have sufficient skills and talent to turn professional, but who simply cannot afford to do so - they can earn a much better living doing a "proper job" and playing music as a paying hobby. Nevertheless, the folk scene is one where these hobby musicians can become nationally known.

Financial success is another matter!


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: Tim Leaning
Date: 19 Apr 10 - 06:34 AM

It seems to me that there is no "Folk" circuit as such.
There are so many different versions of "folk" that it is impossible to pin down exactly what we would mean by success in the folk genre because it is such a wide field and encompasses so much music and other forms. (obviously)
I have noticed that the few times I have been to concerts with big name stars, they have got the skills and talent to do what they are doing at least adequately. They also have something else which I suppose you could call charisma or presence that lifts them that little bit above all the others who maybe have similar or even better skills.
The very best ones you would want to see whatever genre they chose.


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: Tootler
Date: 19 Apr 10 - 06:34 PM

I dislike the idea that if you simply want it enough, you can do it. This smacks too much of TV competitions where they keep on asking "How much do you want to win?" and the contestants say, "Oh, it means EVERYTHING to me...

So do I, but it is what the celebrity culture is based on. Personally I find it thoroughly nauseous - even more so because there are a number of people who are making a lot of money simply because they have a pretty face and are prepared to do almost anything to keep themselves in the public eye. These people certainly work hard - at ensuring they are seen in the "right" places, at putting themselves forward and generally keeping themselves in the public eye.

Fame and financial success is only one measure of success and, by and large, a shallow one at that. How many so-called celebrities have unsatisfactory private lives? I remember that the equivalent of the celebrity magazines when I was younger used to refer to such people as "starlets". A wonderful piece of damning with faint praise. As my wife put it, one step away from prostitute.


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 20 Apr 10 - 03:43 AM

Isn't success in the folk world, or any creative world for that matter, enjoying doing something and knowing that your audience is enjoying it just as much as you are - or have I missed something?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: Banjiman
Date: 20 Apr 10 - 03:50 AM

"Isn't success in the folk world, or any creative world for that matter, enjoying doing something and knowing that your audience is enjoying it just as much as you are - or have I missed something?"

Of course that is one measure of succes Jim.

..... would you have expected your mate Ewan to do it for nothing though?


"Fame and financial success is only one measure of success and, by and large, a shallow one at that. How many so-called celebrities have unsatisfactory private lives? I remember that the equivalent of the celebrity magazines when I was younger used to refer to such people as "starlets". A wonderful piece of damning with faint praise. As my wife put it, one step away from prostitute."

.....are you suggesting that this applies to those who are succesful (i.e. make a living) in the folk world Tootler?


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: GUEST,Steamin' Willie
Date: 20 Apr 10 - 04:14 AM

Jim Carroll has got it right on this point. Success is not necessarily a financial thing, but respect is through mutual love of what you do.

I was in bands, many of which turned pro, and that normally triggered my leaving, as having a good job, mortgage, kids etc, the gig circuit didn't appeal in any way whatsoever. As it is, I enjoy what I do, look forward to getting the guitar / banjo / fiddle out and don't feel I have to "do this" in order to live. My old mates who turned pro always said they didn't enjoy it as much after the initial feeling of "made it."   

The real me, away from this silly non de plume, does appear to enjoy a degree of respect, and it is a wonderful feeling when people travel a distance because they heard I am at a club that night.

You couldn't begin to buy that respect.

Ditto many classical players. If I note they have interpreted a challenging composition and released it, I may go out and buy it, together with millions of others around the world. But are they famous? No. BUT they are successful and that is the wording of this thread.

Ditto many folk musicians. The difference being that their classical counterparts such as Andreas Scholl could, if they wished, drive a Rolls Royce into a swimming pool. Pure economics that though. The world market being much much larger....


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 20 Apr 10 - 04:49 AM

"As for being so-and-so's kid, obviously it's helpful in any field! And although I don't really take a great deal of notice of the commercial side of the folk scene, it's only recently dawned on me how many of the younger acts were 'raised in the tradition' and are second generation folk artists. While this might look superficially like nepotism,"

That's not really what I meant. "So-and-so" didn't refer to the likes of Martin and Norma, it meant your mate down the local folk club whose kid has been sucking on their bottle of pop and snapping at your ankles at the session since they were toddlers; maybe you even encouraged them, gave them a bit of friendly advice - suddenly, hey presto, they have got a CD out and are getting lots of good bookings and maybe even press attention. The point I was trying to make is that this is much more likely to happen in the folk world, where there isn't a huge divide between professional performers and amateur. The very closeness of the professionals de-mystifies the process of "celebrity" - it doesn't seem quite so unattainable.

Nepotism? As I say, I'm not talking about people whose parents are professional musicians, so they are unlikely to hold much sway in the "industry" (people like Jackie Oates and Jim moray, whose mum and dad ran a folk club I believe; Kate Rusby, whose dad was a sound guy; or the Unthanks, whose dad George is a singer, but not of the level where his name was going to open doors for his daughters).

"But are average folkies 'deluded' in imagining they are equal in talent or ability as successful artists? I'd say I've met a few who are naturally extremely talented and many others who are not so talented. A few might possibly have the *potential* to be at least as good as any of the more successful acts out there that I've come across, but I've not heard them complaining about their lack of breaks"

Unfortunately, I remember a whole thread on Mudcat about exactly this topic, but it's a little while ago now. Perhaps this memory is what informed my observations.


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: Bonzo3legs
Date: 20 Apr 10 - 04:55 AM

I should think for females, the wearing of 3/4 length leggings (hideous) and a tatty dress will get you far!!


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: theleveller
Date: 20 Apr 10 - 05:12 AM

"it meant your mate down the local folk club whose kid has been sucking on their bottle of pop and snapping at your ankles at the session since they were toddlers; maybe you even encouraged them, gave them a bit of friendly advice"

That sounds like our daughter. At the moment it's a toss up between Avril Lavigne and Rachael McShane.

"I should think for females, the wearing of 3/4 length leggings (hideous) and a tatty dress will get you far!!"

Sound like mrsleveller - hey, I think we're onto a winner, here. Where does an ugly bloke with a shaved head, earrings and a waistcoat fit in?


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 20 Apr 10 - 05:24 AM

"The point I was trying to make is sometimes tallent and hard work are not always a gaurantee to monetary success and to me that is unfair."

Unfortunately, them's the breaks if you choose to be an artist. Whether it's folk, jazz, pop, acting, visual art...there are always far more people in an over-crowded industry than there are gigs/spots/parts/exhibitions to go round. It's a career choice that does not necessarily pay back the dedication and the hard work that you put into it. I have met quite young artists who are already fairly angry because, despite having done what they perceive as all the right things (folk degree, good agent, lots of practice, working very hard at their craft, etc) they are not getting many gigs. Meanwhile so-and-so, who doesn't seem to be trying very hard at all, is getting lots of work.

Well, unfortunately so-and-so may be lazy, but prodigiously, naturally talented. If a venue is booking an artist, they don't award merit points for effort; they want the people who are going to make a great night for the audience. Some people will practice every day for hours and still only ever be a mediocre musician. I know - I'm most certainly one of them. Then again, some will never be the greatest musicians or singers in the world, but have been packaged and sold in a way which brings them widespread commercial success. That's just the way of this business.

This may sound harsh, but it does come from experience. My first career path was theatre. I was accepted into one of the best acting conservatoires in America, worked very hard - and watched lots of girls who were not particularly talented, but who were very pretty, getting all the work. After a few years, I realised that choosing to do this as a job had made it a chore. Something that used to give me more joy than anything in the world was now a source of constant stress and unhappiness. So I stopped. This is probably the reason I have never even aspired to having a professional career as a folk performer on any level (not that I believe I ever had anything like the requisite talent) - 20-odd years after I first became involved in folk, being in a singaround or a session still brings me unadulterated joy.

So all hail the amateurs. Hopefully it proves a constant source of happiness throughout our lives. To those who go pro, and endure all the travel, the knock-backs, the scraping a living, and the stress: hats off to you, too. I only wish I had enough slots to accommodate the many very talented people who contact me every day, looking for bookings. Maybe if Sidmouth ran 365 days a year I'd just about manage it.


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: GUEST
Date: 20 Apr 10 - 08:05 AM

Like in may other spheres of music, luck may get you a big break but is no guarentee of any longer term success (or even short term in many cases). Longer term success (and a possible career) entails all parts of the "package" being right so image, material, skill, attitude everything has got to be spot on. Without that all the luck in the world won't help make a career.

Although we always say that folk is a small world I suspect in relative artist terms it is not much, if any, smaller than other "bigger" spheres of music. The chances of making the breakthrough in rock or classical are probably about the same as in folk, the difference being that you can make it huge in those areas even though most full-time rock or classical musicians are probably no better off than most of their folk equivilents and are equally adept at balancing umpteen different strands to make a living.

Steve


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 20 Apr 10 - 08:44 AM

"..would you have expected your mate Ewan to do it for nothing though?"
Why not - most of us on the club scene never made a penny out of it; I can't recall anybody putting their head in the gas oven because of that.
There is no reason at all that anybody shouldn't make money - or even a living - out of it, but if that becomes the object of the exercise, that's when you start to have to make compromises in what you do.
One of the finest fiddle players in Ireland once said publicly that it was impossible for a performer to make a living out of the music unless they were part of a group - if you wanted to be a solo performer - no matter how good you were - tough! Piper - tune - is that how we see our music?
I know enough about MacColl that he wasn't prepared to make the compromises.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: GUEST
Date: 20 Apr 10 - 10:28 AM

"Fame and financial success is only one measure of success and, by and large, a shallow one at that. How many so-called celebrities have unsatisfactory private lives? I remember that the equivalent of the celebrity magazines when I was younger used to refer to such people as "starlets". A wonderful piece of damning with faint praise. As my wife put it, one step away from prostitute."

.....are you suggesting that this applies to those who are succesful (i.e. make a living) in the folk world Tootler?


No, I was not. I was referring to those who pursue fame and fortune for its own sake and don't really care how they achieve it.

I would also suggest that everyone defines their own measures of success. While that may include earning enough to live on in reasonable comfort, it is for most, not the sole measure. I have heard professional folk musicians refer to their sheer love of what they are doing.


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: GUEST,Guest Jon
Date: 20 Apr 10 - 11:49 AM

Most organisers I've ever met do it for the sheer love of the music. It's unfair to single out individuals but I will give one example (alright, two) - Vic Smith and wife Tina are and have been the most enthusiastic promoters and supporters of traditional music in my area since I were now't but a lad. They make no money from their endeavours but the enjoyment in their faces when their guests perform is quite evident. I reckon the same is true of performers. Success in the folk world in monetary terms is an oxymoron...the very few who succeed in earning a living from their music do so at enormous physical and mental cost to themselves for very little pecuniary reward. I would imagine that very few of us would wish to put in the hours and the traveling they do...how on earth they retain a freshness and enthusiasm for their art I have no idea. They clearly really do love the music. Success is what you feel it is.


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: Stringsinger
Date: 20 Apr 10 - 12:40 PM

The only two successful folkies I know are Adam Miller, John McCutcheon,
Pete Seeger,Elise Witt,Tom Paxton, Bill Staines and others who I don't know or about.

The above have made a full-time living at performing folk music across the country.
This has to be success.

I think that the sacrifice they make in doing this is the cost of forming contiguous personal
relationships, eating bad food, losing sleep and the pressure of getting from one gig to another.

I think it's possible to remain alive and fresh when you are onstage if you really love
what you are doing. It's offstage that present the problems.

I agree with Ruth Archer that talent and hard work won't work always. It takes a marketing skill but even more, the audience will tell the performer who is successful.

There are different ways of being successful, though, other than performing as a concert soloist. Writing, teaching,leading group singing, working with children on an educational level............................

I think that the real reward comes from studying your craft, musically, academically,
historically and in cross-disciplines. You can never know too much.


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: GUEST
Date: 20 Apr 10 - 05:16 PM

You can't eat applause or a nice warm feeling.

Steve


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Subject: RE: Success in the Folk World?????
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 20 Apr 10 - 05:27 PM

"You can't eat applause or a nice warm feeling."
You can't sit back and enjoy somebody else's bank balance either.
Jim Carroll


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