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Folk Music professional versus amateur

johncharles 29 Nov 11 - 06:08 AM
MGM·Lion 29 Nov 11 - 06:22 AM
GUEST,matt milton 29 Nov 11 - 06:34 AM
johncharles 29 Nov 11 - 06:38 AM
Pete Jennings 29 Nov 11 - 06:48 AM
Rob Naylor 29 Nov 11 - 07:09 AM
MGM·Lion 29 Nov 11 - 07:15 AM
GUEST,matt milton 29 Nov 11 - 07:28 AM
McGrath of Harlow 29 Nov 11 - 07:33 AM
Midchuck 29 Nov 11 - 07:49 AM
Silas 29 Nov 11 - 08:08 AM
theleveller 29 Nov 11 - 08:16 AM
Musket 29 Nov 11 - 08:26 AM
Richard Bridge 29 Nov 11 - 08:27 AM
Rob Naylor 29 Nov 11 - 08:42 AM
r.padgett 29 Nov 11 - 09:17 AM
GUEST,matt milton 29 Nov 11 - 09:26 AM
Will Fly 29 Nov 11 - 09:35 AM
theleveller 29 Nov 11 - 09:57 AM
johncharles 29 Nov 11 - 09:58 AM
MGM·Lion 29 Nov 11 - 10:05 AM
johncharles 29 Nov 11 - 10:13 AM
GUEST,Spleen Cringe 29 Nov 11 - 10:34 AM
tonyteach1 29 Nov 11 - 11:26 AM
glueman 29 Nov 11 - 11:46 AM
GUEST,matt milton 29 Nov 11 - 12:10 PM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 29 Nov 11 - 12:15 PM
r.padgett 29 Nov 11 - 01:10 PM
johncharles 29 Nov 11 - 01:23 PM
JedMarum 29 Nov 11 - 01:57 PM
stallion 29 Nov 11 - 02:18 PM
johncharles 29 Nov 11 - 02:56 PM
GUEST,Paul Burke 30 Nov 11 - 02:05 AM
r.padgett 30 Nov 11 - 03:23 AM
GUEST,leeneia 30 Nov 11 - 10:19 AM
Richard Bridge 30 Nov 11 - 10:39 AM
theleveller 30 Nov 11 - 11:03 AM
Will Fly 30 Nov 11 - 11:12 AM
theleveller 30 Nov 11 - 11:28 AM
GUEST,Fyldeplayer 30 Nov 11 - 12:14 PM
Paul Burke 30 Nov 11 - 01:58 PM
MGM·Lion 30 Nov 11 - 02:06 PM
GUEST,leeneia 30 Nov 11 - 02:07 PM
Will Fly 30 Nov 11 - 02:09 PM
John P 30 Nov 11 - 02:14 PM
Will Fly 30 Nov 11 - 02:21 PM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 30 Nov 11 - 02:23 PM
Paul Burke 30 Nov 11 - 02:42 PM
johncharles 30 Nov 11 - 02:45 PM
GUEST,punkfolkrocer 30 Nov 11 - 02:50 PM
Howard Jones 30 Nov 11 - 03:02 PM
John P 30 Nov 11 - 04:40 PM
Will Fly 30 Nov 11 - 05:09 PM
Greg B 30 Nov 11 - 07:20 PM
John P 30 Nov 11 - 07:28 PM
michaelr 30 Nov 11 - 07:44 PM
GUEST 01 Dec 11 - 02:06 AM
GUEST,Paul Burke 01 Dec 11 - 02:06 AM
Howard Jones 01 Dec 11 - 03:55 AM
GUEST 01 Dec 11 - 06:46 AM
GUEST,Spleen Cringe 01 Dec 11 - 07:05 AM
Richard from Liverpool 01 Dec 11 - 07:28 AM
theleveller 01 Dec 11 - 07:30 AM
Will Fly 01 Dec 11 - 08:26 AM
theleveller 01 Dec 11 - 08:32 AM
Richard Bridge 01 Dec 11 - 11:33 AM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 01 Dec 11 - 11:54 AM
GUEST,punkfokrocker 01 Dec 11 - 12:05 PM
JedMarum 01 Dec 11 - 01:20 PM
JedMarum 01 Dec 11 - 03:36 PM
Paul Burke 01 Dec 11 - 03:36 PM
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Subject: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: johncharles
Date: 29 Nov 11 - 06:08 AM

Folk Music professional versus amateur
A number of recent threads including the Occupy Folk music ones, bemoan the fact that apparently great acts can't break into the folk scene due to some shadowy cabal deeming them inappropriate.
These acts I assume to be professional; to the extent that they are seeking paid gigs and expect to be in the running for awards e.g. BBC folk awards.
Any profession will be competitive and none more so than music.
In order to succeed any artist must in my opinion as a minimum:-
1.        Be technically very competent.
2.        Ideally have some unique characteristic
3.        Pursue a relentless campaign of publicity and networking to maximise exposure
4.        Play what the current market wishes to hear
5.        Be persistent and get lucky
Many artists will still fail to gain the recognition they may think they deserve. That is the market at work in the real world and either change your act or live with it.
In the folk world I inhabit most of the performers are amateurs, for us it is a hobby, a social occasion where like minded people gather to make music to the best of their abilities ( there are some extremely talented amateurs). We gravitate towards the groups/clubs which play the music we like and we are not paid nor seeking recognition and awards.
I believe that as an amateur whatever type of music you play there will be some venue/club/group which meets your needs. As a professional things will be very different and just being technically good is unlikely to be enough to break into a very competitive field.
john


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 29 Nov 11 - 06:22 AM

But there is an in=between group, surely. A professional is one who works at it full time, practising when not gigging, and earns enough to rely on this for sole means of sustenance; and some will make better livings than others, on the criteria expressed by john above.

Then there are those who attend FCs, singarounds, open mics &c. performing often to a high standard but receiving no money.

But surely there is another, in-between group. Many years ago, in 70s-80sx when I had two jobs, Head of Upper School by day, theatre, book and folk-music critic the rest of the time, getting paid for my reviews and features by The Guardian, The Times, TES, Folk Review &c. ~ I also ran an entry in the Folk Directtory, & every few weeks a club [or even occasional festival] would invite me to do a paid gig, paid at about the mid-point of what singers earned at that time. I am retired from most things, apart from an online Shakespeare journal for whom I still do theatre reviews for love not money, so not that much in touch with the scene. But surely there are still some of this last category of semi- [or even, as one might say, ¼-] professionals around?

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 29 Nov 11 - 06:34 AM

Frankly, when you compare the folk scene to pop or rock (or indie or metal or soul or electronica) I think the folk scene is probably the EASIEST scene it is possible to get into. I've seen acts go from folk clubs to festivals within a year.

I can't think of any other genre that has a national network of weekly/fortnightly venues with such loyal audiences. The "club" setup, whereby audiences turn up to hear live acts predominantly because of GENRE (rather than performer), is something inconceivable in live rock music.

The closest analogy would be something like Ronnie Scotts in London (where jazz fans and/or tourists might turn up irrespective of who's playing "to hear some jazz").

I'm not suggesting that attendance for a Martin Carthy gig at a folk club will be identical to that of, say, a Rapunzel & Sedayne gig, or even a Lucy Ward gig. But in the rock/pop/indie band circuit, the idea that there could be a whole network of venues where ANYBODY AT ALL would turn up and pay to hear somebody they have never heard before is pie-in-the-sky territory.


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: johncharles
Date: 29 Nov 11 - 06:38 AM

Michael yes there is a continuum. however the term usually applied to performers who get paid regularly is semi-professional not semi-amateur.
john


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: Pete Jennings
Date: 29 Nov 11 - 06:48 AM

I think the combination of both views sums it up. I fall (just!) into the latter group: over the years I must have done hundreds of floor-spots, and normally got in for free in return, but I've also done the odd paid gig and back in the 80s I was an occasional MC at the Bell & Pump in Birmingham (UK), on the nights when the Mad Jocks weren't there, and Derek Grinnell used to bung me a fiver.

Loved every minute of it.


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: Rob Naylor
Date: 29 Nov 11 - 07:09 AM

Matt: I'm not suggesting that attendance for a Martin Carthy gig at a folk club will be identical to that of, say, a Rapunzel & Sedayne gig, or even a Lucy Ward gig. But in the rock/pop/indie band circuit, the idea that there could be a whole network of venues where ANYBODY AT ALL would turn up and pay to hear somebody they have never heard before is pie-in-the-sky territory.

I don't think that's true.

In my home town of Tunbridge Wells there are two venues where this happens all the time, The Forum and The Grey Lady Music Lounge.

Both put on a wide range of acts, mainly local but The Forum also puts on some nationally known acts, usually when they're "up and coming" and haven't quite made it but have a cult following (as soon as they make it they get too expensive!). Grey Lady does some jazz, but also a lot of folky and indie rock stuff too.

People oten just go along to these venues and go in to see what's cooking.

Same thing up the road in both Tonbridge and Sevenoaks where I (and other like-minded people) will just go along to see people they've never heard of. I also regularly go as far as The Windmill pub in Brixton to listen to random Indie acts that I've never heard of.

In fact, throughout the South East (and probably elsewhere) there's a network of paying venues where "unknown" Indie bands or artistes play. The "form" is to have 3 or 4 bands on the bill which each do a set of 35-45 minutes. Entry charges vary from £5.00 up to £10 (in London). It's a fantastic way to open your mind to the new stuff that youngsters are doing. There's a lot of crap of course, but it's worth it for the occasional absolute gem.


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 29 Nov 11 - 07:15 AM

Yes, John ~ semi-professional was the term I used.

One problem {I used to call it "The Problem", & once made it the topic of my monthly Folk Review column & got quite a lot of feedback IIRC} is that of the semi-pro who is so successful that he/she gets 2,3,4 gigs some weeks, involving much work & travel & late nights to bed; but still has to be up for work next morning & do a day's work which will not reflect badly, or cause disappointment or let-down to office colleagues, pupils, &c ~~ but still not making quite enough to be able to ditch the day-job, which is bound to suffer in such a situation, & go full-time.

Anyone have views on that particular cleft-stick in which I recall several of my friends getting trapped? How have people solved this particular problem?

~M~


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 29 Nov 11 - 07:28 AM

Rob - that's not my experience of two decades of gig-going in London (and two years in Manchester). At the risk of sounding like a snooty Londoner, I suspect that things are a little different in towns where there's literally only one or two venues.

(I reckon I've got a better grasp of the London and indeed national indie scene than most: I've played in various indie bands since I was 16, touring nationally and internationally)

Though I'm glad to hear you regularly trek to my local, The Windmill. A lovely little venue that's just round the corner from me.

I've played there many times myself. Have to say that that in itself rather proves my point: can't say there's ever been anyone in the audience who had "just turned up on spec".

I started playing the odd folk song in public about 5 years ago. Right from the start, I was amazed at the fact that I'd get offered gigs without asking for them. That simply never happened with indie bands.


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 29 Nov 11 - 07:33 AM

But in the rock/pop/indie band circuit, the idea that there could be a whole network of venues where ANYBODY AT ALL would turn up and pay to hear somebody they have never heard before is pie-in-the-sky territory.

Pie in trhe sky? Hardly. We've got such a place in Harlow ( here, and I don't think it's untypical of what exists elsewhere. And of course there are also pubs which regularly put on unknown groups.


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: Midchuck
Date: 29 Nov 11 - 07:49 AM

One problem {I used to call it "The Problem", & once made it the topic of my monthly Folk Review column & got quite a lot of feedback IIRC} is that of the semi-pro who is so successful that he/she gets 2,3,4 gigs some weeks, involving much work & travel & late nights to bed; but still has to be up for work next morning & do a day's work which will not reflect badly, or cause disappointment or let-down to office colleagues, pupils, &c ~~ but still not making quite enough to be able to ditch the day-job, which is bound to suffer in such a situation, & go full-time.

My problem exactly, for many years, although we'd only get 2,3, or 4 gigs in a week one or two weeks in high summer - and now, with the economy down, not even then. There is a solution. It's called "Social Security." Or whatever they call the same thing in Old Blighty. But you have to wait for it.

Speaking of the economy being down, I note a tendency for the "real professionals" to take gigs that they previously wouldn't have been bothered with, displacing the part-timers. Or is that just me?

P.


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: Silas
Date: 29 Nov 11 - 08:08 AM

The 'problem' is item no. 4 on your list.

Folk musicians and singers play what they want to play and its up to you wether you want to listen or not. And that is the way it should be in my opinion.


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: theleveller
Date: 29 Nov 11 - 08:16 AM

The "versus" implies a conflict. I think it's more "horses for courses".

We all have our favourite professionals and appreciate the commitment, dedication and sometimes sheer genius that they combine to make them so special. On the other hand, for many of us the greatest pleasure is being able to have a go ourselves. The term 'amateur' covers a multitude of sins – and talent. On the one hand there's the person whose ability is up there with the best pros but who, for whatever reason, chooses not to join their ranks. On the other, there's the ear-searing efforts of the two-chord merchant whose repertoire seems to consist solely of Where Have All the Flowers Gone and The Wild Rover but who, after hundreds of attempts, still hasn't managed to remember the words or the tune.

The problem often is not a shortage of performers but a shortage of audience. At one club I used to go to the performer/audience ratio is around 20 to 1. Everyone wants to play but the price is that you have to listen to everyone else. For me, the price, I'm afraid, became too high. Others, no doubt, feel the same about my efforts. As a rule, though, I think that if you're going to play in public you owe it to your audience to put in the effort to be as good as you possibly can. Anything less is doing yourself and those listening to you a disservice.

If a professional folk musician can't earn a living from what he/she does I'm afraid that, as with any other profession, they have to take a hard and honest look at their abilities and market and make the necessary adjustments or find a new job.As my old dad told me many years ago - and as I tell my children - the world doesn't owe you a living; you've got to get out there and prove that you're worth whatever people are prepared to pay you.


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: Musket
Date: 29 Nov 11 - 08:26 AM

Always mindful of finding out whether people are using the two terms to indicate a level of competence or to distinguish between hobby and livelihood.


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 29 Nov 11 - 08:27 AM

I'm quite sure that people go "on spec" to the Red Lion in Northfleet (mostly metal and grunge), to the Tap'n'Tin in Chatham (not sure now used to be mainly metal and grunge with some indie and jazz-funk), To the Man of Kent in Rochester (mostly acoustic) to the Good Intent in Rochester (folk at least 3 times a month other contingent stuff about as many) to the Barge in Gillingham (varied, quite a lot near-folk) to the Beacon COUrt in GIllingham (not sure these days, used to be themed by nights of the week with tribute bands Saturdays), the Nag's Head in Rochester (folk, rock, and blues).

I say that you don't have to be a good musician to make success in electric music - it helps but there are real fumblefingers out there, usually still doing punk. And others doing DoS big style.

And "invitation" gigs also happen in electric. One of my daughter's bands had to push to get on to the bill at a venue in Nottingham, the organiser was a twat, the headliners were arrogant and incompetent, and at the end of the night the organiser walked straight past the headliners and said "You were terrific, will you play our Xmas party" - and daughter's band took great delight in saying "NO". They were splitting and most moving to Londin, but the organiser didn't know that.


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: Rob Naylor
Date: 29 Nov 11 - 08:42 AM

Matt: I've played there many times myself. Have to say that that in itself rather proves my point: can't say there's ever been anyone in the audience who had "just turned up on spec".

Me, almost certainly, if you've played there a lot. I'm on their email list, but I'll just go up sometimes without even checking out who's playing. Used to do the same at PoerPoint in Brighton, too.

And all my kids do it...just go along to see random bands without knowing them, that is. One of them's in London and another's now in St Petersburg, so she's seeing *really* random bands!


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: r.padgett
Date: 29 Nov 11 - 09:17 AM

Interesting comments John!

It seems it is easier for younger performers with some level of expertise to break into being paid to perform at festivals and concert type clubs. They do not have the hang ups that old stagers like us have!

There is to my mind two distinct strains of folk acts. Certain acts go down better at festivals using main stage! others need to be very good to be solo performers to be successful main stage!

Other acts are much better in smaller folk clubs and have a following

We have "Bar Steward Sons of Val Doonican" who I believe are a clever bunch of lads who are likely to be better in the folk club than when they appeared in the concert venue (Barnsley folk club venue Trades Club, next Monday!)
Ray


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 29 Nov 11 - 09:26 AM

Well I won't argue with other people's anecdotal experience of gig-going; I'll just comment that it doesn't match my anecdotal experience of gig-going by any stretch. (I will however point out that it's not just the activity of "going to see random bands", it's specifically going to see "a particular genre", week-in-week-out.)

I've found the disparity between the folk scene and the rock scene - in terms of infrastructure, ease of gettng gigs, audience attentiveness, amount of CDs sold afterwards - to be immense.

After Peggy Seeger's recent London gig, the merchandise stall was swamped. She sold full-price CDs and books by the truckload. One thing really stuck in my mind as being very revealing as the difference between folk audiences and rock audieneces: somebody picked up one small plastic slipcase CDR that was priced at £4 and said, incredulously, "is this really only £4?" That did make me smile - "only in folk", I thought. Recent indie gig I'd attended, by The Lovely Eggs, the merchandise table was utterly untroubled. (Despite the gig being packed and enthusiastic. At one of Brixton's great Offline nights)

If you regularly play open-mic/singer-songwriter type gigs in London, you'll know that there are literally thousands of young, good-looking, competent, pleasant-voiced singer-songwriters out there. They are competing with hundreds of thousands of their kind up and down the country. By contrast, the young, good-looking, competent, pleasant-voiced singers on the trad folk scene are competing with far, far fewer people.

This probably sums it up: a folk singer could be supporting a Top-10 album act such as the Unthanks or Bellowhead before they've even had an EP out. On a smaller scale, on the folk scene you can showcase your talents to a packed house simply by turning up to do a floorspot when a legend is playing.

This isn't a complaint - for me this is all part of the folk scene's charm. But it is a small world. I sometimes wonder, at singer-songwriter gigs, what would happen if the cat got out of the bag. Folk clubs would be deluged by all the competent, ambitious, professional singer-songwriters with pleasant voices clutching Folk Songs For Dummies.


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: Will Fly
Date: 29 Nov 11 - 09:35 AM

4. Play what the current market wishes to hear

By 'current market' do you mean the current folk market (whatever that is)?

I've never consciously done that in 40+ years of playing which includes folk, blues, jazz, rock'n roll and funk - sometimes simultaneously. I've just played whatever I wanted to play at the time, irrespective of fashion, and played for major periods of time in 4 bands in different genres.

One of the things that I've learned over the years is that, if you play well enough, with commitment and energy and constant practice, there'll always be people who want to hear you play - and always people who want to give you money - regardless of what you do. A market of one sort or another will always exist. For a few years I was 'professional' in the sense that I made enough to live on, but gave it up as it was killing the music in me. (Clacton one night, Southport the next, Hastings the next...).

However I think the term 'professional' isn't about whether you live on music earnings or not - it's about having a serious attitude and attention to the music, playing it as best as you can so that, wherever and whenever you play, you give it your very best.


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: theleveller
Date: 29 Nov 11 - 09:57 AM

"However I think the term 'professional' isn't about whether you live on music earnings or not - it's about having a serious attitude and attention to the music, playing it as best as you can so that, wherever and whenever you play, you give it your very best."

Hear, hear! And I'm sure people will want to do just that.


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: johncharles
Date: 29 Nov 11 - 09:58 AM

Will, to stop the discussion become an argument over the meaning of words; I am using the word "professional" to define musicians who make their living solely through their music, and "amateur" for people who receive no income but play for pleasure.
I am sure both groups try to give of their best when playing.
I agree there is always a market but some people assume that the "folk market" is discriminating against them unfairly. My contention is that this is not so.
john


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 29 Nov 11 - 10:05 AM

johncharles ~~ to remind you again: do not forget the vast army of semi-pros between your two categories ~ the continuum, as you aptly called it above.

~M~


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: johncharles
Date: 29 Nov 11 - 10:13 AM

MtheGM, i have not forgotten them, their existence goes to show just how hard earning a full time living in the business is likely to be.
john


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: GUEST,Spleen Cringe
Date: 29 Nov 11 - 10:34 AM

A few years ago in Manchester, quite a lot of nu-folk/alt.folk/freak folk nights sprang up. Just like 'proper' folk nights, some of them got lots of people turning up on spec, regardless of who was playing. That's because the best of them got the reputation of being very good nights out - Hedge in Whalley Range being my favourite and nearly always full. However, this wasn't spontaneous - it took a lot of hard work and promotion on the part of JoJo who ran the night.

I'm not convinced this is the same in the indie world - but that's maybe because people know they have to wade through a lot of old toss to hear the good stuff. The deal with local band nights seems to be 'bring as many of your mates as you can, so we can sell some beer' - which is fine, but definitely a different model.

I wonder if we're a bit spoiled in Manchester? Manchester based indie folk lovelies, Harp and a Monkey, tend to play in lots of small Lancashire and Yorkshire towns, where there isn't that much live music (especially compared to Manchester) and they not only get a good turn out but get asked back. They struggle to get the same results when they play Manchester gigs, though...


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: tonyteach1
Date: 29 Nov 11 - 11:26 AM

In London there are several streams of music venues - dedicated blues and jazz - acoustic - country music - restaurants and bars - folk - indie and rock They all have their followers but it is hard to make a living and always has been unless you play Wonderwall etc to drunks in the City on a Friday night or do weddings etc


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: glueman
Date: 29 Nov 11 - 11:46 AM

I agree with Matt Millon. It's the coals to Newcastle thing, the young, bright, pleasant types who can be bothered to learn their stuff do well on the folk circuit because they're at a premium. Young folks want to look at and be inspired by, similar. Nothing wrong with that, so long as they look elsewhere too.


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 29 Nov 11 - 12:10 PM

hey, there's nothing wrong with being young and bright and pleasant. I possessed at least one of those qualities once!

I'm not even suggesting there's a bias towards the young and good-looking in folk - if anything it's a lot less than anywhere else, if you look at folk club programmes.

I'm just saying that, if you are young and bright and pleasant, and can play the acoustic guitar half decently, the folk scene looks to me like a much less steep playing field than the rock or pop one.


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 29 Nov 11 - 12:15 PM

Kerfuffle were a good talented hard working band by any standards

- despite their young years
and cute marketable appeal to the 'ooh aren't they adorable' mums & nans folk market..

..let alone any folkie teen girl fans..

But a growing significant dilemma is how to encourage more like them to develop to such high enough standards
to merit and justify contemplating careers in the 'folk music' sector..

..and merely just opening the floodgates to the annual surplus thousands
of hopelessly mediocre fame seeking 6th form college performance arts students
who may be encouraged by their cynical hack tutors
to deluge local 'folk clubs' to gain 'folk genre' live singing experience for their showbiz oriented CVs...???


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: r.padgett
Date: 29 Nov 11 - 01:10 PM

Hello punkfolkrocker!

Kerfuffle had some very talented individual musicians and a period of popularity. They also had some very early guidance (PTS).

Band members have subsequently gone on to other things both in and out of music

I think that some of these talented musicians have been gifted with their talent and others came from folky families

I do not recognise the "deluge local folk clubs" ~ bit and wish that more would do just that

Folk music is folk music traditional or contemporary and usually

acoustic in essence
Ray (of Barnsley folk club)


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: johncharles
Date: 29 Nov 11 - 01:23 PM

Ray, we have had the odd deluge when that young female singer/guitarist whose name escapes me,( yes it is AMY) has turned up with her college friends.


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: JedMarum
Date: 29 Nov 11 - 01:57 PM

I make my living from performing folk music. I have done so since 2000.

In the US there are a variety of venues open to folks like me, with varied folk-style music in their shows; Irish and Scottish folk, Appalachian and folk/bluegrass. I am certainly at or near the bottom of the professional musician food chain. But I do make a modest living at it and I've done a little bit better each year. I work wherever I can, festival and concert venues mostly - but I play at historical events and even pubs.

Before I started doing this full-time, I told my wife, "Gee, if I could just work 1500 nights a year, I could make this work!" Even though I meant that comment as a joke, the funny thing is that's just what I've been trying to do! I work at least 150 shows a year, and I travel a lot. I spend waay too much time digging for work (booking) and promoting. If I don't stay focused on the booking work, I go hungry months down the road. I don't mind saying that part of the job sucks. But I always love the playing, and never get tired of the road even when I'm worn out. I plan short trips (because I work mostly solo) and I go out for 3 to 5 days, or two weeks at a time, rarely longer. I try to work shows in or near my home town several times a year.

CD and MP3 sales help. Thank God for the internet. Broadcast radio has been a help too, but that seems to be in flux. Internet streaming radio is beginning to settle down and may yet offer some viable options ... and Youtube been helpful.

The business side of folk music isn't challenging. I usually like the folks I'm working for, and have almost always been treated well. I very much enjoy the music friends I've made over the years. I always look forward to crossing paths with these friends.

Many of the venues, especially festivals where I work also book folks who do not rely on performing for a living (I think someone used the term semi-pro above). The truth is there are some really great players and performers among their ranks, and some could take the next step and do it full-time. But it is a hard way to make a living.


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: stallion
Date: 29 Nov 11 - 02:18 PM

Hu it isn't a football game so the title is a little misleading, however it is a worthwhile discussion. Does it matter who does the bleating? I get a bit, no not a bit, a lot brassed off that we can't get to sing far from the usual suspects but it is about bums on seats and there is a real reluctance for people to book anyone they do not know. As for venues putting guitar/drum combos on then its what jo public are fed on by the radio stations so people just go with the flow, when something a bit different turns up they may benefit by people turning up for beans on toast and get a curry instead.


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: johncharles
Date: 29 Nov 11 - 02:56 PM

Hi Jed
just listened to you singing where the green grass grows. I enjoyed it very much. Thnaks John


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: GUEST,Paul Burke
Date: 30 Nov 11 - 02:05 AM

That's the nub of it: is it about bums on seats? Never mind what is folk music, the question is what is folk music FOR? Is the measure of success how much money you can make, or are the full- time professionals actually doing a completely different sort of music that just happens to draw on the same repertoire?


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: r.padgett
Date: 30 Nov 11 - 03:23 AM

Yea what IS FOLK music FOR!!

Ray


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 30 Nov 11 - 10:19 AM

A professional:

has his act together when it's time to start the show

pays attention to pacing and variety in the act

stays sober

is courteous to those who donated time and money so he could play

understands sound equipment

takes good care of his voice

if a singer, has the good luck not to be plagued by sinus problems, etc

has stage presence

doesn't dress in clothes suitable for turning the compost

observes audience response

(feel free to substitute "her" for "his" in the above)


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 30 Nov 11 - 10:39 AM

An amateur might well do those - but I spot some unnecessary sniffiness about "takes good care of his voice", and WTF is clothing to do with it - unless you think singers have to be slim and beautiful as well.


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: theleveller
Date: 30 Nov 11 - 11:03 AM

"singers have to be slim and beautiful as well."

Well at least I meet one of the criteria LOL!


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: Will Fly
Date: 30 Nov 11 - 11:12 AM

Slim or beautiful - which is it?


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: theleveller
Date: 30 Nov 11 - 11:28 AM

Hmmmmm...tricky one, that.


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: GUEST,Fyldeplayer
Date: 30 Nov 11 - 12:14 PM

Presentation inc 'dressing for the stage' should be appropriate ( Seasick Steve appears in a manner that suits his minimal music style ). I played in a dance band (folk) that looked like they'd just fallen of the sofa! - I always wore a smart black shirt newly laundered, and I felt better for it.

As this is 'art' I expect the performer (artist) to dictate the gigs content ( requests within their known repertoire obviously included ). If they change their music this usually 'broadcast' by CD content.

I try to be 'professional' in my approach from song choice to delivery, but remain an amateur because I do not live from my music.

Like professional instruments I like my pro performers to look and sound good.


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: Paul Burke
Date: 30 Nov 11 - 01:58 PM

This is the point. Is the folk music YOU like an act or a social occasion? If I'm selling a product to somebody, I'll try not to offend their expectations, but if I'm doing it for myself and for my mates, I know what I like and I know what they like. And few people have the right to tell me what to wear when I'm enjoying myself.

As for playing a varied repertoire, being in tune, etc. let's go back to the OP and unpick it.

In order to succeed any artist must in my opinion as a minimum:-
1.       Be technically very competent.
2.       Ideally have some unique characteristic
3.       Pursue a relentless campaign of publicity and networking to maximise exposure
4.       Play what the current market wishes to hear
5.       Be persistent and get lucky


(1) Must "any" artist set out to please the public?
(2) Technically competent is a relative thing and socially determined. Just listen to certain old ecordings of revered performers, in folk, skiffle, pop, etc., and you'll see what I mean. Is it possible that over the years the "folk" listeners have had their expectations changed by he media, to the detriment of "folk" as an independent way of doing music?
(3) There are many ways of doing "art", and these include maintenance of tradition as well as pursuit of perfection and innovation. Which ways are appropriate for what you mean by folk?

The last three points apply to marketing of any sort, and presuppose that "any" artist has to be commercially motivated. But historically, at least in the UK and Ireland, few traditional artists have been so. You can actually read the change happening in the Chieftains' biography by John Glatt. The first half of the book depicts young enthusiastic musicians hastening from work to play music; the latter part is largely a namedropping catalogue of celebrities they met after success.

Would any sort of "folk" survive without the professionals? Probably not in the UK, where society is far too fragmented to have a cohesive sense of demotic tradition. But Scotland and Ireland would probably be fine. America?


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 30 Nov 11 - 02:06 PM

Going back to 'continuum' point: take that great great man Bob Copper ~ traditional source → gigger with Cousin Ron, son John, solo → broadcaster → collector → authority → author → respected elder → Grand Old Man ···

and NEVER, to end of life, gave up day job of publican/club-manager.

Where, on your 'continuum' & the semi-pro register, are we to place him, now, would you say?

~M~


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 30 Nov 11 - 02:07 PM

FYI, everybody. I used to be a presenter. My list was based on what we came to expect from performers. We wanted a good show, and we didn't want to lose our shirts.

As for the clothes, when the audience travels and pays money to see somebody, it does not make sense for that person to dress in sloppy, dingy clothes that convey "YOU? You're not worth any time or trouble, not as far as I'm concerned."

I did specify not wearing clothes suitable for turning compost.


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: Will Fly
Date: 30 Nov 11 - 02:09 PM

Would any sort of "folk" survive without the professionals? Probably not in the UK, where society is far too fragmented to have a cohesive sense of demotic tradition. But Scotland and Ireland would probably be fine. America?

Music - and traditional music - survives these days, whether there are 'professionals' or not involved in it. Just take a look at the number of tunes and song sessions and non-guest nights in folk clubs going on throughout the week all over the UK. All unpaid. All people just getting on with it, enjoying it, chatting, drinking, playing, singing, and getting chucked out at closing time.

I could be out, if I chose, every evening this week at some folk-based event or other in my area. But I've decided to go to just 3 and take a break on the other 4 evenings. And not a 'professional' in sight - unless, of course, we're all 'professionals' in the widest sense of the word...


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: John P
Date: 30 Nov 11 - 02:14 PM

I'm wondering if saying "full-time musician" might be a more realistic term than "professional musician"? To my mind, a professional is one who gets paid, whether or not that pay is their only source of income. Also, I have seen many full-time musicians that don't, to me, meet the basics of professional demeanor and behavior. And there are lots of "semi-pros" and amateurs who always act in a very professional manner.

If your folk music is community music-making or jams with your friends, none of this applies. Folk music for pay is very different in its requirements than folk music for fun.


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: Will Fly
Date: 30 Nov 11 - 02:21 PM

Folk music for pay is very different in its requirements than folk music for fun.

(I seem to be disagreeing with every post here at the moment - it's not intentional, folks!)

I don't consider a paid performance any different from an unpaid one - in any way. I try and give my very best whether there's money involved or not, and most of my musical buddies are just the same. This is why I'm sceptical about the 'divide' between professional and amateur.

MtheGM's example of Bob Copper is very apt. Extend it to the acting profession, where 90% of people with an Equity card are "resting" - taking what no-acting jobs they can until the real work comes along. They don't consider themselves as anything less than professional actors while they're working as waiters or bar staff or cleaners.

If you take something seriously, you take it seriously, whether there's a payday at the end of it or not.


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 30 Nov 11 - 02:23 PM

I's the same in any creative arts/culture[and wider interests] social activity / hobby...

if you take it seriously, you're motivated to push yourself to achieve the highest possible standards
to satisfy your own self pride
as much as impressing others involved..

it's natural to want to adopt a 'Pro' attitude and approach
judging yourself by the highest accepted criteria..

surely...???


Photography is another prime example of the lengths amateurs go to
to acheive much higher than recognised commercial pro standards..


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: Paul Burke
Date: 30 Nov 11 - 02:42 PM

pfr: it's all a question of who sets the standards, though, and what the criteria of achievement are.


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: johncharles
Date: 30 Nov 11 - 02:45 PM

an interesting discussion. I may join in later. Off to a local session, entirely amateur but very good.
john


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocer
Date: 30 Nov 11 - 02:50 PM

ok.. I typed in too much of a hurry to consider qualifying

"'generally accepted' highest possible standards"

vague.. clumsy.. lazy.. I know.. but that 'generally' goes without saying....


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: Howard Jones
Date: 30 Nov 11 - 03:02 PM

"it's all a question of who sets the standards, though, and what the criteria of achievement are."

The standards are set by the audience, which in the folk world tends to include a high proportion of people who are singers or musicians themselves who can judge from a base of knowledge. I suspect that for most people who are not professionals, the main criteria of achievement would be recognition and acceptance by ones peers - fellow musicians.

For the professional who's trying to earn a living, the only important measure of achievement is financial. I don't believe there's anything wrong with that - recognition doesn't pay the bills.


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: John P
Date: 30 Nov 11 - 04:40 PM

I don't consider a paid performance any different from an unpaid one - in any way. I try and give my very best whether there's money involved or not, and most of my musical buddies are just the same. This is why I'm sceptical about the 'divide' between professional and amateur.

I'm not talking about musical differences. I should hope that everyone plays their best all the time. I do, however, think there is a difference between a jam session and a stage performance. For a jam session, you are pleasing yourself and your friends. For a performance, you are supposed to be pleasing an audience. Some of the differences are playing well-arranged music, interacting with the audience in some way, being capable at dealing with a PA system, starting and stopping on time, and conducting your business with integrity. None of that is important in a session or a sing-around.


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: Will Fly
Date: 30 Nov 11 - 05:09 PM

None of that is important in a session or a sing-around.

Oh, I wouldn't say that. In a folk club setting, whether I go along to do an unpaid floor spot or go as a paid headline act, the performance criteria are the same. And being 'professional' in an unpaid capacity - wherever you might be - is one form of entrée into paying gigs. You're seen at singarounds, and I've been given gigs from being at a pub session.


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: Greg B
Date: 30 Nov 11 - 07:20 PM

One of the best ways to ruin the pleasure you get out of something is to start getting paid to do it. Or so I found.


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: John P
Date: 30 Nov 11 - 07:28 PM

One of the best ways to ruin the pleasure you get out of something is to start getting paid to do it. Or so I found.

Well, I like getting paid, but it is far from the most important aspect of playing music. Some years ago I was playing three or four gigs a week and was poised to quit my day job. I decided not to do so after watching my friends play music they didn't really like and take any crappy $25 gig in order to put food on the table. As my partner said, "Why should we give up jobs we like in order to be poverty-stricken playing music we don't like?" It means playing less music than I like less well than I like, but I also get to choose my gigs and not compromise my artistic sensibilities. And I have health insurance and can afford to take the cat to the vet when necessary.


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: michaelr
Date: 30 Nov 11 - 07:44 PM

I've been a semi-professional for over 20 years. I have a day job which pays my bills, and my band plays two to four gigs a month which don't pay much at all (most venues here in California give you some food and/or drink; other than that you play for tips).

Playing music is something I love to do, and I'm convinced it is what's keeping me sane. Long ago I came to the conclusion that if I were to do it for a living, it would become a job and thereby cease being fun. Therefore, I'm in it for a good time, have never given a toss about the "current market", and count myself lucky to have been able to keep my band going for this long and please a number of punters in the process.

Best of both worlds, really. And if things go to shit even more than they have (read: if I lose my job), I'll be able to make some coin playing, busking, or teaching.


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: GUEST
Date: 01 Dec 11 - 02:06 AM

pfr: OK let's take "generally accepted" highest standards, and pick up on MtheGMs example of the Copper family. Back a long time ago- say a hundred and thirty years- people used to go to a pub in Rottingdean for their Saturday night entertainment, a good old singsong. They didn't have the option of the radio, the telly or unless they went into Brighton even the music hall. So they enjoyed themselves as best they could with the excellent music they had, sung the way they did (as best they could too I presume).

Roll on 50 years and the singarounds have mostly stopped. Nearly everyone has a radio and a gramophone, and there's a bus into Brighton to watch the films or go to concerts, and the homebrewed stuff is.. amateur... compared to the polished products available. But one family holds out- they like the old singarounds, so they keep doing it. And good old Bob Copper becomes a bit of a star when the BBC, looking for evidence of Olde England, put him on the radio.

Had they acceded to the "generally accepted" best singing style, they would have sung their songs in an RP accent in a light tenor, with a tasteful piano accompaniment, as was used for so much of the recorded "folk" music of the time. That was what the market expected.

It's all a matter of what you mean by "standards".


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: GUEST,Paul Burke
Date: 01 Dec 11 - 02:06 AM

oops twas I


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: Howard Jones
Date: 01 Dec 11 - 03:55 AM

Paul, there isn't a single market. There are different markets with different expectations. The Coppers weren't singing to break into a particular market, they sang what they sang and how they sang because they enjoyed it, and the market they were performing to (even if it was just the family) enjoyed it too. A wider market which appreciated that particular style found them, not the other way around.

If we take another example, Walter Pardon was a singer who adapted his repertoire, and to a degree his singing style, to the demands of his audience in his local pub, who wanted more of the music hall and popular songs rather than the traditional songs which he loved. So he gave them what they wanted, and sang the old songs to himself until he was discovered by the folk scene.

Within the "folk scene" a particular style developed which differed not only from the traditional styles (eg Coppers, Fred Jordan, etc)but also the previous piano-arrangement styles. It was partly influenced by American folk styles, but developed a particularly British flavour. Anyone aspiring to perform in folk clubs learned to perform in that particular style - for many, that is what they mean by "folk".

For those aspiring to more commercial success in the context of the broader music industry, a different style again is required. It's not one which will necessary go down well in a folk club.


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: GUEST
Date: 01 Dec 11 - 06:46 AM

In order to succeed* any artist must in my opinion as a minimum:-

1.       Be technically very competent.


Isn't technical competence overrated? There are some brilliant technicians out there, but how much more important is passion and soul? For me some of my favourite artists aren't that technically great but have a certain integrity than more than makes up for it. Some people can of course combine the two...

2.       Ideally have some unique characteristic

Ok...

3.       Pursue a relentless campaign of publicity and networking to maximise exposure

Know what you mean, but I see plenty of folks who have done this, done okay and are still rubbish...

4.       Play what the current market wishes to hear

Chasing the current fads and fashions is the job of also-rans and copyists. I know some folks like to keep hearing more of the same and are wary of innovation, but look at who the revered artists who are feted and remembered are and they are nearly all innovators or iconoclasts rather than camp followers and sturdy, workmanlike give 'em what they want merchants...

5.       Be persistent and get lucky

Absolutely.

(* Define success, by the way. Artistic? Commercial? Critical?)

***************

John P suggests: For a performance, you are supposed to be pleasing an audience

I'd rather have someone who was pleasing themselves - and pleased me as a side effect - than someone whose objective was to was try to please me. Does that make sense? There's adanger that audience pleasing as a strategy might result in lowest-common-denominator music... and end up pleasing no-one.

**************

And I forget who suggested artists needed to dress suitably, but I'd suggest back that folk music shouldn't have a dress code. Though of course it does. Several, in fact....


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: GUEST,Spleen Cringe
Date: 01 Dec 11 - 07:05 AM

Drat! Cookieless.


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: Richard from Liverpool
Date: 01 Dec 11 - 07:28 AM

My personal stance; amateur folk music is far more interesting and vibrant and professional folk music. I guess part of this is because I'm cynical about folk musicians who put style before substance, and in doing so lose track of the spirit of the music because it's all about their flashy instrumental arrangements. But there's also a more fundamental question for me: Why would I listen to recordings or go to gigs of folk artists fancifying things, when I could easily go to a classical concert or listen to a gig of a proper indie band (especially given that a lot of professional folk just means somebody turning folk into breathy guitar-based pseudo-pop)? I listen to folk recordings to note variations of words, etc., but very rarely for pleasure - I have records of proper bands for that.

But as for the energy of a bunch of amateurs singing what they love - and that's what I've seen at a handful of wonderful singarounds etc that I've been to - I'd bypass a hundred gigs and concerts just for one night in that brilliant atmosphere of people getting up and singing and playing from the gut.


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: theleveller
Date: 01 Dec 11 - 07:30 AM

"3.       Pursue a relentless campaign of publicity and networking to maximise exposure

Know what you mean, but I see plenty of folks who have done this, done okay and are still rubbish..."

I'd agree with the cookieless Mr Cringe there. And strange as it may seem, there are some of us who, like the Ratties of the folk world, really do enjoy lazily paddling around in the backwaters.


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: Will Fly
Date: 01 Dec 11 - 08:26 AM

Ratties of the folk world

I can see I'm going to have to rename you "the le-voler"...

(Sorry about that).


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: theleveller
Date: 01 Dec 11 - 08:32 AM

Boom boom!


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 01 Dec 11 - 11:33 AM

Wasn't that Basil Brush?


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 01 Dec 11 - 11:54 AM

dunno why GUEST,Paul Burke has singled out and seized upon my hastily phrased casual observation
for such close scrutiny..???

..there's plenty enough other willing regular axe-grinding combatants at mudcat
happily willing to indulge in endless circular pointless pedantic OCR hair-splitting
amateur cultural academic word 'definition' games...


here's one to kick off..

hows about 'amateur' versus 'amateurish' ???


personally, I wouldn't satisfy any of johncharles opening 5 point criteria..

well maybe no 2 just a bit ?


However, I'm probably far more suited for consideration in the furthest netherworld
of the 'outsider artist' spectrum of unpaid indie 'Folk' music....


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: GUEST,punkfokrocker
Date: 01 Dec 11 - 12:05 PM

see.. did it again.. typed amd posted too fast
while grabbing a few minutes between other more interesting 'activities'......

"OCR" !!???


of course I meant OCD !!!!!!!


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: JedMarum
Date: 01 Dec 11 - 01:20 PM

leeneia - is right on.

And I don't have a moment's worry about choosing music to perform that I know the audience (the market) wants to hear and what I want to play. I have been doing this a long time. I KNOW I cannot "sell" a song that I don't believe in - so it is pointless for me to play stuff I think the market demands and I don't love.

A music performance or a show is a two way communication. If I am not reaching the audience with the songs and the messages I want to deliver, then I am failing.

I love folk music. I play folk-style. When I plan a show or a performance, I am planning a conversation, so-to-speak. I have all kinds of musical ideas that I enjoy playing at any given moment ... so my selection for material becomes, what is the set of ideas, that I want to get across? What are the expectations of the show? I always consider what my song list will be ... and I do plan the "dynamics" of the show, the pacing ... because I've learned that that is an important factor in the success of the communication. But no set list ever survives a full set. Even when I am playing with my band ... I usually modify the set based upon what's happening with the "conversation."

I play a lot of modern and original music in my shows. And I play a lot of old folk music too. I don't see much difference.


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: JedMarum
Date: 01 Dec 11 - 03:36 PM

... it's a great way to make a living if you're willing to work really hard and earn very modest income! I have some down time (like now), these Dec and Jan weeks are slow for gigs ... but I get to refocus, and if I am diligent, work the bookings hard for 2012 and 2013.


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Subject: RE: Folk Music professional versus amateur
From: Paul Burke
Date: 01 Dec 11 - 03:36 PM

Sorry if I seemed to be persecuting you pfr: no intention of that, it's just that you were saying he right things to point outdifference between folk-as-performance and folk-as-cooperative-activity.


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