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Is folk music selling out?

clairerise 13 Apr 06 - 02:40 PM
clairerise 13 Apr 06 - 02:48 PM
Once Famous 13 Apr 06 - 02:57 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 13 Apr 06 - 03:02 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 13 Apr 06 - 03:06 PM
Once Famous 13 Apr 06 - 03:14 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 13 Apr 06 - 03:21 PM
Bert 13 Apr 06 - 03:28 PM
Once Famous 13 Apr 06 - 03:29 PM
Bill D 13 Apr 06 - 03:33 PM
clairerise 13 Apr 06 - 03:37 PM
Anonny Mouse 13 Apr 06 - 03:47 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 13 Apr 06 - 03:48 PM
Effsee 13 Apr 06 - 03:49 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 13 Apr 06 - 03:53 PM
Big Al Whittle 13 Apr 06 - 04:18 PM
dick greenhaus 13 Apr 06 - 04:21 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 13 Apr 06 - 04:23 PM
number 6 13 Apr 06 - 04:34 PM
Bill D 13 Apr 06 - 04:34 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 13 Apr 06 - 04:57 PM
number 6 13 Apr 06 - 05:00 PM
GUEST,Val 13 Apr 06 - 05:06 PM
DougR 13 Apr 06 - 05:23 PM
Big Mick 13 Apr 06 - 06:59 PM
freightdawg 13 Apr 06 - 07:36 PM
GUEST,G 13 Apr 06 - 07:49 PM
GUEST,DonMeixner 13 Apr 06 - 09:01 PM
Uncle_DaveO 13 Apr 06 - 09:20 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 13 Apr 06 - 10:52 PM
number 6 13 Apr 06 - 11:35 PM
Ron Davies 13 Apr 06 - 11:57 PM
GUEST,Art Thieme 14 Apr 06 - 12:25 AM
Barry Finn 14 Apr 06 - 01:45 AM
hilda fish 14 Apr 06 - 02:03 AM
the one 14 Apr 06 - 06:29 AM
The Fooles Troupe 14 Apr 06 - 06:52 AM
GUEST,Whistle Stop 14 Apr 06 - 07:34 AM
Leadfingers 14 Apr 06 - 07:46 AM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 14 Apr 06 - 09:22 AM
Stephen L. Rich 14 Apr 06 - 10:36 AM
GUEST,Tired of "Moondance" though. 14 Apr 06 - 10:45 AM
clairerise 14 Apr 06 - 11:13 AM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 14 Apr 06 - 11:17 AM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 14 Apr 06 - 11:19 AM
number 6 14 Apr 06 - 11:46 AM
dulcimer42 14 Apr 06 - 12:23 PM
GUEST,M.Ted 14 Apr 06 - 12:54 PM
Janice in NJ 14 Apr 06 - 02:20 PM
Stephen L. Rich 14 Apr 06 - 03:23 PM
Scoville 14 Apr 06 - 04:15 PM
Buzzer65 15 Apr 06 - 02:52 PM
Grab 15 Apr 06 - 04:11 PM
Peace 15 Apr 06 - 04:22 PM
Peace 15 Apr 06 - 04:27 PM
melodeonboy 15 Apr 06 - 08:32 PM
GUEST,Art Thieme again... 15 Apr 06 - 09:30 PM
PoppaGator 16 Apr 06 - 02:06 AM
GUEST,Art Thieme 16 Apr 06 - 11:55 AM
GUEST,Steven C. Barr 16 Apr 06 - 05:21 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 16 Apr 06 - 07:03 PM
dick greenhaus 16 Apr 06 - 07:17 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 16 Apr 06 - 09:00 PM
GUEST,Art Thieme 16 Apr 06 - 09:39 PM
number 6 16 Apr 06 - 10:10 PM
GUEST,Art Thieme 16 Apr 06 - 11:51 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 17 Apr 06 - 09:56 AM
GUEST,Art again 17 Apr 06 - 10:41 AM
voyager 17 Apr 06 - 11:41 AM
dick greenhaus 17 Apr 06 - 11:51 AM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 17 Apr 06 - 12:08 PM
Maryrrf 17 Apr 06 - 12:21 PM
GUEST,RIchard Bridge 17 Apr 06 - 02:15 PM
GUEST 17 Apr 06 - 03:32 PM
dick greenhaus 17 Apr 06 - 05:24 PM
Big Al Whittle 17 Apr 06 - 08:49 PM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 18 Apr 06 - 06:02 AM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 18 Apr 06 - 09:48 AM
chris nightbird childs 18 Apr 06 - 10:32 AM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 18 Apr 06 - 10:43 AM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 18 Apr 06 - 02:16 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 18 Apr 06 - 02:30 PM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 19 Apr 06 - 03:05 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 19 Apr 06 - 03:23 PM
GUEST,Sandy Andina 19 Apr 06 - 04:10 PM
dick greenhaus 20 Apr 06 - 11:50 AM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 20 Apr 06 - 02:58 PM
GUEST,Sam Pirt 20 Apr 06 - 07:07 PM
dick greenhaus 20 Apr 06 - 10:27 PM
Peace 20 Apr 06 - 10:36 PM
Stephen L. Rich 20 Apr 06 - 11:56 PM
Joe Richman 20 Apr 06 - 11:58 PM
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Subject: Chord Req: Is folk music selling out?
From: clairerise
Date: 13 Apr 06 - 02:40 PM

i was watching and listening to country music yesterday on tape, from an old CMTV channel. and i came to conclusion that country has sold out and is a very poor replica of what it used to be.

I wonder if folk is going the same way?


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Is folk music selling out?
From: clairerise
Date: 13 Apr 06 - 02:48 PM

oops. not a chord request.


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Subject: RE: Chord Req: Is folk music selling out?
From: Once Famous
Date: 13 Apr 06 - 02:57 PM

I agree country has "sold out" but people are buying and it's their money.

I say, what's the difference? I don't buy Kenny Chesny records. I listen to WSM-AM radio either on-line or through the static.

Folk music today is hardly folk music. People who call themselves folk singers and then sing a bunch of naval gazing crap that no one has ever heard don't sing folk music. they want to sell records just like everyone else, for the most part.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 13 Apr 06 - 03:02 PM

Folk music is not selling out. The bins at Tower Records are still pretty full last time I looked.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 13 Apr 06 - 03:06 PM

I have to admit, I used to complain about the naval-gazering singer-songwriters who cover themselves under the folk umbrella. Singer-songwhiners is what I called them.

The problem is, labels like I made hide the fact that there are some great writers out there. Woody Guthrie was not a folk singer either, he wrote songs. Check out artists like Johnsmith, Antje Duvekot, Tom Prasada-Rao, Erik Balkey and dozens of others.

It is hard to define what a "sell-out" is. The artists that I know and love have trouble scraping two dimes together but there music hasn't changed to fit some preconceived notion.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: Once Famous
Date: 13 Apr 06 - 03:14 PM

Ron, but unlike Wooody, can these artists you mentioned ever have any hope of reaching the masses to make a real "folk song?"

I don't want to turn this into another "what is folk music" discussion, but I would compare the writers of such songs as "We all Live in a Yellow Submarine" and "Ohb Bla Dee Bla Dah" as much closer to Wooody Guthrie as a writer of folk music than many others who strive to leave an impression on how artsy and introspective they are.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 13 Apr 06 - 03:21 PM

I think they can. Woody lived in a different time and different circumstances. If Woody were around today, he would probably be a rap artist. (In fact, there is evidence of rap-like lyrics in the Woody Guthrie archives!)

What Woody had in his favor was a few songs that reached attention - by other artists.   The Weavers had a few hits, and of course This Land is Your Land made it into the classrooms across the nation. But it wasn't Woody's records that made him a legend.

I can think of someone like Pat Humprhies who wrote a song called "Swimming to the Other Side" that has caught on in folk circles around the globe.   True, it isn't a hit on Top 40 radio, but most of the "folk" hits that we remember from the 60's weren't either.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: Bert
Date: 13 Apr 06 - 03:28 PM

I used to consider myself a folk singer but once I started writing and singing my own stuff I realised that the label doesn't always apply.

I often write songs with a kinda folky flavor. When I write personally inspired songs I try to keep them generic and applicable to everyone if I possibly can.

Then I sometimes write stuff which I hope may have some commercial appeal but that's probably wishful thinking. As Martin says I want to sell records just like everyone else. But I haven't succeeded yet and I don't see it as selling out if a song does eventually succeed.

There are some good people out there who are being noticed and they certainly deserve it.

People like "Hot Soup" and "Modern Man" - they are certainly not selling out.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: Once Famous
Date: 13 Apr 06 - 03:29 PM

They didn't have to be hits, Ron

songs like:

My Ramblin' Boy
Midnight Special
Worried Man
Marching to Pretoria
Early Morning Rain
Bury Me Beneath Willow

and many more, were not "hits" but they reached a lot of people and became folk music, almost instantly. I ask if there is 6 songs that can be named from the last 25 years that can qualify as these.

"Friends in Low Places" comes to mind by Garth Brooks. What else has become instant folk music?


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: Bill D
Date: 13 Apr 06 - 03:33 PM

*wry smile*...as soon as money is involved, someone 'sells out' or writes what they think will 'sell'...and 'folk', just like 'country' becomes just an easy, convenient label....nothing new in this


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: clairerise
Date: 13 Apr 06 - 03:37 PM

on the other hand folk music could become too introspective.

i think theres a fine line between new folk and sold out folk. a lot of folkies resent anything new and thus label is 'sell out'.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: Anonny Mouse
Date: 13 Apr 06 - 03:47 PM

'Course it's kinda gettin' tough to have a "folk music hit" these days, as other than a few select markets and stations, the vast majority of AM/FM radio is playing the same cruddy songs in never-ending repetition. Maybe sattelite radio is gonna be where it's "at" in a coupla years.

As to country, t'aint nothin' like it was when I grew up with the likes of Patsy Cline, Hank Williams, Buck Owens and more than a few "yodeler" types. Country nowadays is a smooth, beat-driven, homogenized pop sounding bit with so-called C/W artists all over pop music too-like Shania Twain, Faith Hill, Keith Urban, Tim McGraw, etc. etc.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 13 Apr 06 - 03:48 PM

Well, there is a difference between popular and folk music.   Reaching a lot of people is not the true definition of folk music, but I do understand your point as it relates to music from the folk revival.   I do feel that there are songs that have reached a folk community, and in many cases beyond, in the past 25 years.

Six songs that stand out from the last 25 years would include -

From A Distance
Swimming to the Other Side
You're Aging Well
Love is Our Cross to Bear
Luka
Another Train
When I Go
Broke Down
Seven Bridges Road

okay, that is more than 8 - and they might not be songs that everyone is familiar with. Still, I believe these are songs that are representive of the great writers and performers that are working today.   Reaching the largest group of people is not the only way to be successful. Britney Spears can wiggle her ass and sell a million copies, but it doesn't make for a great "folk" song.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: Effsee
Date: 13 Apr 06 - 03:49 PM

Who are these singer-songwtriters who like watching ships? I think we should be told!!


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 13 Apr 06 - 03:53 PM

A couple of typos and we get a visit from Shecky Effsee!   Excussse me!!! :)


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 13 Apr 06 - 04:18 PM

selling out?

only if someone's offering to buy it


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 13 Apr 06 - 04:21 PM

Is it possible to stop using the word "great"? It's reached the point where it has less semantic content than "folk"


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 13 Apr 06 - 04:23 PM

Dick, it is impossible to stop using the word. What else should would we call outstanding songwriters?


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: number 6
Date: 13 Apr 06 - 04:34 PM

I wouldn't say it has sold out ... 3 examples that come to mind are Gillian Welch, Neko Case and Jim White ... one has to go and search out the new and good music these days.

That is one complaint I have here about the music section in the Mudcat, I wish people would listen to and share more about new artists on the scene ... there have been some posts about Gillian, and that is good to see.

sIx


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: Bill D
Date: 13 Apr 06 - 04:34 PM

I talked to a few 'folk' acts...including Battlefield Band and the duo of Malcolm Dalglish & Grey Larsen...about the way they had changed their basic tone and material...including becoming louder and faster...and had it explained to me that so much of their audience was young and/or college people, that IF they wanted to continue as almost full-time musicians, they had to offer the material that expected.

Some crafty singers do manage to keep some nice 'trad' stuff in, but most real 'trad' is done outside of major concerts and where making money is not a major issue.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 13 Apr 06 - 04:57 PM

I've always felt that folk music was a living tradtion. Until the fiddle was introduced in Ireland, it wasn't part of "trad" music. To me, folk music has always represented time and history. It is a living tradition that needs to evolve or it will die. Music is not meant to be a museum piece.

By my comments, I am not trying to detract from anything that the collectors and musicologists have preserved. Their work is part of the process.

I'm 48 years old. My world is limited. I was very young when the folk revival was taking place. What I have been able to see is a generation of musicians with a deep respect and knowledge of where the music came from, and in turn they were able to create music that reflected that heritage and built upon it. In the 70's and 80's, I felt that songwriters began to loose touch with that background and were emulating the Bob Dylans and Phil Ochs and John Lennons of the world. In the 90s and through today, I am seeing artists that are once again reaching back to learn the styles and heritage and are creating some of the most exciting music I've ever heard.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: number 6
Date: 13 Apr 06 - 05:00 PM

That's true Ron ... there really is some exciting things happening musically ... the difference is in the marketing ... the old record companies have lost touch .... not the people and the musicians.

sIx


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: GUEST,Val
Date: 13 Apr 06 - 05:06 PM

"Naval[sic]-gazing singer-songwriters" - sounds to me like composers of modern sea chanteys. Definitely part of the Folk Tradition.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: DougR
Date: 13 Apr 06 - 05:23 PM

Number 6: the record companies have lost touch? I wonder if that's correct? It seems to me that the record companies record songs that they believe will sell. Haven't they always done that?

Classical music has been able to survive, but just barely. I think folk music of some sort will always be with us too but as to whether there will ever be another "revival" as there was in the 60's is questionable IMO.

And I don't think it's a matter of "selling out". Those who strive to make a living from performing must perform what people will pay to hear. They may be able to work in a few "oldies" along the way, but ...

DougR


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: Big Mick
Date: 13 Apr 06 - 06:59 PM

Listen to Jed Marum's stuff, most especially his second and third CD's, and some of his compilation stuff. By virtue of time it isn't considered folk, but it is wonderful stuff. A great bit of yarnspinnin', and given time will be remembered. I think we confuse commercial success with great writing.

I can remember all the arguments about whether PP&M were sell outs. They really got me interested in folk music, and I always noticed when I went to see them that all the folkies were there. Interesting thread.

All the best,

Mick


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: freightdawg
Date: 13 Apr 06 - 07:36 PM

In addition to defining the term "folk", you also have to define the concept of "sell-out." What totally repulses me about contemporary "country" music is that the sound is completely the same from performer to performer. No one has a distinct sound. There is no "Man in Black." No "Whispering Bill Anderson." No southern crooning of Charley Pride. Everyone is a cookie-cutter reproduction of each other. Same ripped t-shirts, same faded, holey pants. Same vanilla lyrics. Instead of taking on the establishment and saying "This is who I am and I am going to do my music this way" (a la Cash) they listen to the music producers and "sell out" to the machine. Trying to make a buck by using your talents to me is not a sell out. To me, being a sell out has more to do with your soul than your pocketbook.

Doesn't anyone want to express their independence anymore?

Freightdawg


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: GUEST,G
Date: 13 Apr 06 - 07:49 PM

I was a very, well, fairly young person in the mid sixties and spent weekend after weekend engrossed with folk music.

We saw a group in person a couple weeks and I was mesmerized. I think they get listed under 'Americana' but I am not sharp enough to know differences and probably don't need too. The group is called "ANDRIENNE YOUNG AND LITTLE SADIE" and she had a fiddle player, a guitarist, uprught bass and a drummer with 2 snares and a couple cymbals. Loved it! Whose is familiar with opinions, please.

She played guitar and banjo.               Adrienneyoung.com


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: GUEST,DonMeixner
Date: 13 Apr 06 - 09:01 PM

I will maintain till I am reduced to atoms and scattered among the four winds that folk singing has nothing to do with the song but everything to do with the simple act of singing where and when ever you wish. For no particular reason.

Some songs are more suitable for the act of just singing. I doubt we'll ever have anyone do an accapela version of Thriller about the fire as the summer closes. BUt I have heard a simply delicious version of Midnight Train to Georgia done by a fire at the High Falls Leanto
in New Yorks Adirondack Mountains. Sung by some girls that were working out of the Paul Smiths Forestry College.

It ain't the song, the tradition is the singing.

Don


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 13 Apr 06 - 09:20 PM

Ron Olesko said (about the word "great"):

Dick, it is impossible to stop using the word. What else should would we call outstanding songwriters?

I got it! I got it!

Call them "outstanding songwriters"!!!! Now there's a fresh idea, don't you think?

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 13 Apr 06 - 10:52 PM

I think if there were more buyers, there'd be lots of folkies ready to "sell out."

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: number 6
Date: 13 Apr 06 - 11:35 PM

They're are buyers Jerry ... there is a movement out there of young performers that are making inroads, preformers that are really in it for the music, lyrics, songs, emotions and life's experiences, not for the golden accolades ... as I mentioned it just insn't going to be found in your local records stores ... where the racks of cd's reflect the 'sellout' ... hell one can't even find a John Hartford cd in the stores around here ... ya have to buy it through the internet ... and that is how this new legion of musicians are doing it .... I have a youg nephew in Toronoto who has been playing 'electric' in bands with some success these last few years ... six months ago he abandoned the 'electric' and now has gone accoustic as a single act. He is not the only one doing so ... us older guys have to encourage these people on ... we all love the past (I certainly do) but I'm just as passionate these days about discovering new 'folk', I prefer calling them accoustic musicians as I was discovering Bert Jansch, John Prine, John Renbourne when I was in my teens. Beleive me we are living in a new renaissance of good accoustic music these days ... I urge all of us old folkies (or whatever we are) to welcome the new in ... who knows, you might find something ya like.

sIx


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: Ron Davies
Date: 13 Apr 06 - 11:57 PM

It's certainly true that "country" these days is just 70's rock under another name. Some of the country singers have even recognized it--in the song called "Murder on Music Row" about that phenomenon. "Someone killed country music/ Tore out its heart and soul/ They got away with murder/ Down on Music Row."

Thank goodness we can still hear the old country songs--on CD, I-tunes etc-----but not on the radio.

At least some of the new "country" songs have good lyrics--"What Part of No Don't You Understand?" , "My Give-a Damn's Busted" etc.--when they're not OD'ing on saccharine sentiments (as distinguished from real sentiment).



Folk-----There is an awful lot of navel-gazing passing for folk these days--but then there are also excellent songs (though I don't know exactly when they were written) by Craig Johnson, for instance, and Mudcat's own Jerry Rasmussen-- for instance, his "Living On the River"--is to my mind a classic that will become part of the folk tradition.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 14 Apr 06 - 12:25 AM

I agree with Martin---especially in his first post to this thread.
Nothing has sold out. But it sure is different now than when I was doing what I was absolutely positive was the real thing---the real McCoy. Well, not even Deforest Kelley was the "real McCoy"----he was just THAT McCoy! And now he's dead...

Still I only considered myself to be a folksinger about 60% of time. The rest of the time I wasn't singing folksongs. But I liked those songs too.

As I've said, "The more things change, the more they get different!"----And that is in spite of the way we/I wanted things to be---and how much we/I preferred the old days or the old music or the old morality or that good old time religion!

(It's funny how this all evolves ;-)

Art Thieme

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: Barry Finn
Date: 14 Apr 06 - 01:45 AM

"Sold Out"! There are plenty of folk/songwriters/singers that should sell out but it's only folk music after all & it never sold that well to begin with. There are still some standouts writing & singing what I'd call folk music that's top shelf. Buy no means navel gazers or wanna be's, you hear it & you know it. A lot of you folks have been to the getaways in the past few years so look close to home, right here & I think you'll find that it's not sold out, it's not a sell out. If anyone here has heard the songs sung by their authors, the likes of Andrew McKay, George Papavgeris, Alaska Mike & Jed Marum then you already have your answer (& they should make more than just a living wage doing it too). IMHO, there you go, it's alive as a "contempory living tradition" & as a continuum of a "traditional tradition". And no one can tell me it ain't folk!
Barry


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: hilda fish
Date: 14 Apr 06 - 02:03 AM

Aren't navel gazers and wannabe's part of the rich and democratic tradition that is part of both folk and country? I love the navel gazers and wannabe's as much as I love the 'outstanding' and sublime music of the many older, younger and in the middle, the heard of and the unheard of. I love it that people will get up and have a go, often arrogantly, often humbly, often in sheer good humour, often sadly, often driven by grief, or love, often just dreadful, or sublime, or totally abysmal. I love the democracy of it all including the ability to be as judgemental as we bloody well like, or not, depending on mood, education, insecurity, ability, or not. I wouldn't like it all NOT to exist. That would be the worst of all. So let the navel gazers, the wannabe's, the perfectly dreadful, the derivative '70's clones, the 'not really proper folk' and the 'not really proper country' (by the way have you noticed how folk and country are becoming more and more side by side?) exist at least. Where would be without the myriad aspects of our music?


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: the one
Date: 14 Apr 06 - 06:29 AM

may be; BUT WE HAVE NOT.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 14 Apr 06 - 06:52 AM

Gawd - I'd sell out if someone would buy me...


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: GUEST,Whistle Stop
Date: 14 Apr 06 - 07:34 AM

As in other things, how you set up your research dictates what answers you get. If you go looking for "real" folk or country music on the big corporate-owned radio stations, you're bound to be disappointed. It's sort of the equivalent of looking for a good home-cooked meal at McDonalds; you won't find it there, but that doesn't mean that nobody cooks real food any more.

I think there are probably more good musicians out there -- in all genres -- than there ever were before. But they don't generally make it onto the stations that are pushing Britney, Shania, and similar products.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 14 Apr 06 - 07:46 AM

I cant talk about 'Folk' from any thing but a British position , as i have only spent a couple of months out of forty years in Folk on the other side of the pond . Here in UK , there have ALWAYS been the Navel gazers , as there have ALWAYS been the people who stll sing the 'old' songs , and in many cases play/sing them with a wonderful degree of freshness and enthusiasm . As far as 'Great' songs being written , in the last twenty five years writers like Jez Lowe , Tom Lewis , Eric Bogle , Robb Johnson , and (just in the last few years ) George Papavgeris are writing songs which have become 'regulars' at sessions and singarounds , NOT just in Britain , but in Australia and new Zealand too - AND to a lesser degree over in USA !


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 14 Apr 06 - 09:22 AM

Come on Dave, don't be contrary!   Great, outstanding, superb, etc... they are all terms of endearment to artists that we love. The words people use should not be questioned, the meaning behind them should. Personally, I stand by every artist that I called "great".

There are dozens of songwriters I could name, many of them have already been noted here. One thing I have noticed is that many people are mentioning songwriters who are of an older vintage but still making good music today. Unlike most of pop music, "folk" does not have a shelf life. Tom Paxton still writes some great songs as does Bill Staines and Eric Anderson. There are also a number of "under 30's" that are making great music. If you have not heard her, look for Anais Mitchell.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: Stephen L. Rich
Date: 14 Apr 06 - 10:36 AM

It kind of depends on waht you mean by "selling out". If you're talking about simply knucling under to the commercial aspects of trying to make doing this music as any substantive part of your living, then I'd say that the answer is "Sort of, but not to any destructive degree". The willingness of folkies to use the tools of marketing to push against the mainstream, as it were, has helped to keep this music available to those who want it. There are more festivals and indoor venues than ever. There are more working folkies than ever. There are more people making this music a part of thier daily lives , either by listening or by making music in thier parlors or at social gatherings than ever. The down side (and the reason that I said "sort of") is that it has also resulted in absurd and annoying meat markets like the Folk Alliance conferences, and the promotionally-minded attitude of Folk Alley (the like of which has not been seen since the proliferation of sations on the FM radio band in the early 1970's).   

    If, on the other hand, you mean that the music been completely taken over be commercial concerns the answer is "Of course not....yet." There's the tricky part. As long as we keep in mind what this music is, at its core, what it's for, and what it means to us we'll probably be just fine.

Stephen Lee


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: GUEST,Tired of "Moondance" though.
Date: 14 Apr 06 - 10:45 AM

Don Meixner above had it right: it ain't the song, the tradition is the singing. In my community, bluegrass and country music are the styles that are shared and learned, and when we gather at parties, people know the material. Or the shapes and forms of the material if not the songs, meaning that they can join and contribute. At parties where someone just has to pull out some idiosyncratic pop song, you can feel the energy wane from the room, and hear the diminishment of interest in the playing.

But I've been to parties where a room is devoted to swing/jazz, another to beginning folk (well known, easy songs), and another to bluegrass. The complicated culture of how to fit in among those groups is quite real, and attests to the living tradition of people making music together, whatever the style or genre; it's within reach, and comprehensible to the players gathered. It's a common language shared. The navel-gazing individualism of some writing disallows a group to identify and play it, and after a few minutes it's back to Little Maggie or some such.

I see an important division of topic in the subject of who's recording what and how they're producing/marketing it, and what's being sung in actual situations where people bring their instruments and voices and make music non-commercially.

What's being sung and played at the parties? There's your folk music.

What's on the radio, and in the stores? Maybe it'll be sung at parties down the road somewhere, but it's product on a shelf until that happens.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: clairerise
Date: 14 Apr 06 - 11:13 AM

I think the biggest danger is when i have seen young people (like myself) come to folk nights and when i sometimes play things which are a tad modern/alternative-folk i have recieved bad reception.

folk should be progressive i think. not stuck in historical mire. i love it when someone comes up with a new folk sound.

i know i posted the question is folk selling out? i don't think it is. but i think the only danger of selling out is not supporting new/fresh talent with a different quirk on folk.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 14 Apr 06 - 11:17 AM

While I respect and agree (to an extent) with both Guest:Moondance and Don, you could take that logic another step and say that Folk music sold out when the first recording was made and when the first person shared a song with Cecil Sharp, John Lomax & crew.

Guests description of a party being diminished when someone in a group brings out a pop song speaks volumes about the people who attend that party. Gatherings are social situations and are unique to the people, geography and the time.   I've been to some brilliant parties where people sang nothing but old rock and roll tunes and had a ball doing so.

Times change and the oral tradition has changed. Technology and advances have changed the way songs and stories will be shared in future generations.

I also have to disagee with a couple of points that Stephen made. The Folk Alliance may appear to be a "meat market", but I honestly believe it is largely responsible for creating and perpetuating all the venues and festivals and gatherings that Stephen spoke of. The Folk Alliance has allowed peers to share knowledge and opportunity. The showcasing that goes on there is just a portion of the activities. It may not work for everyone but I think it is an important alliance that helps keep the music out there.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 14 Apr 06 - 11:19 AM

Very well said Clairerise!   Too often I hear grumblings from the "folk elders" about young people not getting involved, yet at the same time they tend to close doors to anything that doesn't fit their ideas.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: number 6
Date: 14 Apr 06 - 11:46 AM

I'm with you Ron .... Very well said Clairerise ... very well said indeed.

And Ron ... thanks for mentioning Anais Mitchell. That's what I want to see (more of) here in the Mudcat ... leads to new artists, and also as someone mentioned, new music by the old. ... This is what I came to the Mudcat in the first place ... sharing of my love of music.

People shouldn't feel intimidated by the fact that know one might not like what they want to share ... we all don't have the same taste, and that is good (as hilda fish stated), but we all have one thing in common and that is our love of music.... This is what I came to the Mudcat for in the first place ... my love of music.

There has been mention in this thread about Jed Marum. I wouldn't never have discovered him if it wasn't for the Cat.   

sIx


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Subject: Adrienne Young
From: dulcimer42
Date: 14 Apr 06 - 12:23 PM

Read your message about Adrienne Young and went to her website. There are mp3 files you can listen to exerpts from. I was impressed! I just might have to purchase one of her CDs.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: GUEST,M.Ted
Date: 14 Apr 06 - 12:54 PM

Folk music is music that people create to amuse themselves. And people never really "create" anything, they really borrow from here and there and mold it to fit the moment. The "selling out" process really is just molding the music to amuse a lot more people, and fit a lot more moments.

The thing is, at that point, you've made a choice to stop having a good time, and to concentrate on making other people have a good time. More profitable, but less interesting.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: Janice in NJ
Date: 14 Apr 06 - 02:20 PM

I take "selling out" to mean betraying one's fundamental principles for money, fame, power, social position, or other material advantage. By that definition, some living folk musicians who have never sold out include Dar Williams, Pat Humphries, Sandy Opatow, Jay Mankita, Utah Phillips, Bernice Reagon, Holly Near, Jean Ritchie, Ronnie Gilbert, Odetta, and, of course, Pete Seeger. I will also include Joan Baez. but I know many will disagree.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: Stephen L. Rich
Date: 14 Apr 06 - 03:23 PM

Ron,
you are quite right about the good done by Folk Alliance. It does, indeed, perpetuate and encourage festivals and venues. My comment about the meat market does not diminish or deny that. Folk Alliance is both enabler of venues AND a meat market. One does not negate the other. Each make the other possible.

Stephen Lee


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: Scoville
Date: 14 Apr 06 - 04:15 PM

Amen, Ron.

I always thought this was a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situation--if you do too well at it, everyone says you've sold out. If you DON'T do well, you can't make a living (if that's what you want to do--and I don't see why there's anything wrong with that). A lot of the people I've seen named here as Non Sell-Outs are professional musicians, not coal miners, waitresses, and truckers singing on the side the way Dock Boggs and Hazel Dickens were for so long (if you consider them "real" folk singers).

I listen to "classic country" in the car in the mornings and evenings and it has its share of saccharine garbage, but it doesn't take long to be able to tell which artists are which--nobody else sounds like Tanya Tucker or Dwight Yoakam. Whether or not you consider them sell-outs, they are certainly distinctive and very different from what is playing currently. I don't do modern country. I know there are good songs in with the rest of them, I just don't want that much pop sound with my twang.

I don't really think folk music has sold out, I just think that what could still be considered folk music flies under the radar, as it always has. I guess a lot of it depends on what you consider folk music but I really don't want to start that up again here. I think it HAS to be progressive.

I just went to see Paul Geremia (who is blues, but, eh--near enough), who has definitely not sold out. He still does the old stuff and he's learned some new stuff and he's written some new stuff, a lot of it political or at least topical. He knows a lot about what he's playing and from what it is descended, and he's old enough that he knew some of the "real" folk and blues musicians in their later years. I don't think writing your own songs boots you out of the folk category--all of them were "written" by somebody at some point, even if it's been lost to history.

As to being the "real thing". I think it just goes in circles. I played in a string band in college (fewer than 10 years ago) and we played old stuff and new stuff and new stuff that sounded old, and I don't care what anyone says--it was all folk music. The town did a charity bluegrass concert twice a year and that was all folk music, too. Semi-professional, semi-local talent. A lot of them did covers of new songs in arrangements that were entirely their own (somebody did a cover of "Delta Dawn" that was way better than the original). They were good bands, not hacks, but they had a good time and they really loved what they were doing.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: Buzzer65
Date: 15 Apr 06 - 02:52 PM

Hey Folkies!! Lets get our heads out of our "asses" and stop the name dropping. I've been going to clubs and festivals for 48 years and have always found the singaround sessions to be reflective of the best in folk song. Ordinary people singing songs that make you laugh or make you sad; but usually songs which are written about the life and times of ordinary folk. Its not about selling records. Its about leaving a record of events for others to learn and pass on in song.
To me, folk is history in song! Songs about injustice and the struggle against it. Songs which lampoon political leaders. Songs that record great moments in history.
Ah! I hear you say "He's another sandal wearing traditionlist". Far from it! In my view the best folk songs are about whats going on now in the world and there are plenty of contemporary folk song writers to choose from----Now I'm going to have to name drop!!   Leon Rosselson, Si Khan, Roy Bailey, Mike Harding and my recent discovery Red Wedding! There now I've done it. Hope no one is offended.
Cheers Dan Kelly


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: Grab
Date: 15 Apr 06 - 04:11 PM

When all folk music sounds alike, then you'll know people have sold out. If everyone adopts mock-Oirish accents, or imitates the nasal drone of the Watersons, or some generic Midwest burr - and that's all that people will buy or play on the radio - then we're doomed.

So long as people are still singing in their own voices, and people are still going to listen to them and buying their CDs, then we're probably OK...

Graham.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: Peace
Date: 15 Apr 06 - 04:22 PM

All too often it's a damned if ya do/damned if ya don't situation. I don't really understand what the term 'selling out' means. Or what that has to do with music (of any sort).

In some ways what is implied in the questiuon is that if no one hears you then yer a serious musician; when you develop a following you are catering to the whims of the great unwashed; and if yer unfortunate enough to pen/perform a million seller then you've 'sold out'. Reminds me of hearing "Amazing Grace" by the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. It sold millions. Did they sell out a trad song? If so, may the rest of us have the formula? Because they sure made that little number a world-wide hit and damn it was great to hear. I usta play it with the hi-fi (stereo ?) at ten and let it rip. Still brings a tear to my eyes.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: Peace
Date: 15 Apr 06 - 04:27 PM

Sorry, Scoville. I just read your post--don't know how I missed it to begin with. YES to what you said.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: melodeonboy
Date: 15 Apr 06 - 08:32 PM

Grab: you made an interesting comment about "people singing in their own voices".

I sometimes wonder whether some British singers are actually aware of what their voices are to start with. A number of them appear to sing in some sort of poppy (no, not the heroin one!), sub-American, "performance" style; (not actually being sure what it is, that's about the best name I can put to it.)

I do at least understand it when it's done for effect with music of American origin (even I would find "Mannish Boy" sung in a Terry Thomas accent a bit hard to take!), but I think it sounds naff when it's done for traditional British stuff.

Is this phenomenon in any way related to the fact that - apart from songs or artists that are seen as "novelty", e.g. Ian Dury, Squeeze, "Parklife" by Blur - British people singing in their own voices don't usually make much money?


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: GUEST,Art Thieme again...
Date: 15 Apr 06 - 09:30 PM

Well, I know what I like, and it is folk music.

I dislike so much of what you have made room for that all I can figure is that, like someone of old said, "You know not what you do."

I truly hope that your maturing years, as they majestically pass, allows some few of you to glean the obvious, to me, nuances and differences.

Happy Easter !

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 16 Apr 06 - 02:06 AM

After reading all of the above, I've come up with an entirely new "What Is Folk" definition ~ one good enough, at least, for my own purposes:

If the people of a given community share knowledge of a song and can sing along, it's folk music ~ at least for those folk. In the world I live in, this would include Beatles songs and rock 'n' roll "golden oldies" as well as stuff like "Li'l Liza Jane" and "Down By the Riverside"; in your social circle, an entirely different set of songs might comprise your shared tradition.

If a song is newly written, and performed for a silently listening audience, it ain't folk because it is not part of anyone's tradition ~ at least not yet. If such a song catches on, either locally and/or "underground" via word-of-mouth, or in the context of a wider commercial world, it may eventually become part of some community's "folk" tradition.

I think the above distinction is more pertinent than whether the intrumentaiton is acoustic or electric, whether the subject matter is introspective or narrative, or anything else.

Now, as to the argument whether the current musical product of Nashville's Music Row is anywhere near as good as it once was ~ that's just a matter of individual taste. I agree that most of it is pretty distasteful, and therefore don't listen to it.

What I do listen to, almost exclusively, is New Orleans music: jazz, pop-standards, and R&B (real rhythm and blues, that is, not "contemporary urban" sythesizer pop). Our brass bands, for example, share a "traditional" repertoire with which every good player is familiar, which is necessary because individual musicians must be able to play in various different combinations on short notice. Much of the material is indeed "traditional" is the sense of being time-tested, even ancient, but some of the songs and tunes that have become part of this canon are of recent origin. Such new compositions (e.g., Rebirth's "Do Whatcha Wanna") seem to become "traditional" by consensus, just because everyone likes them and enjoys playing them. I'm sure that the same process applies within other traditions, including the acoustic-string-instrument-plus-vocal genre that most of us call "folk music."


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 16 Apr 06 - 11:55 AM

I'm listening to a CD by Judy Cook right now. It sure is grand, and rare these days, to hear someone who knows and sings folk songs. Judy can rest assured that she has nothing at all to do with the sad title of this thread. She is doing the exact opposite. Judy is "buying into" folk music. I am heartened by her endeavors.

Listen to her sing W. N. Allen's century-old, vivid, and mesmerizing Wisconsin lumberwoods ballad titled "On The Banks Of The Little Eau Pleine" --- Even now, in 2006, the process continues forward for all intent on finding it to hear when, the cream, it rises!!

Sincerely,

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: GUEST,Steven C. Barr
Date: 16 Apr 06 - 05:21 PM

Well, to begin with, DEFINE "folk music" as you use the term!

Currently, we have two (to me) separate genres that both can be called "folk music." Ask a musicologist, and he/she/it will tell you that the term refers to music which is inherent within a given culture as opposed to being written with commercial intent, This form of "folk music" travels among individuals through oral tradition, and has for decades or centuries (often the same songs!), This was the only form of secular music that was available to the common folk in the pre-literacy era. It is usually self-accompanied on the common intruments of a culture (for we "Anglo-Celtic" folk, that means guitar, banjo and similar stringed instruments). Note that it is popular for a commercial song to BECOME "folk music" (i.e. "You Are My Sunshine" or possibly "Happy Birthday"...) but, using this definition, the phrase "folk song writer" is an oxymoron! Although the folk songs of a culture were no doubt written by somebody way back when, no one has any idea who that someone was! Ironically, one group of songs that still fit this "ur-definition" are the "dirty songs" (I assume there still are such things?).

Now, in the last half-century or so, "folk music" has acquired a completely different definition! The phrase nowadays means (except to musicologists and picky cats like myself) songs which are played with minimal use of electric amplifiers, almost always self-accompanied, and MAY (or may not) include any of the traditional "folk songs" of the artists' own culture. Further, they are often inspired by, sound like, or both...these traditional "folk songs." Finally, their content tends toward "left-leaning" for a number of historic reasons. Thus, this definition (which I call "Big-F Folk") is used primarily to help record stores decide where to display the recordings! Note that while most of this material is NOT "folk music" in the traditional sense of that term (a genre I call "Small-f folk")...it is possible for it to become "folk music" in that sense, since it is usually easy to sing and play.

So, to return to the question at hand..."Folk Music" (in the "big-F" sense) sells out by its basic existence. As soon as a song is written with the intent of its becoming profitable (thus "selling") it becomes part of a potential business transaction. On the other hand, "folk music" (in the "small-f" sense) isn't capable of selling out...or, for that matter, selling or being sold. It is the music we learn from our social environment...stuff that "everybody" sings, or plays if capable. However, PERFORMERS of this music can "sell out"...and do the instant they start altering their repertoire so it will bring in a larger audience and sell more tickets!

...stevenc


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 16 Apr 06 - 07:03 PM

"However, PERFORMERS of this music can "sell out"...and do the instant they start altering their repertoire so it will bring in a larger audience and sell more tickets!"

You almost make that sound like a bad thing! It isn't!

To me, music is a like a huge buffet table. While I enjoy bread and like to make it at home, I prefer not to fill up on it when I am at a buffet. I will sample the foods that I like and always leave room for desert. If I have a preconceived notion about the taste of vegetables and skip them out of principle, I will miss out on something that is very good for me and really tastes good too! Naturally, I always save room for desert.

I agree with Art when he mentions Judy Cook singing "On The Banks Of The Little Eau Pleine". I enjoy being mesmerized by her singing and the haunting ballads. At the same time, I can also be mesmerized by Richard Shindell or Antje Duvekot. I would hate to have to choose between any of them. Make room on my plate!

By the way, are you going to finish those ribs???


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 16 Apr 06 - 07:17 PM

Ron-
Your plate is, undoubtedly, bigger and more varied than that of many of us. Whe going to order, though, I'd like to have some I'm going to get. If I'm in the mood for chili, I don't want to be served sushi. And if I'm in the mood for Judy Cook, or Art Thieme, I can do without Richard Shindell or Antje Duvekot.

If you're going to call commercial music "folk"--regardless of how good it may be--what are you going to call the stuff that Art likes? And I like?


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 16 Apr 06 - 09:00 PM

... and the stuff that I like as well Dick. It is good music.

If I went into a restaurant that serves "food", I would be specific if I was ordering ala carte. I would not have a problem if the restaurant serves sushi and chili to the patrons. Both can fit on a single side of the menu. Food is food, folk is folk. If I order a plate of Richard Shindell or a plate of field recordings, I get what I want.

It is only a name and by having the others gather under the same umbrella does not diminish or dilute.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 16 Apr 06 - 09:39 PM

Ron, I know what you're saying has some merit. But the passing of time and the coming of a new generation intent on making their individualized mark (with big bucks corporate backing), can and often does, dumb things down to the extent that with our music, or with this war in Iraq and Afghanistan, hormone loaded guys and gals leap headlong in---sometimes with sad results. Folk music isn't life or death like war is, but it is still disheartening to watch things be diminished this way.

And often it is truly because they just didn't know what went down before. That's why I used" They know not what they do!" on this Easter night. --------- To extend the metaphor, I'm sure it was a rude awakening for uniformed children with rifles to endure the Iraqi realities.

Art


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: number 6
Date: 16 Apr 06 - 10:10 PM

Art ... take a good look at what's out there! ... as mentioned in my previous thread there is exceptional music being made out there by younger artists who are not marketing their art via the big record companies, and whose art is important to them just as it was with the 'older generation'. I think it is rather unfair writing off these new artists.

"And often it is truly because they just didn't know what went down before."   .... again untrue, my nephew who is 25 years old can discuss the past greats with any of the older guys ... as are 2 younger musicians I had the please to meet last weekend, or others I have meant lately... and what is more imprortant is the fact that these young people are more ever appreciative of what we can teach them about the past ... and even more astonishing is they know some licks, songs from the past that I have learned from them.

sIx


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 16 Apr 06 - 11:51 PM

Yes,

And from my perch, Judy is one of the good young ones. === Granted, I don't get out much to where I can hear what's happening these days. From a picking standpoint, I do know that young folks are doing old-timey music exceptionally well--and they are doing it all over the place. What I'm saying partly is that I miss the word loving folks. --- Individual songsters: Paul Clayton, Jack Elliott, Jim Ringer, Katy Lee, Sam Hinton, early Bob Gibson, Allan Mills--people who sang the story songs that let us glimpse the life then---showed how we got from then to now. When Judy Cook does those songs it's transporting. Debbie McClatchy too for her California and gold rush songs. Kendall Morse does it too. The Tom Rush Prestige albums. Woody. Glen Ohrlin. Ewan MacColl and Bert Lloyd. Jeanie Robertson, Sandy Paton. Pete's LP of ballads of New York state on Folkways. And also his American Industrial Ballads---also on Folkways. Trad historical songs of Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania as sung by Vivian Richman.

These were ALL folksingers as I like to use the word. And it's the way I did the music too---I hope. ------------

It's late and I'm rambling.

Yes, I'm sure there are good pickers.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 17 Apr 06 - 09:56 AM

Hi Art,

I do see your points, but I am not sure that true "folk" music has been diminished. Jackson Pollack created his own style of painting, but that does not diminish the beauty of the Mona Lisa or works by other artists.

The songs will always be with us, and I feel that the respect will always be there. The "folk revival" was a pleasant mistake. Many people who talk about folk music seem to drift toward the music that was being played and the artists who were singing it during that era. In many cases, the music they were singing had been collected long before they discovered them. Others, such as Sandy Paton, began collecting around that time joining others whose work was instrumental in the preservation and perpetuation of this style. For a variety of reasons, which would be the subject of many other threads, the music was noticed by a wider population.

What happened? The music became an inspiration to others who began writing in a "folk style" (insert your own definition here!). Now, in 2006, the evolution continues.    Life is different from the time when the only music available was homemade. While there are reasons to regret the passing of that time, we have to realize that evolution and changes in technology HAD to effect music, style and the oral tradition.   We can't "de-evolve". As soon as recordings, radio and entertainment changed the way we live, our traditions had to evolve as well.

Art, you made a very good point about missing the individuals who sang these folk songs - "people who sang the story songs that let us glimpse the life then---showed how we got from then to now."   The examples you gave are many of your peers, people whose music I respect and the music that is the cornerstone of my radio program as well as my musical education. I cherish this music and these individuals.

However, there are still people who may not always sing the same songs in the same style that you and your peers utilized, but they still sing the songs that let us glimpse the life then and who us how we get from then to now. They also share their vision of the future, a future that has a respect for tradition and continuing this style. Take a group like the Mammals. Their slogan is "trad is rad" and they mix traditional music with powerful contemporary songs that deal with issues in the same fashion that the Almanac Singers used to speak to their generation. A group like the Malvinas, who chose their name to honor Malvina Reynolds, operate in a similar style. The Duhks are turning on younger audiences to styles and sounds that are quite different from the contemporary pop tunes that seem to captivate the majority of their generation. Artists like Joe Jencks, John Flynn, SONiA, Chuck Brodsky and many others are carrying the torch once held by Woody Guthrie and Phil Ochs.   And lets not forget the pickers. Go to festivals like Old Songs and you will see them gathering in corners and fields - the music is still with us and will be for a long time to come.

There is hope for the future, but we can't expect it to resemble our past. From what I have seen, there is a tremendous respect for the older styles, but this generation realizes that the tradition truly evolves.   When Bob Gibson sang "Sweet Betsy From Pike", I am sure that there were old cowboys who complained about the way he sweetened the tune.   I remember hearing stories of Joe Heaney, the legendary sean-nos signer, complaining about "those f*#@ing guitars" - yet he would encourage his students to sing the songs that were true to their spirit.

I'm rambling and I apologize. I do feel that there is a place for all these varied styles in the "big tent" term FOLK MUSIC. We do not need to get so wrapped up in what we cal it, just continue to "call it!"


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: GUEST,Art again
Date: 17 Apr 06 - 10:41 AM

Ron, if I didn't say what you said, I believe I intimated a similar feeling. Personally, I guess that I prefer one type of song over the other. And I miss having a bunch of those kinds of singers around to influence the youth more.

Tom Russell is one who fills the bill for me now. ----Art


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: voyager
Date: 17 Apr 06 - 11:41 AM

Another way of asking this questions -

Has our Marketing Strategy Changed?

In our Mudcat Community I would expect that the Subject Matter
Experts (Like Dick G.) could spin an interesting yarn on the
bumpy commercial highway known as Folk Music. Naively I'd like
to think that our GENRE is an American/International Roots music
culture that typically RESEEDS our audience interest every 5 years
or so.

And then there's SELLING RECORDS & FILLING CONCERT HALLS!
(BTW - Tribute Movie to Harold Leventhal Tomorrow night at
   DC Film Fest).

What brings this topic home to roost (this week) was glancing over
a 5+ Page Glossy Spread in this week's NY Times Magazine featuring
Bruce 'The Boss' upcoming tribute to Pete Seeger (with a supporting
ensemble to 18 session players). Quite a SLICK (wretch) piece of
MARKETING I suppose.

Hey - "I don't think Hank would have done it this-away".

voyager

"Success is whatever get the most applause" - Burt Lancaster


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 17 Apr 06 - 11:51 AM

"Jackson Pollack created his own style of painting, but that does not diminish the beauty of the Mona Lisa or works by other artists."

TRue. But the more that commercial music fills the available venues (including festivals and radio programs) The less room remains for more traditional music. When I attend a "folk" festival and find that there is (possibly) one traditional performer or group, I stop attending that festival.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 17 Apr 06 - 12:08 PM

Dick, those are very good points.   Of course, most "folk" festivals are commercial ventures to begin with - or even if they are non-profit the goal is usually to at least break even.   It becomes a double-edged sword - in order to attract bodies they need to put together a program that will draw an audience. Can a festival of strictly traditional music do that in 2005?

While the media is often blamed for corrupting public tastes, I like to think that the media reflects public tastes. If I were to host a three hour radio program that consisted only of field recordings, I would have a small (but probably loyal) audience. Unfortunately for radio stations like mine, we can't afford to narrowcast in that way.

I like to look at events like the Old Songs Festival as a shining example of how to do it right. Their definition of "folk" allows for a nice exposure to both traditional and contemporary.

At the same time I look at events like Clearwater's Great Hudson River Revival as an example of how trying to appeal to a larger audience hurts the artistic merit of a festival. Traditional music has become a rare commodity there. Yet, they seem to be able to survive.

If we look at the history of folk festivals in this country we can also see how the concept evolved.   Original festivals in the 30's were more of an exhibition of folk culuture and art, music playing a part. The evolution of festivals has brought us to a exhibition of performer skills with less emphasis on the participatory.

Truly, I believe that there is room for both. Traditional music spoke loudest to a generation that had a need for it. Todays generations have different needs and absorb the tradition in different ways.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: Maryrrf
Date: 17 Apr 06 - 12:21 PM

I'm stepping into the thread late, but I totally agree with what Dick said - the more commercial music fills the available venues the less room remaining for traditional music. That's why the concert series I help run in Richmond, VA ( Richmond Folk Music ) is reserved for traditional music only (no singer songwriters - we put it this way "If you are a traditional folk singer/musician and you want to include some of your own songs or covers in the set, that's okay but we are more interested in your traditional material".) It's not that we want to discriminate, but we've deliberately narrowed the focus of our series because we feel like traditional folk music is getting crowded out. I feel the same way when I'm at a singaround or session that is centered around traditional material. I've been at some where somebody walked in and played a couple of Beatles songs and it disrupted the mood. I didn't say anything (probably should have) but I felt it was inappropriate and it did get on my nerves.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: GUEST,RIchard Bridge
Date: 17 Apr 06 - 02:15 PM

Steven C. Barr, thank you.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: GUEST
Date: 17 Apr 06 - 03:32 PM

I am new to this topic, but have been reading with interest.
As an Englishman living in the USA, when I moved here I was excited to find that my area was pretty well served with folk music radio - even a 24hour/7 day a week station. However, I have noticed within the last couple of years, that it is much more "contempory folk music" played and less traditional music, and what traditional music there is has started to be called - Celtic, well at least the english stuff, which is my interest.
It seems to me that traditional music - unless it is Irish, is being pushed out.
I assume it is because it is less commercial?
Tim R


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 17 Apr 06 - 05:24 PM

I blame neither the media nor the commercial performers. I'm only saddened by the application of Gresham's Law to one of my passionate interests.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 17 Apr 06 - 08:49 PM

we sold out....?

i guess that explains why we're all so rich.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 18 Apr 06 - 06:02 AM

I have been writing my own material for a number of years, mostly in humorous response to what I see happening around me. Some of it is written in traditional style, and some is more contemporary.

I have been influenced by many writers ranging from Flanders & Swan and Jake Thackray, to others who are unknown (trad), but I don't wish, and have never tried to BE the person who has exerted that influence.

I have recently retired, and I NEED to earn some money from my singing to supplement a miserable pension. In order to do so I have built an act from songs which get a strong response from audiences, and discarded many which are less crowd pleasing, while still fairly popular with small sections of the public.

So I guess you might say I've sold out, but let me say this. I would much prefer to continue to sing for the love of the music, as I have done for nearly 50 years, but that would mean that I could not afford to go to the clubs and festivals to do so.

In the unlikely event that a song of mine (or a CD) took off and made lots of money, I certainly wouldn't turn it down.

I suspect that many others "sell out" for similar reasons, and I don't judge them for that. I simply listen to their songs, and decide whether I like them, in exactly the way I would if they were traditional.

It seems nonsensical to me to suggest that writing for the audience is somehow wrong and devalues the songs you write. After all, the traditional songs we know must have been those which were popular enough to stand the test of time, and there must have been others which were sung once, and forgotten.

Don T.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 18 Apr 06 - 09:48 AM

"I'm only saddened by the application of Gresham's Law to one of my passionate interests. "

Wow! You brought me back 25 years to my Economics 101 class! You topped it off by reminding me of one of the few days that I did not fall asleep in class!

From what I recall of the theory, "bad" money referred to legal tender that was either counterfeit or consisted of inferior metals. The "good" money was coinage that contained more valuable metals and the value of the metal would be worth more than the metal in the "bad" coins. This lead to people hording the "good" coins and keeping them out of circulation.

Using Gresham's Law - if traditional folk music is considered "good" money, then it is the fault of those "hording" the music that keeps it out of circulation to be replaced by contemporary songwriters.

I'm not sure if I would agree with that analogy because it debases the value of contemporary songwriters. I certainly respect and understand your opinion, after all we have subjective tastes, but personally I do not see one impacting on the other in such terms. People are attracted to the styles because of what if offers them. I feel that there is certainly room for both and neither will be devalued.

Yesterday I received the new Solas CD - Reunion. It is a brilliant concert that blends Irish traditional tunes and song, American folk song (Rain and Snow), a Woody Guthrie song (Pastures of Plenty), and songs from contemporary songwriters (Richard Shindell, Antje Duvekott) as well as original tunes. This CD does not sound like a typical session you would happen upon in a pub, nor does it sound like the stereotypical whiney navel-gazing singer-songwhiners. It is a superb interpretation of MUSIC that I have no problem calling FOLK. It comes from the heart and the people.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: chris nightbird childs
Date: 18 Apr 06 - 10:32 AM

"It seems nonsensical to me to suggest that writing for the audience is somehow wrong and devalues the songs you write. After all, the traditional songs we know must have been those which were popular enough to stand the test of time, and there must have been others which were sung once, and forgotten."

Couldn't have said it better.
Thanks Don...


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 18 Apr 06 - 10:43 AM

"the traditional songs we know must have been those which were popular enough to stand the test of time"

We should not confuse "traditional" with "popular".   Many of the traditional songs that we now know and have learned were not necessarily popular songs of their time. Collectors "discovered" these songs by searching the backroads of our country and found songs that may have been only known to a single family. After they became published and sung by others, then the popularity spread.   Even the more well known songs have so many different variations oweing to the oral process.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 18 Apr 06 - 02:16 PM

That wasn't my point Ron,

It was about suiting music to the likes of the audience, and being accused therefor of selling out.

And also, those trad songs were not remembered or collected because they were, or were not, Popular (i.e. with the mass audience), but because they were damn good songs. They must have been popular (small p) with those who passed them down the years, for that very reason.

I suspect the same will be true of the best of the current output of today's musicians.

Don T.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 18 Apr 06 - 02:30 PM

I think the word "popular" can be tricky.   Collectors may have saved the songs for a variety of reasons, not just because of the quality of the song. Sometimes it was for historic purposes or to keep the song in context with another.

I do agree with what you said previously as well as your last post, but I do think it is important to note the distinction between "folk" and "popular". Too often people assume that just because a song is preserved in a book that it had to be a song that everyone new and loved centuries ago. That is often not the case.

The point I was trying to get out was made very well by your last sentence Don - the same will be true of the best of the current output of today's musicians.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 19 Apr 06 - 03:05 PM

Surely the whole point about traditional folk is that it was NOT preserved in books, but passed orally from one generation to the next down the years (in many cases several hundred years), before collectors compiled their books.

That surely implies a high degree of "popularity". Can you imagine yourself saying to your children "Here's a song I don't really like" and then expecting them to sing it, and pass it on to their kids.

I should think it will be easier with current songs, precisely because of written records.

Having said that, I agree that some other word would be an advantage, since "popular" has come to mean something quite at odds with its dictionary definition in the context of music.

I just can't think what that word might be.

Don T.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 19 Apr 06 - 03:23 PM

Don, I think we agree on the same thing, but we are just using terms in different ways.

My interpretation of "popular" implies that the song is popular among a wide range of people. Many of the traditional songs that we know today were not well known outside of a families "collection" or perhaps a certain geographic area. No one kept these songs in books but learned them by memory and shared them from generation to generation because the songs were good or related to their own experience.

A song that may have had relevance to a family living in Novia Scotia would not necessarily have the same significance to a family in the Ozarks - even if there were a chance that the same song was shared in such diverse locations. The folk tradition would have shaped a "good" song to fit the time and place.

During the folk revival and beyond, many people were exposed to traditional music either through recordings or the books put together by collectors such as John & Alan Lomax, Carl Sandberg, etc. Today, I think that there are fewer instances of songs being kept local because of technology.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: GUEST,Sandy Andina
Date: 19 Apr 06 - 04:10 PM

Interestingly, I have heard the accusation of folk music "selling out" applied not just to performing songwriters who have changed their own styles till they've morphed more into acoustic pop/rock, but equally as vehemently and snarkily to non-writing performers accused of trying to "kiss up" to audiences by singing mostly overly familiar "folk scare" material. Neither is entirely true; alternatively, the truth may lie somewhere in between; or it could be that "folk music" is incapable of precise and exclusive definition.

Like the late Justice Potter Stewart on the subject of porn, I can't define "folk music," but I know it when I see it. No, scratch that--I think I know it when I see it. Aw, hell, I think I can tell what may and may not be folk. Maybe. I consider myself a folksinger, and yes, I do write. I (unlike some of my colleagues and even musical co-workers) do not believe that a competent songwriter has no need to or should not perform songs written by others. A damn good song is a damn good song, and if it speaks to me, fits me as a folkie and I believe I can do it justice and move an audience with it I will go right ahead and perform it. (If we don't want to consider entertaining our audiences, why perform in public?). But I also refuse to limit either my defintition of folk or my repertoire to music by Anonymous Dead Anglo-Saxons (if that sounds like a song title, it is; and sorry, folks, it's mine).

I consider myself a folk singer-songwriter precisely because I write songs with traditional folk instrumentation and musical structure, non-omphaloskeptic lyrics and subject matter (I pay a shrink to hear me unload, not expect an audience to pay me for that), and perform them in a manner everyone can understand (e.g., hear all the words clearly). And nothing would please me more than if others decided to sing them and start debates about the subject matter (and especially use them as springboards for writing their own songs--ah, to be a link in the chain!!). My songs tell stories and comment upon things that hopefully interest others outside my own small circle (and psychiatrist). I don't presume to declare that all or even many of my songs are timeless classics, but my goal is to write and propagate at least one that'll take on a life of its own. (The requests I get when I perform--and the ones that show up on radio playlists--tell me that I may be on the right track with at least one or two of them).

I think it is extremely dangerous and self-defeating to set an arbitrary timeline cutting off what is and is not a folk song. There are plenty of guitarslinging navel-gazers out there who stare at their feet while they mumble indecipherably, eyes closed of course, over repetitive chord progressions (that may even be electronically looped) about their own personal interpersonal angst. Maybe we can agree not to call them folksingers.....though from folk radio playlists and folk conference showcases we may ultimately be incorrect in excluding them from our concept of folk. But I think it is arbitarary and self-defeating to exclude everyone who writes and performs mostly their own songs from the rubric of "folk music." If we insist on doing so, have we the right to bristle at the outside world snickering at all folk music as if it were the kind depicted in "A Mighty Wind?"

If the folk process by definition includes the morphing of individual songs over the generations, why can't folk music also expand the size of its umbrella to reflect the creation of new songs (and, I grudgingly admit, some carefully limited stylistic expansion of the genre)? What made folk music folk to begin with? Folks: not just those who played it but those who listened and sang along. Like it or not, it is PEOPLE who drive this--the performers and the audiences alike. I am not saying that all music that is popular is folk--obviously, we can exclude most rock, rap, adult contemporary/MOR, cookie-cutter pop, factory-produced country, electronica, etc. despite its popularity. But when it comes to traditionally structured and performed songs made by acoustic musicians steeped in and respectful of folk music, we are shooting ourselves in the collective foot when we begin to split hairs too finely. (And when we overuse cliches).


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 20 Apr 06 - 11:50 AM

Ron-
My allusion to Gresham's Law did not mean to imply that "Good" and "Bad" music was anything but my subjective opinion. But it's hard to argue that, given a finite amount of time to listen and a finite number of places, that commercial music has crowded non-commercial music almost completely off the stage.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 20 Apr 06 - 02:58 PM

Dick, I agree that there is only a finite amount of time and places, and that "commercial" music has crowded "non-commercial" music off the stage.   However, the term "commercial" should not be viewed as a word that demeans the artistic merit of the song. Commercial usually means that it sells well and is popular.   "Noncommercial" usually means that it doesn't sell well and reaches a selective audience. Both can have either good or bad merits.

It also means that we have choices to make. We should spend time listening to the music that moves us as individuals.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: GUEST,Sam Pirt
Date: 20 Apr 06 - 07:07 PM

Interesting debate.

To 'Sell out' requires the artist to play something they do not wish to play by choice for the sake of selling records and folk musicians never will because for the most part they care about the songs and tunes they play.

If in the worst case senario they did 'sell out' it would not actually be a major catastrophy as the traditional music that has been passed on for centurys will still remain.

Country music may have 'sold out' but recordings and musicians are still around playing the trad stuff if you know where to look (maybe the oh brother where art thou sound track)

On the radio, TV is NOT the place to listen to folk music or country music, yes now and then there is the odd good folk programme. But the whole point of these types of musics is that they are played by a minority so why would you get them on TV which the majority of people watch. It is not a bad thing it just means that you have to look further, talk to people go to sessions, learn tunes from people not CD's and gain a bigger understanding of the trdaition at the same time, is that so bad????

Cheers, Sam


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 20 Apr 06 - 10:27 PM

Spot on, Sam!


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: Peace
Date: 20 Apr 06 - 10:36 PM

"Is folk music selling out?"

Is someone buying? Curious minds . . . .


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: Stephen L. Rich
Date: 20 Apr 06 - 11:56 PM

Well said, Sandy.


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Subject: RE: Is folk music selling out?
From: Joe Richman
Date: 20 Apr 06 - 11:58 PM

I regularly attend an event known as "The Orange Co. Folk Circle". It is a monthly (except May and October) meeting of people who like to play and sing a diverse set of songs. The people who run the circle sometimes divide the group into "Old Time" and "Singer/Songwriter" categories.   The singer/songwriters sometimes do slightly pop renditions of very old ballads with (probably) folk origins. The "Old Time" players often do renditions of 19th century pop music, with known lyricists and composers. The Singer/Songwriters like to perform songs by Dylan and James Taylor, and quite a few other people who wrote songs in the '60s, '70s and even some who wrote stuff more recently. The "Old Time" people like the "Fiddler's Fakebook" and tunes popularized locally by fiddlers who came out West in the '30s. We coexist very nicely. And the term "Folk" seems to be a good covering for the event.

No "selling out", but advance tickets to events are offered, and announcements of concerts do get made. And it is usually a somewhat graying group(more so every year).

Joe


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