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Well what I actually mean is where have all the semi-pro bands gone? When I started playing in Scottish folk band Seannachie in 1987 the scene seemed to be full of semi-pro bands. We all had jobs and we played at night in the folk clubs and at festivals – mainly folk clubs. To me there seemed to be a lot of bands like this at the time with not so many full time outfits. The music was just as good as the pros just I suppose we played with a safety net. Times seem to be reversed and the caption ‘semi-pro’ (I think) now is a word for amateur. Do these bands still exist and am I missing them? When you look at the list of folk club entertainers there seem to be more solo artists/duos/trios than anything else.
This is turning around in my head as I write this. Maybe I’m wondering ‘where have all the bands gone?’ As I write this I’m struggling to think of lots of bands that are currently out there on the scene. I don’t think there is the money out there to pay medium or large fees that are required to book a band. A typical folk club will pay max £200 which does not go a long way event before deducting travel expenses.
It’s interesting when I discuss Scottish music with people because we’re always talking about the buzz around at the moment. How everyone has a feeling of Scottishness and the music is thriving. However when you get to the nitty gritty of it there is not enough gigs around to make a proper living. Musicians are moving more and more into teaching as that is where the cash is. Are we going to have a catch 22 situtation with lots of kids being able to play the music but not being able to hear it live where it is at its best.
What’s the answer? How do we fight our case in a busy world full of 24hr tv and Wiis? In the end musicians play music because they like performing in front of an audience. The buzz and the sharing always does it for me. We need gigs and lots of them. How are we going to get them? I think greater investment in the cultural sector would be a start. In countries like Germany and France there are always festivals on the weekends. The promotors are always sponsored by the goverment (or local goverment). Free concerts always work for me where the public can walk in and experience something new.
I seem to have taken on a big subject and I don’t have all the answers… We do need more gigs as that is how we will get more bands who will help send out the message about Scottish music.