Marketing our music

When compiling presentations at 3am for the Scots Trad Music Awards you become very aware of the parallels between media no-how and successful genres within trad music. The likes of Gaelic song and folk bands have in the main a very good web presence and it is easy to get info (pictures, audio files) of artists when you need it. This is a great resource for newspapers, promotors etc and enables these entities to promote and engage with these scenes.

The reason I am writing this blog is more about the genres that are not doing this and the parallels with their lack of publicity/success. The areas that jumped out at me were Scots Song, Scottish Dance Bands and to a lesser extent Strathspey and Reel Societies. In my opinion these 3 genres are struggling to make any headway in encouraging folks to come out and listen, join in, buy CDs etc and while the web is not the be and end all, it is definitely a very good start to raising public profile.

It seems to me that hardly anyone is bothering to sort this side of operations out. It is very important that the scenes survive in Scottish music as they have so much to offer our culture. In my opinion we are now at the emergency stage of saving these genres and it has to come down to individuals wanting it. We need to see band leaders, singers, organisations all creating proper websites for themselves, using the likes of myspace, YouTube to get the word out. It is so easy nowadays to do this with not a lot of knowledge. I suppose though even if it did take a lot of learning we need people to get off their backsides and read a manual on how to upload to the web. There should be a whole network of Scots songs websites which possibly could be coordinated through the Traditional Music and Song Association, a network of Scottish Dance Band coordinated through the National Association of Accordion and Fiddle Clubs/ Royal Scottish Country Dance Society) sites all with photos, audio files, biogs. Lets promote these guys or they're going to disappear.

Strathspey and Reel Societies don't even have a national association which shares news between them. They have a few websites but no real unity.

In the end it has to come to down to the community – can they be bothered or are they happy for it to die out. I hope that there are folks out there that don't feel out and will embrace the opportunities that are in front of them.

I've started a discussion about this on Foot Stompin' 

A few reflections…

A few reflections on my Scots fiddle concerto. The series of 3 solos, 1 duo and concerto were performed on 16th November at the Scots Fiddle Festival in the Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh.

Through the rehearsals of the Fiddle concerto I was very happy and amazed at soloist Gordon Gunn's lyricism and dexterity throughout the time. I was trying to write music that was hard and testing to the soloist while exciting to the listener. I felt I succeeded.

On the performance night it was very interesting to listen to the flow of the works from the very first “A fonn gunbhitrom (I am disposed to mirth)” performed by Mairi Campbell to the duo “A' cheud luan do'n raidh (The First Monday of the Season)” performed by Aidan O'Rourke and Patsy Reid. To my ears it showed a development of ideas as learned from one next piece to the next.

When it was time for the concerto it went very well and all the players played great. I did at the time have a feeling that it was different to the rest but in a positive way. (I'll be uploading a video in the next few weeks). It was a long night of a gig with Lau going on first (they were brilliant) to be followed by an hourish of new music but the audience seemed to like it (and the place was packed).

Anyway when the reviews came out they were mixed. Rob Adams' in the Herald generally thought it went ok but felt the concerto lacked something when compared to the preceeding duo. The Scotsman (Hi-Arts) reviewer disliked it completely. Anyone who has read my previous blogs will know that I don't mind this – everyone is entitled to their opinion and I recognise if I'm going to write on a public stage then I have to be able to accept flak as well as positive thoughts. I suppose the one thing that really bugged me about the latter review is that the journalist kept going on about a concerto is only for orchestra and any other ensemble is completely wrong. Unfortunately in this case the journalist is wrong as there are many examples – Judith Weir, Michael Finnesy, Sally Beamish, Hindemith who have all written concertos for 'non' orchestras.

What I've taken from the experience is that I now need to work on my ensemble writing skills. I don't feel that I'm getting the 'traditional' ensemble writing right. My parts are all very 'classical' and I need to work out how I am going to feature the trad musicians in the ensemble and make them sound like themselves. I think I am generally on the right track for the soloists (although I could maybe write more in the home keys). I'm going to take lessons next year with a composer to advance my skills and to move forward and will use the fiddle concerto as a piece to look at in the lessons.

I'm about to try writing a trad piece for glockenspiel and I am currently just thinking whether or not I need any ensemble between it. It will only be 5 minute piece. It will be good to keep going and learning more 

I've finally made it through…

I've finally made it through the madness that was November – Scots Fiddle Concerto, Scots Trad Music Awards, St Andrew's Celebrations, SAC Flexible Funding Application, PRS Foundation Distil application, Foot Stompin' complete new website with still ongoing corrections and top of the list – my wife had her gallbladder out…

I've had a few thoughts I want to talk about in the next few days including marketing of the different genres within traditional music and how I think it is affecting there audience perception. So I'll depart just now and come back in the next few days