Where have all the bands gone?

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.


4 Responses

  1. Hi,

    Thanks for the mention in the podcast and your comments on my blog. You’ve raised a really important issue here. I started out as a music journalist with a sideline in helping unsigned artists get media attention. I’ve been to quite a few gigs but, as with the gig I went to a few months ago here in Birmingham, everything about those gigs I reviewed as a journalist seemed clean cut and polished.

    You couldn’t just walk in, enjoy the music and have social interactions. Instead, you had to line up in a carpark and have burly secutiry blokes touch you in places you wouldn’t even share with your lover before you could even get in to see the music.

    I lived in North Wales for 3 years during my time at university and every local pub seemed to have a musician playing live at least one night in a week. Granted, it was a student city and some students who had a talent for music played live to earn some extra cash but all of them played for the love of performance. Music is a passion. A musician is someone who forges their passion for music into a career through dedication, skill, hard work and knowledge of how to best use their talents.

    Thanks in no small part to Footstompin.com I have been playing Scottish music pretty much since I got back from Edinburgh at the end of July. It’s been a month and a bit but Edinburgh has been in my thoughts all the time and I’m coming back for a 2 week stay very soon. I love Scottish music and Footstompin.com has introduced me to so much great music.

    Music is not just a part of our lives. It is a part of us. Our voices have a rhythm to them. To fight the case you need to remind people that music is far more than someone’s career choice or a simple expression of artistic ability. Music brings people together. It bridges the gap between cultures and turns enemies into friends. Music shows us the light and the darkness and gives our emotions something to dance to. If conception is the spark of life then music is the fuel which keeps life burning well beyond ignition.

    Music has been proven to help children learn faster. It aids the memory and recall abilities so, technically, you could argue that more funding is needed because the more live music children see the more music they get to hear and the more music they hear the more they learn. So, basically, the more live music a child hears the more chance they have of getting good grades and a good job.

    Well, that’s my two pence worth anyway. Not sure if I’ll be able to catch much live music on my next trip to Edinburgh. I’ll be on my own and house hunting most of the time but if the opportunity presents itself I will jump at the chance to pay my money and listen and, just perhaps, have a bit of a dance although my dancing really isn’t great and is best left to future family videos of weddings and birthday parties.

    Thank you once again for your amazing podcast.


    Marty Drury

  2. Hi,well your article is very interesting and reconfirms my own determination to promote & develop Celtic music.I run the East Kilbride Folk Club & from the start,I used a format that would give all participants,regardless of ability,the opportunity to grow & showcase their music.I have built into the ‘Clubs agenda,OPEN MIC sessions in the EK,Arts Centre Theatre,& this is mainly to give members the opportunity,when THEY feel ready, to perform infront of an audience…attendance is FREE to all.I have ticket events for guest performers about twice a year.I also run LIVE FOLK @ THE TOWN HALL, rutherglen,where local artists,alongside visiting artists,can showcase their music & get paid…At the heart of Celtic music & song,is ,I think,a very spontaneous,synaptic pulse ,rooted in our genes creates what we recognise as the ‘Scottishness ‘ value. Mixed with the music brought by our ‘newer’ members of the Scottish race, we have a wonderful feast of colourful sound.To many clubs, I think create a kind of fear amongst members, by constantly trying to ‘ mould’ song /music into so called proper boxes…ie..’ you shouldn’t do that in that key…you sang that too high/too low….’ In my experience, people , at their own speed, know when to ask for advice…usually when they feel comfortable & accepted.The EK Club is thriving with it’s members developing at an amazing pace,within an accepting atmosphere…Sorry if I sound in any way soapbox-ish,but so many people are put of attending clubs because they have the feeling they will never be good enough. In a nut shell, we Celtic musicians, have to take some responsibility for promoting our heritage & to keep it pulsating within flexible boundaries that will keep potential performers & audiences involved ………….The Ek Folk Club meets every Mon; 7.30pm to 10.15 pm @ The EK Arts Centre Cafe Bar, Old Coach rd; East Kilbride..Contact tel re info : 07812480968, Cheers, Anne Gomez

  3. Re my response,I am so passionate about the subject,& I’m afraid my spelling,at times,flew oot the windae !! , Cheers, Anne

  4. Thanks for all you comments. Here’s another discussion on the subject http://www.footstompin.com/public/forum?threadid=285935

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