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Why doesn't good/our music sell more?

GeorgeH 21 Sep 99 - 07:49 AM
Vixen 21 Sep 99 - 08:50 AM
catspaw49 21 Sep 99 - 09:35 AM
FionaN 21 Sep 99 - 10:32 AM
Jon Freeman 21 Sep 99 - 10:39 AM
Frank Hamilton 21 Sep 99 - 11:02 AM
hotspur 21 Sep 99 - 11:31 AM
Jeri 21 Sep 99 - 11:31 AM
Jack (Who is called Jack) 21 Sep 99 - 12:12 PM
Bryant 21 Sep 99 - 08:04 PM
GeorgeH 22 Sep 99 - 07:28 AM
catspaw49 22 Sep 99 - 09:24 AM
22 Sep 99 - 09:50 AM
Frank Hamilton 22 Sep 99 - 10:57 AM
Davey 22 Sep 99 - 11:12 AM
Jack (Who is called Jack) 22 Sep 99 - 11:36 AM
AndyG 22 Sep 99 - 11:38 AM
Jon Freeman 22 Sep 99 - 11:50 AM
Lonesome EJ 22 Sep 99 - 12:58 PM
GeorgeH 22 Sep 99 - 01:50 PM
j0_77 22 Sep 99 - 02:03 PM
tomtom 22 Sep 99 - 02:30 PM
GeorgeH 23 Sep 99 - 07:24 AM
catspaw49 23 Sep 99 - 09:16 AM
catspaw49 23 Sep 99 - 09:37 AM
Jon Freeman 23 Sep 99 - 10:05 AM
Davey 23 Sep 99 - 10:37 AM
catspaw49 23 Sep 99 - 10:41 AM
23 Sep 99 - 10:54 AM
Liam_Devlin 23 Sep 99 - 10:56 AM
Frank Hamilton 23 Sep 99 - 10:59 AM
catspaw49 23 Sep 99 - 11:17 AM
Frank Hamilton 23 Sep 99 - 12:07 PM
Tom B. 23 Sep 99 - 12:18 PM
GeorgeH 23 Sep 99 - 12:56 PM
Frank Hamilton 23 Sep 99 - 06:57 PM
Harvey Gerst 24 Sep 99 - 01:19 PM
Harvey Gerst 24 Sep 99 - 03:56 PM
_gargoyle 24 Sep 99 - 11:39 PM
Max 27 Sep 99 - 12:57 PM
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Subject: Why doesn't good/our music sell more?
From: GeorgeH
Date: 21 Sep 99 - 07:49 AM

Well, it's a better title than that value laden "Why does bad music sell" . . . which continues to irritate every time I see it . .

And having asked the question I have to offer an answer, I suppose - which has to be "because most people never get to hear it". A fact not entirely divorced from the near-death of Public Service Broadcasting.

All IMO, of course!

G.


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't good/our music sell more?
From: Vixen
Date: 21 Sep 99 - 08:50 AM

Just my $0.02, but Public Broadcasting, at least up here in New England, plays some really nifty music in the "station breaks" and never identifies who or what I'm hearing. It's SOOOO frustrating.

On the plus side, "Fresh Air" has introduced me to some really nifty musical talent.

What I'd like to know is, "Why can't Public Radio get some wattage???" It seems none of the stations have a broadcast radius larger than 30 miles. If there was one station I could get consistently, with a minimum of static, I'd send 'em some money!

Grumping a little, but it will pass...

V


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't good/our music sell more?
From: catspaw49
Date: 21 Sep 99 - 09:35 AM

Nice try George, really......But it is in essence the same subject which relies on objectively undefinable terms and becomes an exercise in rhetoric. We can have fun bantering around our opinions, but in the end we have no answer because we can't have agreement on the basic definitions of the debate. The subject is just that, totally subjective and defies any attempt at garnering an agreeable baseline.

The Forum is about opinions, no matter the subject, and that alone keeps most of us coming back again and again. At first I was always frustrated that we could never reach total agreement on the most simple things. Now I've learned to cherish that part of this place perhaps the most. The reason is both obscure and obvious. So very little of this takes place in the real world on such an intelligent and informed level. At Mudcat we don't have to deal with the "lowest denominator" factor, and when we do, it's probably me.

The music, the debates, the debates about music......all Mudcat treasures for me. The rest is just the icing on the cake........but I do hate cake without icing.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't good/our music sell more?
From: FionaN
Date: 21 Sep 99 - 10:32 AM

It doesn't sell that much in the UK, despite the lovely BBC currently broadcasting a History of Folk Music series on Radio 2, along with the usual couple of hours a week.

We've also had folk acts nominated for the 'prestigious' Mercury Music prize (this year Kate Rusby, in a previous year Norma Waterson almost won it).

I suppose things will go in and out of fashion...perhaps we should just bide our time...


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't good/our music sell more?
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 21 Sep 99 - 10:39 AM

I have suggest this several times and in the light of George rephrasing the question in a new thread, I will rephrase my opinion.

As a general rule, we are governed by fashion which is mainly led by marketing and even if deciding what is good or bad is a subjective issue, qualtity has very little to do with it.

Companies invest billions into making us believe that thier product is better than the oppositions, what is the fashionable thing to be doing, etc. They wouldn't be doing this if they didn't know that we are a bunch of easily led fools would they?

To some degree, this has happened with folk music and Celtic became a very big label used by the marketing to promote it.

Perhaps one of the reasons that folk music doesn't sell as much is that a great number of the players are not interested in the big money and would rather stay true to their music. Rather than just churn out anything that the powers that be decide are going to be the most likely numbers to sell.

BTW I consider classical music to be superior to folk music in terms of melodic structure but I still prefer folk music. The reasons are quite simple: It is music that I can play (and I do believe that a lot of it is rather more melodic than some of the pop music that I have heard), I love the folk dance dance rythyms (jigs, reels, hornpipes etc) and the words to many songs can be quite thought provoking.

Perhaps another problem with folk music is that a person does have to listen to get anything from it. A lot of songs could not be played as background noise (which seems to be what music is often used for) and as it is the words that give the meaning. I would also suggest, perhaps a bit unfairly, that a vast number of the population actually prefer a set of inane words that they can sort of chant out to words that they might have to think about to understand.

In the case of the dance music, people often fail to listen to the melody and just pick up on the rythym and reach the conclusion that it all sounds the same (even though we use 2/4, 4,4, 6/8, 9/8, 12/8... which is rather more than the normal 4/4 rock beat) and this is not helped by the session players who will play 2 hours worth of just reels at break neck speed (and as I think somebody recently commented in umf, often with a total lack of epression or feeling) because nobody who is just a listener (ie never played it) is going to understand it or hear the subtle differences between tunes.

Jon


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't good/our music sell more?
From: Frank Hamilton
Date: 21 Sep 99 - 11:02 AM

There is such a difference between folk and pop music that it brings up an obvious point, folk music isn't meant to sell. It's an expression of a culture, a tradition of music that has an organic base. It's not manufactured for the marketplace. There are, however, revivalist folkies who would like their music to reach a wider audience. Nothing wrong with that. But to do this, they have to be willing to accept that they are in show business and treat their careers as part of that. If you have a CD to hock, you are in the recording business, like it or not. Even if not on hit radio or TV, the revivalist folkie must court his/her own audience who sees value in what they do. The folks at the Folk Alliance apparently understand this and provide business classes for folkie entertainers who want to build their audiences. But I still submit that this has little to do with folk music.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't good/our music sell more?
From: hotspur
Date: 21 Sep 99 - 11:31 AM

The local PBS station puts its folk programs on at the oddest hours, such as 7-8 on Saturday night (who's home then?) and 6-8 Sunday morning. It's a rare weekend when I get to hear them. Although they are very good, the station's programmers seem to enjoy relegating them to the off hours.


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't good/our music sell more?
From: Jeri
Date: 21 Sep 99 - 11:31 AM

George, "Why doesn't our music sell anymore?" Did it ever? Frank said it - it's not meant to sell. Songwriters can't make money from public domain songs, anyone can record them, and pop stars can't perform them better than any number of low paid professionals or skilled amateurs. Agents, promoters, record companies, and others in the food chain wouldn't make enough money to want to do it. Are there any performers of folk music in the world who would be considered "well off" because of the money they've made singing folk songs?

I'd love for awareness of traditional music to increase, and this could be done with little expense by local communities by various means. I'd hate for traditional music to go the way of pop and focus primarily on fame and fortune rather than the music itself. Please note I'm not knocking professional folk musicians. The ones I've met have been in it for the love of music, not the love of money.


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't good/our music sell more?
From: Jack (Who is called Jack)
Date: 21 Sep 99 - 12:12 PM

To tell you the truth, a lot of the music we like is very different from other types of music, to the point of being something of an aquired taste. Also a lot of the language and story in those songs aren't easily understandable, nor are a lot of the metaphors or images. It takes a lot of imagination and often a fair bit of knowlege of history to give one access to the full power of this music. Also helpful is a inate interest in understanding alternative cultures and ways of life. Unfortunately this doesn't describe a lot of people. For these, the music lacks a context, so that a phrase like 'I'd rather drink muddy water, sleep in a hollow log' may be understood, but won't resonate with their experience. Unconciously their brains go, 'What a strange way of putting it, why put it that way?'.

Who's left? People like us who either a) just find this music delicious at first bite (like the people who fall in love with Gorgonzola Cheese the first time they taste it), b) have the requisite interest in history and culture, or c) who were raised on it as children and learned to love it. Unfortunately thats not a lot of folks.

On the other hand says Tevye, Hound Dog sold a zillion records for Elvis with lyrics like 'You aint never caught a rabbit and you aint no freind of mine'. Go figure.

Maybe what happened is analagous to the Neo-classical revival. They dig up Pompeii and Herculaneum and all of a sudden every new building is like a roman villa. The old was rediscovered, revived for a while, then absorbed into the larger culture which then moved on to other styles.

A rediscovery of the old songs spawned a wealth of interest for a breif time. The culture absorbed the elements of the music that it wanted and moved on. The interest hasn't died out, people just get that interest satisfied by seeking out those elements in thier incorporated form, e.g. in the music of Eric Clapton.

Its like rice or mollasses. Rice grows as brown rice, much more nutritious than the processed white rice, but what do people prefer? Mollasses and honey have more interesting complex flavors than white sugar, but people buy the processed white stuff much more.


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't good/our music sell more?
From: Bryant
Date: 21 Sep 99 - 08:04 PM

I suppose another important question is: "Why should I care whether traditional/folk music sells well or not?" I mean that with all due respect to the people out there who are trying to make a living doing so, but as an amateur musician (like most of us, I'd guess) whose only venue is the backyard-barbeque-living-room-and-campfire circuit, it really means nothing to me whether hundreds of millions of people are buying this sort of music or just a handful. One of the good things about the growth of the Internet is that it is capable of catering to small, niche audiences (like us) while still remaining economically viable. I can go on-line armed with nothing more than the name "Doc Watson" and find a complete discography and order a particular recording in under a half an hour. So I'm certainly not worried that traditional/folk music will fade into oblivion just because no one working in the genre is reaching platnum sales figures. I love Dylan's quote: "There's nobody going to kill traditional music. All those songs about roses growing out of people's brains and lovers who are really geese and swans that turn into angels -- they're not going to die. It's all those paranoid people who think that someone's going to come and take away their toilet paper -- they're going to die."

And it certainly doesn't offend me that my musical tastes are not shared by zillions of other people. Matter of fact, I kinda like it that way. Ever drive down the street with the windows down and Clarence Ashley singing "Oh the coo-coo, she's a purty bird . . ."? People'll flip out on you. I don't have much in common with people who like to watch "The Jerry Springer Show", blockbuster action films, and professional wrestling -- why would I expect our musical tastes to coincide?

Why doesn't traditional/folk music sell? I don't know. But so long as I can keep finding it, learning it, and learning from it, I don't really care too much either.

Bryant


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't good/our music sell more?
From: GeorgeH
Date: 22 Sep 99 - 07:28 AM

Having started this - thanks for interesting views. And I don't think it matters a hoot that we can't define what "our" music is . . However my experience across many years is that there are many people who never get to hear "our" music - because it is outside the mainstream. And that when you DO get to a new audience a not-disappointing proportion of them like what they hear and want more. What I do find unreasonable and unacceptable is that suggestions that "our" music is somehow too difficult or inaccessible for "ordinary" people. I want more people to get to hear "our" music because many of them WILL relate to it, and many of them are missing something which they would find to be wonderful. And them doing so is good for all those working in this area, and so good for those of us who already know how wonderful it it.

And FionaN I think you're wrong; it's selling pretty well in the UK at the moment. Still lots of room for improvement (taking out a contract on those responsible for CM might help further, too) but Topic wouldn't be releasing "Voice of the People" and the "Radio Ballads" if, overall, their market wasn't healthy.

And Jon F: Your suggestion that "Classical" music is better than Folk in terms of melodic structure is too broad a generalisation . . "Classical" encompasses some dross, too! But why compare on the basis of melodic structure? The finest folk revival performances can bear comparison, in terms of musicianship, with fine classical performance. I'm in favour of encouraging musical excellence in all fields; I just happen to have a PARTICULAR liking for some of what we loosly describe as "Folk".

But thanks for all the interesting comments.

G.


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't good/our music sell more?
From: catspaw49
Date: 22 Sep 99 - 09:24 AM

A nice summation there George. I too like whatever we "loosely" define as Folk Music. The interest here alone shows that it has an audience and a particpation level which will help to carry it along.........

But Bryant, I like your angle. As someone who doesn't give a tinker's damn about what anyone else thinks, your comments struck a chord that I've been missing for some reason......so for me, your point's well taken!

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't good/our music sell more?
From:
Date: 22 Sep 99 - 09:50 AM

Let's hear from all you tinkers out there!

Chet


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't good/our music sell more?
From: Frank Hamilton
Date: 22 Sep 99 - 10:57 AM

Jeri, you hit the proverbial nail on the head. The reason that singer/songwriter material is eclipsing traditional folk songs is that the record companies who are mostly in the red found that they could subsidize themselves through ancillary publishing companies. If the artist could write his/her own songs, it could save them money. Hence, the singer/songwriter. You are so right as to the motivation of people who love folk music. It's so beautiful, authentic and honest that everyone who is really exposed to it wants to be a part of it. Hence, folk song "revivalists" like me.

Jack, I agree with you that the interest hasn't died out. Eric Clapton is a great guitar player and exciting performer but he is an interpreter of the blues and not part of the tradition. Actually, he has absorbed much of the blues tradition through imitation (nothing wrong with that) but he is not part of it, although he's learned from it. Being a pop star, he's earned more money than most traditonal blues musicians will ever see in their lifetimes. That's OK too but he didn't do that playing much traditional blues.

The problem with the analogy of ancient Rome is that what was learned about the culture may not have had anything to do with the actual folk culture. "Old" doesn't necessarilly translate to folk culture. That's what we're talking about here.

Bryant, where you are coming from I can see that you don't have to care whether folk music is known or not. But I do for the following reasons, it's a cultural heritage that helps our country declare itself for the richness that it has. It's a worthy natural resource like the "environment and stewardship of the planet" and it deserves respect that it's not even getting amoung some of those who purport to be officinados. It's like this, in Los Angeles, where I grew up, a historical monument is the old Taco Bell. :) As an educator of music, which I was for many years and a co-founder of the Old Town School of Folk Music, I wrestled every day with the depth and quality of the music we were trying to teach to students. Some of them got the point, and others, it went beyond them. This probably doesn't concern your needs but I believe that if our country were more knowledgeable about it's history and culture(s)(and folk songs are a catylist for this) that it would be better off in many ways. People would be discerning about the kind of music that they listen to. They could relate to folk music if they could be a part of it. I think that that the issue that needs to be addressed is not if the music "sells" but if the public recognizes and appreciates it's value, it would transform our musical tastes and place a lot of what we receive on the airwaves in a balanced perspective. People would start to sing again because there would be something of quality to sing about. That started to happen in the sixties with the great "folk scare". Besides, if these songs aren't recorded, and played, no one will get to hear them and they'll be completely put on the back burner in favor of the popular music of the day.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't good/our music sell more?
From: Davey
Date: 22 Sep 99 - 11:12 AM

Interesting question, and one answer is exposure, or lack thereof. Much of the music we like isn't getting out to the masses because it "doesn't make money".. If we act as ambassadors for our music we man be able to help to introduce it to a few people, and some of these people may develop a taste for it, but first they have to be exposed to it. I also listen to and like songs being written by some current singer/songwriters, provided they are covering general topics and stories that have a broad appeal and are not enmeshed in the "look at me and what I've done" mentality. Some of their songs are on the way to becoming part of the "tradition".


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't good/our music sell more?
From: Jack (Who is called Jack)
Date: 22 Sep 99 - 11:36 AM

Frank, I'm not sure I understand your point about my Ancient Rome analogy. All I was trying to say was that when a culture is rediscovered (or even initially discovered), the intense general public interest it generates eventually fades. It doesn't really matter whether its 'folk' culture or not.

A question. In spite of being outsold by 'pop' music, would it be fair to say that the commercial availiability of traditional music is greater now than at any time before. I mean remember back when all this revival stuff started? You either had to know one of the rare few who played and sang the music, or you had to scour old shops for hard to find 78's with one or two songs by a particular artist. Now theres Folk Legacy, Yazoo, Rhino etc. There's the Smithsonian recordings in a variety of box sets. Harry Smiths anthology is out on CD.

So from one perspective the music is more alive than ever.


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't good/our music sell more?
From: AndyG
Date: 22 Sep 99 - 11:38 AM

I think Jon Freeman summed it up in one sentence above;
... another problem with folk music is that a person does have to listen to get anything from it...
With the advent of popular all-day broadcasting, the previously empty "audio-space" around people has been filled with sound which they don't need to listen to. Overall this has "trained" people to passively not listen to music. (Consider Muzak). The knock-on effects are the recording industry's ability to release increasingly banal material onto the market, exacerbating the situation, and a "listening public" who no longer do.

Is it surprising then that any musical form which fits Jon's comment has only a minority audience ?

As to Celtic as a marketing phenomenum. One of the local bands in this field (sadly recently split) described their music as "shit-kicking diddley-diddley" and any audience can jump up and down to its rhythms without listening to the skill of the musicians. Most of the so-called Celtic bands I hear seem to fit this category with at least part of their material.

Just my, admittedly badly bent, two-pee-piece.

AndyG


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't good/our music sell more?
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 22 Sep 99 - 11:50 AM

Last week, I twice arrived in a local pub carrying a cd that had been returned to me from a loan. The pub was quiet on both occasions but had a different bar peson and different customers in but on both occasions, I was asked what the cd I had was and could they listen to it.

One the first occasion, my cd was the Eric Bogle Song Book and I suggested listening to the Band Played Waltzing Matilda. This was given about 1 minute before the demands to turn that rubbish off came. On the second occasion, mc cd was Pauline Cato and Tom McConville and I suggested the set of tunes that started with the Acrobat, this got about 30 seconds before it was rejected.

A few years ago, during a Conwy Festival, I went into a pub in the afternoon and went to the empty lounge bar (there were a few customers in the other bar) and asked if was alright to play a few tunes. I am not that much of a musicain but I played quietly. The people with me were Margaret (a fomer Irish champion whiltle player) and Des (a very eperienced and accomplished fiddler) and the music that the played was in my opinion better than anything that I heard the paid acts produce that year but after 15 minutes, the Juke box was turned on. That is about how accessible and or acceptable the music is to so many people.

Folk club wise in my area, overall I would say that the situation is improving slowly and we do get the new face that decides to come again and even have a couple of people who do travel quite a distance to get there but the majority of people do not come back. The biggest area of improvement within 10 miles of Llandudno has been the number of session players and even the Conwy Folk Club starts with a small session and has another one during the half hour beer break.

On Monday night in the Conwy Folk Club, we had a young couple from Seattle turn up (Conwy was one of the the places they wanted to visit before going to Ireland). I spoke to them and told them that Pete Coe was on and that I thought that it would be worth them going downstairs to have a visit. They came back to me at the end of the night and told me that it had been the highlight of the holiday so far!

Unfortunately this often seems to be the way round here, people on holiday (who addmitedly often have some interst in folk music) are often delighted with what we have to offer (even though there are no "star" players amongst us) but the majority of the local people simply do not want to know folk.

Jon


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't good/our music sell more?
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 22 Sep 99 - 12:58 PM

I have purchased about 6 CDs in the last year, while my 18 year old employee purchases 3 or 4 CDs a month. I believe this is the bottom line on why pop music sells in such huge numbers, and Folk and Blues don't- the numbers reflect the corresponding demographic of the consumers. Teenagers and twenty-somethings are the group who devote the greatest proportion of their disposable income to things like buying music, while old geezers like yours truly are busy putting their income into college funds, snow tires and the mortgage. The quality or lack thereof has little to do with the sales of the product. Until you can get Young People to understand and appreciate traditional music, sales will continue to be marginal compared to pop.

Unfortunately, there also seems to be a dwindling cross-over between Pop/Rock and Folk/Blues. My introduction to Robert Johnson came through Eric Clapton and Cream. My intoduction to many traditional folk tunes like Wild Mountain Thyme and John Riley came through The Byrds and people like them. Current "young" bands like Cordelia's Dad, who are playing traditional music in a more contemporary format,rarely have the kind of hit songs or albums that would bring the music into common recognition among their peers.

The terminology "good" has only a contextual and subjective meaning, and Catspaw is right about that. There is much in popular music that I find "good", and most young music fans are more intelligent and discriminating than we give them credit for. The problem is the limited exposure they get to our music, and the archaic connotation attributed by them to our terms "folk" and "traditional." Perhaps they also see it primarily as "our" music. What we need to make them realize is it is "their" music too.

LEJ


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't good/our music sell more?
From: GeorgeH
Date: 22 Sep 99 - 01:50 PM

Lonesome EJ: In general I reckon you're on track, but when it comes to young people appreciating "our" music - thinks ain't necessarily as bad as the picture you paint . . I'd recommend a visit to the Sidmouth, UK during the Festival week - you'll see a good proportion of "teenagers and twenty-somethings" there (more so than ANY 'normal' week of the year . . )

G.


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't good/our music sell more?
From: j0_77
Date: 22 Sep 99 - 02:03 PM

If I play an oldtime song on my Tu ba Phone and sing it even vaguely well I get an instant audience - But if I play a record of folk music with Banjo and singing I get no reaction at all.

Could it be that 'folk' has to be live to deliver the goods?

Saw a little band at Winfield playing Old Timey dance music - live - it was a treat. The sun shining a big crowd of happy people and a warm atmosphere. If I play a recording of Tommy Jarel/friends here at home it seems as if something is missing.

Perhaps folk music played live for so long has that element built in. It is supposed to be live, DUH. Perhaps Pop music is the product of 'recorded' performance etc., and everything about it has been cultured to suit - eg Mastering - mixing - market surveying - and so on.

There are few mistakes in recorded music, it has to be byond that to sell.


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't good/our music sell more?
From: tomtom
Date: 22 Sep 99 - 02:30 PM

I think, first, it's hopeless to compare the relative worth of different genres of music. There are people doing interesting stuff in every field of musical, even the ones that seem to get dismissed outright here--like rap, trance music, modern jazz, etc. Like everything else, the good stuff is not the stuff you get to hear, unless you're willing to dig around and look for it.

Record companies (and, for that matter, companies that market ART in general) are so sophisticated these days that it gets harder and harder for someone doing good stuff to get exposure without compromising and becoming what the execs want them to be. And record companies get away with putting out crapola because the overwhelming majority of people don't care about music in the same way that people around here do. They'll buy it and listen to it and sing along to it when it comes on the radio, but when it drifts away to that Big Pop Graveyard in the sky, it's hardly missed. And there's nothing wrong with that. Everyone doesn't care deeply about most things, but enough people care about really interesting music to keep it alive.


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't good/our music sell more?
From: GeorgeH
Date: 23 Sep 99 - 07:24 AM

tomtom: the reason I kicked off this thread in reaction to the "bad music" one was that I dislike dismissing any musical form, and intensely dislike trying to promote one musical form by denigrating other forms . . (not that I can claim I've NEVER done that myself).

And regarding marketing Arts in general - it's my impression that the growth of medium sized arts centres in the UK is one factor which has given a great boost to some areas of the folk/roots music "scene" here.

G.


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't good/our music sell more?
From: catspaw49
Date: 23 Sep 99 - 09:16 AM

Leej led this creep to a slightly new tack which was well stated in various ways as it progressed. Then jO hit the point with "delivery." Sorrowfully for some and happily for others, things change. For a variety of reasons, a majority of the under thirty group and especially teens, want things packaged differently and if you are to do any good at all in making your point, you have to reach them first.

When I taught school, one of the classes that I was in had a guest speaker one day; a teacher who was literally revered by his students and produced spectacular results teaching English in a Vocational School. He gave me the best piece of advice I ever got regarding today's classroom: "If you aren't as entertaining as MTV, you're going nowhere." He was, and is, dead nuts right. This had NOTHING to do with the content of MTV, just the style.

This wasn't a tough thing for me. Coupled with treating teens as adults and not 'kids," within the first month, there were students trying to transfer into one of the three classes I taught outside of my vocational program. Word passed quickly that "Mr. P was 'cool'" and all of a sudden I have classes full of these "dead end" kids learning things about business and economics that amazed THEM and their parents. No, I didn't reach them all, nor did I have any illusions that they were going to be business tycoons, but they were exposed to and learned much about things that they previously had thought nothing of and could have cared less about.

Eric Clapton IS a part of Blues and KT/PPM ARE a part of Folk. I really don't care that Clapton garnered his "fame and fortune" in rock. As an "illuminator" he provided a bridge for some, an exposure for others, that is every bit as important to the genre as Robert Johnson or John Hurt or Big Bill or "Blind Waxin' Max" and the Mudcat Cafe.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't good/our music sell more?
From: catspaw49
Date: 23 Sep 99 - 09:37 AM

BTW, anybody got a shoe horn? I got these new shoes and I broke my old one trying to shove crap in pigeonholes.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't good/our music sell more?
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 23 Sep 99 - 10:05 AM

Interesting comments spaw. Just one question how do you package and deliver folk to make it attractive especially to the younger ones?

I do know that there are some youngsters who really enjoy folk (and some of them are also superb musicains) and that those that do enjoy the music, fit in very well with the older ones and certainly round here, an age gap is not even considered - the few young ones that we have are simply part of our music circle of friends. I'd love to see more round here and as I have stated before, believe that they are the future of the music.

Any suggestions will be most welcome and if a good idea comes up, I will most certainly give it a go.

Jon


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't good/our music sell more?
From: Davey
Date: 23 Sep 99 - 10:37 AM

I think one way of getting 'folk' music out to the younger crowd is to have their peers and contemporaries playing it. I'm involved in running a folk club and when we have a younger group perform, they bring in a different crowd than normally attends.


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't good/our music sell more?
From: catspaw49
Date: 23 Sep 99 - 10:41 AM

Jon you are an astute individual...truly. That is the question we need to address and, like you, I feel that any suggestions along this line would be welcome.

As you probably know I build Hammered and Appalachian Dulcimers. We had to put things on hold a bit after my health problems, but we're starting to gear up a bit now. Anyway, I quit doing the classic dulcimer fests and the like a few years before and started doing craft fairs and street fairs and an increased number of school programs. I whipped up 2-string stick dulcimers and "animal" or "character" board zithers and hit the road. I'd play a little Hammered which most of these kids and their parents had no knowledge of, BS a little, play a quickie on a regular App and then the same thing on a stick, explain a bit, and so on. In general, kids loved it and the parents did too. I gave them an instruction sheet with the stick that included record and book references. For some it exposed them to a lot of music that they didn't know, but was certainly their heritage.

One little girl, 12 then-17 now, called and asked for a "real" dulcimer about 6 months later. She and her Mom came out and I fixed them up with a pleasant sounding cherry one. She now has six including another one I build which is an asyymetrcal weird looking thing with a very well balanced sound. She plays and sings infinitely better than I do and is DEEP into traditional music. I guess she counts as one convert anyway. BTW, her Mom doesn't like Apps or the music, but you'd never know it...And Marlana thinks she loves it. Very important too.

Gotta' be some other and better ways, but that's just one that works some for me.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't good/our music sell more?
From:
Date: 23 Sep 99 - 10:54 AM

The near death of public broadcasting?? PBS seems to be alive and well in Dallas ... TV and radio. I am glad I live in this part of the world where we have such great stations!

As to why it doesn't sell bigger? I agree with many of the comments above, and especially like the words "folk music isn't meant to sell. It's an expression of a culture, a tradition of music that has an organic base. It's not manufactured for the marketplace." Selling my music is NOT one of my major goals! I need to make ends meet, but I do not place a major importance on the commercial viablility of my "act!"

There is no conspiracy of capitalist record companies keeping good music down. The record companies, like every other major marketing business who seek the lionshare of the marketplace> (because many viable businesses exist for other reasons)will use the lowest common denomonator approach to create a market base; 1) employ the simplest concepts possible in the ideas you sell 2) reach the greatest number of people you can by pushing ideas with the commonest experience 3) whatever you're selling, wrap it up in the most widely known appealing wrapper available.

It's true, people's tastes can be manipulated by the media moguls, at least to a degree ... but good media moguling is based upon what their audience responds to in the first place. Even though many of my audiences never heard of Ramblin Jack Elliot or Tom Paxton, they love their songs when I play them. Even though guests to my house won't be offered a Coke, they really enjoy a grape juice. And one very encouraging example of market manipulation failure to me is what is happening to Budweiser and Miller. America has recently discovered that beer can have flavor! The market place has discovered some of the delicious ales and beers from the local brewers ... and Bud and Miller have had to respond. True to form, of course their first response is through ads, claiming to be what many of the micro brewers really are ... brewers of fine product, with a love of the craft and dedication to tradition ... but it has begun to affect some of the new product Bud and Miller are introducing ... and may eventually produce better beers fro us all. Won't that be grand!

Now, if we could just get the farmers to put the flavor back in my tomatoes!


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't good/our music sell more?
From: Liam_Devlin
Date: 23 Sep 99 - 10:56 AM

hmmm - somehow the forum missed my name in the above post. At any rate, that was me (Liam Devlin) rambling on above about my tomatoes!


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't good/our music sell more?
From: Frank Hamilton
Date: 23 Sep 99 - 10:59 AM

I agree that Eric Clapton is a part of the blues. He's a blues "revivalist" although not part of the tradition. PPM and the KT are a part of what the music business chooses to call "folk" these days but they are not part of any specific folk tradition that I know of. The three subjects above are professional entertainers and do well at it. I admire their work, particularly Mr. Clapton. But they are not their traditional sources. Their relative importance is based on what one considers important. As to "illuminators", well I'm not so sure. Maybe Mr. Clapton because he really has studied the traditional blues style as has Bonnie Raitt and others who are pop stars. Bonnie has done a service by touring with "Sippie" Wallace as an "illuminator".

Robert Johnson, Bill Bill Broonzy and Mississippi John Hurt reflect a body of traditional African-American music as having been born into that culture that created that music. Eric Clapton is an entertaining musician who has managed to imitate sucessfully a blues style and there's nothing wrong with this. But he is not inherently part of that tradition because he is from a different time and a different culture. This is evident in the kind of music the traditional musicians have selected which speaks to their cultural environment. Mr. Clapton is a sucessful pop star and speaks to that business climate. I have no problem with his personal success and am happy for it. Same for PPM and the KT. But a disservice is done to the African-American tradition of the blues if the general public feels that it's represented as a tradition by Mr. Clapton.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't good/our music sell more?
From: catspaw49
Date: 23 Sep 99 - 11:17 AM

Okay, scratch "illuminator" ..........Let's try "conveyor" or "bridge builder" or "modem" or "transporter" or something..........

I think we all agree on the desire to get more of "our" music more exposure. I wouldn't purport any of these people as necessarily "Traditional" in any definition of the word, but they have served many of us as a bridge, just as that stupid little stick served Marlana.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't good/our music sell more?
From: Frank Hamilton
Date: 23 Sep 99 - 12:07 PM

I agree with you Spaw. They have opened doors for the recognition of tradional folk music as long as we don't allow them to shut it by claiming to be that.

Frank


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't good/our music sell more?
From: Tom B.
Date: 23 Sep 99 - 12:18 PM

I want to amplify on what Andy G. and Jon F. mentioned about folk music having to be actively listened (italics) to vs. today where it is often passively heard. THAT problem is a general cultural problem involving the multi-tasking phenomenom (due to increases expectations of activity in a shorter period of time--this comes from the workforce, but has spilled over into our lives generally). It is now NOT even considered rude to divide one's attention while someone is talking to you (hardly the buddhist Be Here Now); it is considered quite normal in pubs to have anywhere from 1-10 TV screens turned on, music from the stereo playing, blenders whirring, all the while trying to have a conversation; and of course cell phone conversers who drive or eat dinner in restaurants. The multi-tasking is related to the passive listening because if you are no longer trained (italics) or expected to give undivided attention to someone or something, you probably won't!

Tom B.


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't good/our music sell more?
From: GeorgeH
Date: 23 Sep 99 - 12:56 PM

Thanks for the points about "active listening" - of course they apply to other musics as well (especially "classical", which has the fortune to have escaped the "it's alright to talk during the performance" problem). And of course "live performance" is where it belongs - just as live theatre is on a different emotional level to anything you'll see on the TV or even on the cinema screen. So I'm all for doing everything possible to increase young people's exposure to "the Arts" (in all forms), AND making "the Arts" more accessible to everyone, and encouraging youngsters to be critical of everything they see (Art isn't sacred!) - and then making damn sure that "our" music IS up there amongst "the Arts", because it can stand comparison with any of them.

And - for Frank's benefit - yes, I guess here I'm talking the more commercial end of "our" music which - by the definitions I prefer - certainly isn't traditional and may not even be folk. Because the great majority of our potential audience are much more likely to be led from that more commercial stuff back into discovering something of the traditions to which it owes so much than they are to be drawn straight to the real traditional end of things.

But on the subject of encouraging young people into the music it's time for a little anecdote. Flook! were playing at our local Friday evening folk club, and on the Thursday it was clear that most of my wife's school ceilidh band (14 to 16 year olds) would be going. Attempts to contact the club organisers by phone failed so it was decided to turn up with instruments in the hope of getting a spot. However it was not to be; the organisers insisted that they would only put on acts which they "knew"; "it's not fair to the audience otherwise". Even the suggestion that the kids could play immediately, while people were coming in and nothing was happening, wasn't acceptable to them. Which is, I suppose, fair enough; they'd brought the instruments along "on spec". So a music-less 20 mins or so later the club puts on its "known" support acts - and they were DREADFUL. And while the adults of the party suffered them stoicly, I fear the youngsters were a little less tolerant; their non-enjoyment of these acts was quite apparent. Still, Flook! were as excellent as expected.

I have to say that evening was VERY much at variance with what I've usually encountered in English Folk Clubs, who go out of their way to support young performers . . which probably makes that evening rankle all the more.

Still, tomorrow evening we're putting on Flook! at our local school, and seven or eight of those youngsters (now 16 -19) will be helping with the event. Probably for the last time, as they're deserting us to go off to University.

'Scuse the ramble.

G.


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't good/our music sell more?
From: Frank Hamilton
Date: 23 Sep 99 - 06:57 PM

When we started the Old Town School of Folk Music in 1957, we taught the popularized folk music of the day in hopes that it would lead students to the more traditional music. If they could play the latest Weavers or Bob Gibson song perhaps we could stimulate an interest in trad folk. Sometimes it really worked because we had access to the traditional performers who would come and do concerts for us such as Doc Watson, Richard Chase, Horton Barker, Arvella Grey, Big Bill Broonzy, Big Joe Williams, Mama Yancey, Milijia Spasojevic, Rachel Hadass,the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem and others not so well-known but were part of the citizenry of Chicago. Now, (1999)the OTS of FM has come a long way in presenting "World" music and Hispanic music to the Chicago community as well as blues (some traditional) and "Old Time" (stringband oriented mountain music). But a lot of the students are learning popularized accoustic singer/songwriter music and there are those who call that "folk" and avoid any discussion of what makes traditional folk music happen. Steve Goodman, John Prine, Joni Mitchell and other are now lumped into the "folk" bin. So, in my experience, over the last couple of decades of observing the OTS, it has grown big, the singer/songwriter has become "folk" and the traditional music is once again put on the back burner. Some of the people there don't see anything "wrong" with this and they're entitled. But where does this leave the interest, research and recreation of traditional American folk music? My conclusion: if you feed a child candy in hopes of getting him/her to eat nutritious food, the child will continue to eat candy.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't good/our music sell more?
From: Harvey Gerst
Date: 24 Sep 99 - 01:19 PM

So, Liam Devlin, you're in Dallas? Playing folk on PBS? So how do I get Frank Hamilton's new album to you?

harvey@ITRstudio.com


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't good/our music sell more?
From: Harvey Gerst
Date: 24 Sep 99 - 03:56 PM

BTW Liam,

Frank Hamilton's new album was recorded just outside Denton, about 35 miles NW of Dallas. Another good reason to play the album.


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't good/our music sell more?
From: _gargoyle
Date: 24 Sep 99 - 11:39 PM

"You don't need a pin-head
just to hand around

But if you got a nickle
won't you lay your money down.

The technological transformation of the last three years is removing the monopoly of music distribution from the front porches of the fat-cats and presenting it to the performers of the streets.

Halleluyah!~!!!! AMEN!!!!

Its about time we returned to the roots.

QUESTION: When a "COM" becomes an "ORG" but then sells stuff.... isn't the "ORG" really a "COM" in disguise and should they be "investigated?"


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't good/our music sell more?
From: Max
Date: 27 Sep 99 - 12:57 PM

Gargoyle, we are incorporated in the state of Pennsylvania as a non-profit organization. That is all that is required to be a ORG. Selling stuff does not make one for-profit. Since you seem to have such a problem with us attempting to keep the site up by providing traditional music, perhaps you have an alternate suggestion? By the way, I do not recall depositing your contribution, did it get lost in the mail? We have to pay the bills somehow, and since you are not eager to contribute financially or constructively, I will make decisions as I see fit. If you don't like it, perhaps you can go be an irritant someplace else. Do you go to a pot luck dinner empty handed then complain that you don't like any of the meals folks brought? That's what you're doing here.


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