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by Tom Bliss
So long and thanks for the gigs!
W
ell that’s it. I’ve outed
myself. No, not that
“If we don’t act now, we’re going to loose one of the most important
- I’ve come out as an
ex-folkie. I’ve told my family,
cogs in the folk machine: the Touring Troubadour, because the circuit is
friends, fans and the folk world
that after eight years trying
every damn thing I could think
ceasing to be a career option for all but a handful of new starters.”
of to ‘make it’ as a professional
artist; I give up. I’ve burned my And I scanned the landscape arts centre and pub, rather than Roots and so on. But how many
bridges - and my boats - and very carefully - as an outsider sessions or ceilidhs or whatever. of them will go on to make a
cooked the goose that laid the who quickly became an insider Yes, I know [weary sigh] folk proper full-time living in folk
golden gigs. (I was until recently on the board music’s all about participation, the music? Not as many as would like
of the artist-to-artist development amateur is king, and singarounds to, or as many as we might want
Why? Because I can’t make organisation folkWISE (with 150+ and sessions (and dances both to see for a healthy folk future.
enough money from the club/ ‘members’), I started the private indoors and out) are what matter, The high profile youngsters
festival/village hall circuit to Folk Club Organisers discussion not concerts. I subscribe to that who’ve broken through to become
justify the time away from family, forum (similar number), and I view myself as an individual - but viable long term acts mask an
my carbon tyre-print and all the count many folk movers and for better or worse we do have a unfortunate truth; that a majority
other costs of what is otherwise shakers as personal friends). folk concert business in the UK, (those without industry backing, or
a wonderful lifestyle. I can just and I’m talking about that here perhaps family in the biz, or who
about subsist on the income I can In fact when I told one time-served now. are really popsters in disguise, or
make from the gigs I can get, but lifelong touring pro that I was
no more. So no more is what it quitting, his actual words were;
has to be. I’ll be starting a day job “Blimey Tom, if you can’t make a
“In terms of presenting folk music to people in
(assuming I can find one) in the go of it there’s no hope for any of
summer. us!’ So maybe I’m in as good a
chairs, there are four categories of act. The
position as any to say this:
Now you’re probably thinking,
Old Guard, the Young Turks, the Local Heroes
well, he wasn’t good enough Arooga arooga! If we don’t act
then, was he? Or, he didn’t try now, we’re going to loose one of and the Journeymen.”
hard enough, or he hasn’t got the most important cogs in the folk
the necessary sales, marketing, machine: the Touring Troubadour. In terms of presenting folk music who are just staggeringly talented
networking, business or The lonely journeyman (and to people in chairs, there are four and were always going to succeed
presentation skills. And you might woman, and duo, and, oh heck, categories of act. The Old Guard, in any genre) fall by the wayside.
be right. But I don’t think so, and trio) in his/her/their Kampervan / the Young Turks, the Local Heroes
if you have a gander at the gig Volvo Estate / Pullman Express is and the Journeymen. There’s Many of course - happily or
list, reviews and so on at tombliss. rapidly becoming an endangered lots of in-betweens, and people reluctantly - join group three:
co.uk you might agree with species. And we’re about to loose do appear in different guises at the Local Heroes. This lot are
me. Whilst never award-winning him, her and them (look, can I just different times, but essentially we doing brilliantly, because, of
material, I think most who know say ‘him’ for now? ta) because the have those four. So how are they course they’re what folk music is
me would admit that I’m just about network of Guest Nights which doing? all about. And because they’re
good enough to subsist without a sustains and nourishes him on semipro too, with some other
day job. So can we just take that his travels is dwindling, and also Well, the Old Guard, who made means of support, they can afford
as read for the moment, and you changing, to the extent that the their reputations in better times, to take what gigs they want for as
can throw your tomatoes at the circuit is ceasing to be a career are mostly doing ok for now, much as they want - and, if they
end? Thanks. option for all but a handful of new (though I get reports all the time choose to, drive 100 miles to do
starters. (And the old boys won’t that Big Name, or Major Draw, or a floor spot to win a gig (and lots
Now. Is this going to be a 3k be around for ever). Sure Fire only pulled a handful do). There are simply hundreds
Wordsworth of sour grapes about of their usual gate at some club of very very good acts in this
what’s wrong with the folk scene? Does that matter? Some would or other). The truth is no-one’s category - enough ‘part-time’
No - though I’m not going to pull say not - many actually, even a secure these days, and ‘blips’ are performers, surely, to keep the folk
my punches where I think they’re majority, because there’s plenty of more common than most of us machine churning round.
due. It’s more this way: I came into great folk music around at every like to admit. But they can and
the business (almost by accident) level of the food chain. But I’d do draw from a big fan base, so Or is there? Having a day job
from 15 years running a TV and reply that it does matter. It matters should be able to go on living off in no way reduces your talent.
Corporate production company very much - in many ways. As I’ll their gigs till they’re really ready to But it does reduce your ability to
(turnstone.tv), which involved explain later. retire. We hope. practice, to create and to promote
being good at most of the things - and to travel. And though the
you need to do to promote an But first let’s take a look at the And there’s plenty of new Young amateur musician sits on the very
act like mine successfully. And I scene - from where I’m stood here Turks emerging too; some taproot of folk music, he’s going
came in with my eyes wide open - on this grassy knoll. absolutely stunning new acts to find it hard to produce the pure
even doing a 5 year business plan coming down from Newcastle drop, the chlorophyll that the folk
(by which time I’d be WAY beyond I’m talking about concerts now, and up via the BBC Young Folk business actually needs to draw
where I am now or else quit). large and small, in theatre, tent, Awards, New Roots, Shooting in the carbon dioxide of publicity,
The Living Tradition - Page 16
Issue82.indd 16 24/2/09 13:55:14
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