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How can a folkie make a living?

Stringsinger 02 Nov 09 - 09:56 AM
TheSnail 01 Nov 09 - 01:57 PM
GUEST,Jim Knowledge 01 Nov 09 - 12:02 PM
WalkaboutsVerse 01 Nov 09 - 08:49 AM
meself 31 Oct 09 - 04:05 PM
GUEST,The Folk Entertainer 31 Oct 09 - 04:01 PM
GUEST,Jenny Brampton 31 Oct 09 - 03:31 PM
jimmyt 31 Oct 09 - 12:44 PM
meself 31 Oct 09 - 11:52 AM
jimmyt 31 Oct 09 - 11:36 AM
GUEST, an interested reader 30 Oct 09 - 06:30 PM
GUEST,Paul Reade 30 Oct 09 - 02:03 PM
Hamish 30 Oct 09 - 01:32 PM
Charley Noble 30 Oct 09 - 08:57 AM
GUEST 30 Oct 09 - 08:35 AM
The Sandman 30 Oct 09 - 07:06 AM
t.jack 29 Oct 09 - 08:40 AM
GUEST,biff 28 Oct 09 - 07:59 PM
GUEST,biff 28 Oct 09 - 07:57 PM
GUEST 28 Oct 09 - 07:55 PM
Leadfingers 28 Oct 09 - 07:53 PM
Vic Smith 28 Oct 09 - 07:45 PM
GUEST,yer Hacker 28 Oct 09 - 07:34 PM
Stringsinger 28 Oct 09 - 07:01 PM
GUEST 28 Oct 09 - 04:16 PM
Seamus Kennedy 28 Oct 09 - 03:44 PM
JedMarum 28 Oct 09 - 12:10 PM
Tim Leaning 28 Oct 09 - 11:53 AM
Don Firth 28 Oct 09 - 11:48 AM
DonMeixner 28 Oct 09 - 11:40 AM
autoharper 28 Oct 09 - 11:23 AM
GUEST,biff 27 Oct 09 - 08:38 PM
Tim Leaning 27 Oct 09 - 07:34 PM
JedMarum 27 Oct 09 - 04:38 PM
Don Firth 27 Oct 09 - 03:58 PM
The Sandman 27 Oct 09 - 03:22 PM
Vic Smith 27 Oct 09 - 03:08 PM
Stower 27 Oct 09 - 02:29 PM
The Sandman 27 Oct 09 - 02:23 PM
Stringsinger 27 Oct 09 - 02:11 PM
The Sandman 27 Oct 09 - 01:49 PM
DonMeixner 27 Oct 09 - 01:09 PM
InOBU 27 Oct 09 - 12:40 PM
Tim Leaning 27 Oct 09 - 12:19 PM
s&r 27 Oct 09 - 08:49 AM
Banjiman 27 Oct 09 - 08:42 AM
kendall 27 Oct 09 - 07:43 AM
Stower 27 Oct 09 - 04:55 AM
Seamus Kennedy 27 Oct 09 - 02:29 AM
Tim Leaning 27 Oct 09 - 01:31 AM
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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 02 Nov 09 - 09:56 AM

There are a very few that are making a comfortable living at singing folk music.
Many are doing songs they've written themselves or branching out into other kinds
of material, jazz songs, classical etc.

I think the day of Burl Ives has ended. The shows have gotten too big and commercialized.
Dry ice, flashing lights dominate. Not many are interested in listening to a good song unadorned with high production techniques.

There will be those however who are endowed with a gift to entertain and have an aura
of charisma. We know who they are. I don't know how much this can be developed.

I suspect that in the UK scene, there is not a lot or even a comfortable amount of money to
be made. Listening to Child ballads is not a usual crowd pleaser.

There are those in the States who have a huge production budget comparatively. Joan Baez and Leonard Cohen bring a full blown "show" with their acts. (This is assuming that both of these performers could be called folk singers any more).

Audiences seem to cheer those who with clever stage patter or can tear it up with
virtuoso instrumental ability. Just an unadorned song doesn't cut it any more.

A lot of this has to do with what is called "entertainment" these days. Personally, I find
that a lot of the big ticket concerts are not interesting to me. Also too expensive.
I don't frequent clubs or places that permit smoking. I prefer having people in my home to share music or jamming jazz with my buddies. I think many people share this view and this is why folk concerts are on the wane.

The solution (at the risk of being redundant) is to hone your craft the best you can. Voice lessons, acting lessons, writing skills for patter, research on folk material, even movement classes can help you here.

As Naomi Klein describes her mother's mode of apparel, I think the same adjective can apply to many "folkies". The word is "schlumpy". (Good Yiddishism, I think).


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: TheSnail
Date: 01 Nov 09 - 01:57 PM

Busker? Taking a taxi?


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: GUEST,Jim Knowledge
Date: 01 Nov 09 - 12:02 PM

I `ad that busker in my cab the other night. `e looked well tired and `ungry. `ed been bashing away down the Waterloo underground all day.
I said, " `ere, my old mate, you look like you could do with a warm fire and a good meal."
`e said, " You`re right there Jim. I`ve been giving it loud for `ours and all I got to show for it is 35 Yen. The place is chock-a-block with Japanese tourists"
I said, with a bit of a chuckle, "Not to worry. With all that you`ll be o.k. in that Nip restaurant on the Charing Cross Road."
`e said, " Nah. The trouble is I `ate all that Oriental grub!!"

Whaddam I Like??


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: WalkaboutsVerse
Date: 01 Nov 09 - 08:49 AM

"ENDS
Within the broader music industry, and beyond, what some get for their hour's work, compared with others, is ridiculous and inhumane; hence, many relatively competent musicians within the folk-scene are really struggling to make ends meet; so, if we like fair competition, we don't like capitalism. A better way, as I've suggested in verse, is to accept that humans are competitive, and have strong regulations (partly via nationalisation) to make that competition as fair as possible – whilst also providing "safety-net" support" (from here).


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: meself
Date: 31 Oct 09 - 04:05 PM

"I have heard some outstanding musicians busking!"

Yup - and then there's me .... !


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: GUEST,The Folk Entertainer
Date: 31 Oct 09 - 04:01 PM

60 % talent 40% businessman. You will fail if you are not a good businessman


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: GUEST,Jenny Brampton
Date: 31 Oct 09 - 03:31 PM

Running your own venue and cooking big artists. That way you get to support them and benefit from the income on the door.
JB


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: jimmyt
Date: 31 Oct 09 - 12:44 PM

I have always wanted to try busking. I have heard some outstanding musicians busking! Good for you!


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: meself
Date: 31 Oct 09 - 11:52 AM

"most places want it either free or for so little money it is a joke"

What - there are places that actually WANT live music?!

As for me - I'm making a living busking at the moment. It's not for everybody - I mean, it's not the way to go for all musicians; I am actually busking for everybody - and there's a certain amount of luck involved - you have to have access to a spot that has lots of pedestrian traffic, relatively little noise, and few or no other buskers. Come to think of it - I really have lucked out, haven't I?


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: jimmyt
Date: 31 Oct 09 - 11:36 AM

music performance is taking a huge huge hit from karioke, canned music, dj's every other computer generated crap that replaces musicians. When I was young back in the 60's I could count on gigging every weekend with someone, either a rock group, or playing the VFW dance of a trio in a nice resturant bar. THis was in small town Ohio. LIve music was pretty much a given. Acts would come through every town of 20,000 people through booking agents and you could go out locally and hear fantastic musicians that just hadn't made the big time yet. Many of them did later on. Any more, you go to the same places and see everything BUT live performances. I have no idea what has happened to the culture that has simply allowed this to happen. This phenomena is in all genre not just Folk. My folk group gets few gigs from time to time, but most places want it either free or for so little money it is a joke.

I have a do wop group, 4 vocalists four part harmony, piano guitar bass drums and just added a horn man that plays everything. ALso a female vocalist. We get some jobs but again, I can hardly get enough money to play my instrumentalists. The rest of us do it purely for the passion. Some times after I get the fee, count the tip jar, I have to reach in my own pocket for some extra to finish paying my guys. It is a tragedy!

My horn man played professionally in LA for 40 years. He practices 8 hours every day. He is the complete musician. He is a perfectionist. He plays by ear or charts. He plays in every key. He plays all saxes, trumpet, flute, piccolo. He moved back home because there are NO JOBS for guys like him. It breaks my heart to see how hard some musicians work to make it only to be left high and dry. We do, however reward every athlete with millions when there relative skill level is certainly no better than many out of work musicians. I know I am rambling but this is a subject that just pisses me off.


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: GUEST, an interested reader
Date: 30 Oct 09 - 06:30 PM

I just want to put this out there: just because you love the music doesn't mean people will want to listen to you. I'm sorry if this sounds unkind, but no one seems to be mentioning that perhaps some people are not finding an audience because they're not that talented or accomplished. I used to go to concerts often but I stopped because it was the same thing over and over again, and folk music performers were only rarely outstanding musicians. Folk/trad music doesn't necessarily belong on a stage - it's music for people to do together, not to passively listen to. It's the rare musician who can add something special to make it interesting for a concert. Maybe some people who are struggling should think hard about the message their lack of audience is sending.


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: GUEST,Paul Reade
Date: 30 Oct 09 - 02:03 PM

The number of folk clubs now who book artists regularly is very limited, perhaps a few with "regional" singers and occasional "headliners". Set this against the fact that a soloist would need to do an average of one gig a week at a fee of £200 just to make the annual equivalent of the 2008 National Minimum Wage (£5.52 an hour, about £11,500 a year for a 40-hour week) and it's obvious the figures don't add up.

In the 70s I played some well-paid but crap gigs, such as a Young Farmers' social where everyone got drunk and loudly chatted up Young Farmer-esses whilst we provided background music. We soon decided we had day jobs and didn't need the money and would rather do floor spots or the occasional booking in a folk club, to a smaller audience who were at least prepared to listen.


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: Hamish
Date: 30 Oct 09 - 01:32 PM

There's a bit of arithmetic which should be taken into account: a solo act takes 100% of the fee. Duos get 50% each. Trios get 33.3% each...

...get the idea?


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: Charley Noble
Date: 30 Oct 09 - 08:57 AM

On the serious side, the "folkies" I know who make a modest living at their craft are not only competent musicians but well-organized people, and likable people as well.

One doesn't have to be brilliant on all three counts to achieve some success but you have to at least register in each category.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: GUEST
Date: 30 Oct 09 - 08:35 AM

you know we call it playing,try going on stage with a hard hat and steel toes,now your working//music it seems is an addiction and most club managers know musicians need their fix so they hoste open mikes and open jams,da,bla,bla at the end of the night you go home with your guitar..boy that was fun cost me two beer or whatever.stupid.it is work and the bar ows you coffee free or a drink free or something,if the till rings its because you sing..


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: The Sandman
Date: 30 Oct 09 - 07:06 AM

in my case I also have a website,which apart from my cds,has a songbook
my own songs,plus two concertina tutors.http://www.dickmiles.com


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: t.jack
Date: 29 Oct 09 - 08:40 AM

Across the water here, i have been on the road,yes on the road hitchiking selling my CD( SOME MOTHERS SON )it is quite interesting what comes up,house concerts everything,people are alive there is no rehersal its life ,Nova Scotia TO British Columbia to the North West Territories,you got to get out there and get the pulse..GET IT?


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: GUEST,biff
Date: 28 Oct 09 - 07:59 PM

how to entertain an audience...a little candy now and then doesn't mean you've sold out. you gotta give them something..some hooks some attitude some visual. a little flash is part of professionalism and can make songs and performance better. works for me.


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: GUEST,biff
Date: 28 Oct 09 - 07:57 PM


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: GUEST
Date: 28 Oct 09 - 07:55 PM

From reading Mudcat postings it appears some augment their income by stealing fiddles and guitars and then hocking them pawn-shops.

100 !


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 28 Oct 09 - 07:53 PM

100


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: Vic Smith
Date: 28 Oct 09 - 07:45 PM

The problem with making a living from singing folk songs is not to do with the quality and attitude of the singer. It is to do with the quality and attitude of the audiences. Tony Miles has pointed this out at @displaysong.cfm?SongID=714 but his reasoning would be worth repeating here:-

BLOODY ROTTEN AUDIENCE
(Tony Miles)

Well, here's a song I've written specifically for you
Who sit in the audience and talk through all I do
I cannot understand it cause I'm pretty good, you see
So there must be something wrong with you, there's nothing wrong with me

Ch.: You're a bloody rotten audience whilst I am very good
If brains were made of oak and ash then you'd have balsa wood
I'm ethnic and authentic and I'm really full of class
While you're ignorant, you're cultureless, you're philistines
en masse.

I'm an artist and authority on music and what's more
I'm incredible informative on folksong and folklore
I'm a wonderful performer and so you all must be
So bloody thick and stupid not to like the like of me

I'm a folkie and that's obvious, you can tell it by me clothes
And when I sing traditional, I sing it through me nose
And if you insist on talking everytime I sing a song
I'll fix you with 'Bold Robin Hood', that's eighty verses long.

And when I sing contemporary, my heart and soul is pure
I must be bloody brilliant, cause my writing's so obscure
My hero's Leonard Cohen, I dig him perfectly
But I must be so much better, cause no-one here digs me.

But now I'm going to leave you, cause I feel I'm wasting time
Couldn't possibly be wasting yours, so you must be wasting mine
And let me tell you now that I'm not out here for me health
So if you don't come and pull with me, I'll go and pull meself

Ch.: You're a bloody rotten audience whilst I am very good
If brains were made of oak and ash then you'd have balsa wood
I'm ethnic and authentic and I'm really full of class
But underneath it all I'm just a pain in the flipping ass.


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: GUEST,yer Hacker
Date: 28 Oct 09 - 07:34 PM

"How can a folkie make a living?"

One answer:

I play me guitar and I play it right well
And ah sings with a luverly voice
Ah draws inspiration from a bottomless well
en ah'm ever bin one of the boys

The punters all hail me when I'm on the mic
when they've quaff-ed a bitter or two
They tell me "y'know, lad, go pro, boy, yer not bad!"
'tis a dream that I wish would come true.

It's all fine and well that ah sing in the pub
that's what the pub owners all say
But they grow hard 'o hearing, quite desperately weary
when ah tell 'em that tha'll have ta pay

"Ye've sung here for years and nae charged me nae once!"
They cry in the name of their pocket.
"Tis just music!" they whine, "for a moment in time"
And that's when ah tell 'em to fock it.

For ah play guitar and ah play it right well
but business is nae my true love
Ah'll play where ah like (and get stood a pint)
and tell greedy bastards to shove

For in all of the years of long history
A player can hardly bear livin'
without a patron who's best worth his natron
bare pockets and art are a given.


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 28 Oct 09 - 07:01 PM

Stower, I was just trying to inject a little reality in this conversation. I didn't mean anything personal. I think my questions are legitimate and not directed at you.

Accusatory is not the nature of my posts. Reality is.

It doesn't do anyone good to make nice about such an undertaking. It's a rough road
and anyone who takes it must be prepared for a few bumps along the way.

As Adam says if you can entertain, you can almost do anything you want.


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: GUEST
Date: 28 Oct 09 - 04:16 PM

I guess you need to decide whether you want to "Make a living as a folk musician, " or "Make a living as a folk entertainer." To me, music is music, and either you make a living doing it or not. Folk, by it's nature and the audience (or lack thereof) is undoubtedly more difficult to make a living at than some other styles of music.

Then you address whether you wish to entertain or just play. If you are a performer, you are playing a performance,and the large share of performances are to entertain. Some times we seem to look down on entertainers, like the"commercial groups" of the 60's. They had huge followings and still do. They played their brand of music, entertained up a storm, and probably reached more audience members and affected much more change than the obscure folk player that didn't want to entertain, just to spread his philosophy by his music.   I guess when I read the original question, I never once thought that it might be an option to not entertain... makes the $ much more elusive methinks.


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: Seamus Kennedy
Date: 28 Oct 09 - 03:44 PM

Jed - thanks for your kind words.

After 38 years doing this, I've found that what goes around, comes around. So let's all help each other and pay it forward.

Jed's post about the 3 myths is remarkably accurate -and very well written. Words for a folkie to live by.

And the entertainment aspect is extremely important.

If you are not presenting your music in an entertaining fashion for your audience, regardless of how great a virtuoso you are, you may as well stay home and dazzle yourself. It's the audience who is primarily responsible for us 'making a living'. Simple - no audience, no living.

And pretty much all the truly great musicians I admire are/were excellent entertainers.
Victor Borge, Doc Watson, Yo-yo Ma, Jethro Burns, Steve Goodman, Merle Travis, Joe Maphis, Mick Moloney, Paddy Moloney & the Chieftains, Mark O'Connor, Flatt & Scruggs, Frankie Gavin. The list could go on.

Seamus

I once heard this little gem (sorry can't remember the source):
a good performer comes out in front of the audience and says "Here I am!"; a great performer comes out in front of an audience and says "There you are!".


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: JedMarum
Date: 28 Oct 09 - 12:10 PM

Learning how to entertain an audience is implicit in my comments above.

When I say "It's your job to figure out how to present the music YOU love to your audience." I mean you must be an entertainer.

We all do this part of the job differently - and some of us are described as entertainers, and others not, but you must interest the audience in the music you want to present.


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: Tim Leaning
Date: 28 Oct 09 - 11:53 AM

Had to smile at the Malvina Reynolds ,Bob Dylan comment.
There are some great entertainers on the folky type circuit in uk
Mr Garbutt,Flossie and GP are on my personal list. But its just that really, personal. You could be Elvis reborn but its in the ears,heart ,mind, of the listener I reckon.


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: Don Firth
Date: 28 Oct 09 - 11:48 AM

"I noticed nobody mentioned that it is quite helpful if you know how to entertain an audience."

That's a given. Without that, striving for a career as a professional musician is pointless. However, many singers, in there eagerness for a successful music career, compromise their music, not to mention their integrity, in order to be more "entertaining." Many pop-folk groups of the 1960s are examples of this.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: DonMeixner
Date: 28 Oct 09 - 11:40 AM

Adam is quite right. Earlier on I stayed on track with the business of the business. I assumed a level of ability and ability assumes a lot I guess. Malvina Reynolds was a great songwriter but not a classic voice and not exceptional as a guitarist but she was captivating when she performed. A great voice isn't necessarily a great singer and a great singer isn't necessarily entertaining. Bob Dylan apparently has more going for himself than his exceptional pipes.

Don


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: autoharper
Date: 28 Oct 09 - 11:23 AM

This thread has produced a lot of good suggestions. I noticed nobody mentioned that it is quite helpful if you know how to entertain an audience.

-Adam Miller


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: GUEST,biff
Date: 27 Oct 09 - 08:38 PM

get clear on who you are and what you want. does the environment determine your outcome or do you shape your life? art and artists will continue to continue and for those who choose to follow this particular path, the way will always be unknown until revealed. van gogh continued to paint while having mental breakdowns. coltrane sewed a cloth bag to put over his saxophone so his practicing would not disturb neighbors. basquiat walked up to warhol and showed him his art. whatever works. your question shows self doubt. do you want it? get positive. easy to say? not for me, mate. it starts with you and not with them. be so good they have to listen to you.

practice
perseverance
study

no one said it comes to you easy


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: Tim Leaning
Date: 27 Oct 09 - 07:34 PM

Jed
I am a cynical cove
But it does raise my estimation of the world to read a positive post now and then,as in yours above, so it must give hope to those with the drive and talent to find a career playing and in music generally.
Well done


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: JedMarum
Date: 27 Oct 09 - 04:38 PM

Watch out for the self-defeating myths. Here are 3:

1.) You can't make a living at folk-singing
2.) You have to sell out to make enough money
3.) Those bast*rd agents, managers, and record companies will cheat you

1.) You can't make a living at folk-singing? You can if you work a lot. You have to be true to your craft. You have to continually develop your music and all the skills required to do the job. That effort will keep your drive to be successful high, and you'll learn how to best "sell" your music to your audience.

2.) You have to sell out to make enough money? Rubbish. It's your job to figure out how to present the music YOU love to your audiences. People come to your stage/pub/concert because they want to enjoy the experience. It is human nature that they will respond well to things that they know and love already. So learn to play those "standards" they like, that you like too - and learn to get them interested in the new songs you love.

3.) Those bast*rd agents, managers, and record companies will cheat you? I've been making all of income from music for about 10 years. I've never met one of those "bast*rds" yet. I'm there are some, but you meet jerks in every walk of life. You make your best judgments about people and situations and act accordingly. Music is no different.

The few agents that I've worked with are sweet hearts. I'd work with them again in a heartbeat. And Thank God for the other performers. At the bottom of my heart, underlying all of the work and effort I put into this way of live, is a deep abiding love for music - songs and singing. And that is also true for all of the music friends I have. Seamus Kennedy (above) is one of the truly kindest folks you'll ever meet and he's always happy to lend a hand to fellow musician. The late, great Rick Fielding (former Mudcatter), likewise went to great pains to assess and assist the musicianship of every musician he met. My friends Ed Miller and Brian McNeill, both very focused on their own work have never-the-less been truly generous to me in my efforts to get started in this business. And there are lots of other stories like this. It is not just the goodness of their hearts - it is the fire of music that burns in their hearts.

Worried about the jealous, unfriendly types in the music world? Forget them. There are plenty of good hearted folks. Find them and stick them - and most importantly; BE one of them. You'll be in a position to pass it on someday.


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: Don Firth
Date: 27 Oct 09 - 03:58 PM

One singer whom I admire very much didn't especially try to appeal to "folkie" audiences. Quite knowledgeable about the songs he sang, he got connected with the American School Assemblies program early in his career and spent a lot of time singing at high school assemblies and at colleges and universities as part of their lectures and concerts series. Because the songs he sang had historical roots, AND because he was a very good singer and musician (although often not particularly well liked by folkies for that very reason [ ! ], many of them were not above learning songs from his records and trying to copy his guitar accompaniments), he set about trying to appeal particularly to early music enthusiasts and to general concert-going audiences. He didn't "go commercial," but as I say, hard-core folk music enthusiasts tended to dismiss him and/or bad-mouth him because of his musicianship. Nevertheless, he had a quite successful concert career, and got a lot of people interested in folk music who, otherwise, probably would have dismissed it as just another popular music fad not worth bothering with.

Although the vast percentage of his repertoire consisted of folk songs and ballads, he did not regard himself as a "folk singer."

If one aspires to a professional career singing traditional songs, it might, perhaps, be more productive from several viewpoints to try to appeal to audiences other than those who frequent the folk clubs. Think of it as "outreach."

Just a thought. . . .

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: The Sandman
Date: 27 Oct 09 - 03:22 PM

yes Vic,you have done a good job,you booked me once , I quite understand that was enough[joke].
Seriously,40 years deserves some appreciation,so , well done and thanks.


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: Vic Smith
Date: 27 Oct 09 - 03:08 PM

This thread does make me feel slightly guilty.

I have never aspired to full-time professionalism in music but have thoroughly enjoyed semi-professional status over 40+ years, playing and singing in some wonderful places. Both Tina and I had demanding professional jobs but we still found time for weekend and the occasional midweek gigs and now that we have retired we have been able to extend what we do and practice more. We have several irons in the fire so that beside our singing and playing, we are in a highly regarded folk dance band that gets far more offers of gigs than it can handle and we act as a technical team for popular shows that have taken us to five different countries in the last three years. We manage to keep ourselves pretty busy musically without having to accept the sort of gigs mentioned above that we feel would debase our music.
The guilt comes from conversations from folk music professionals that we meet who confess to us how much they earn in a year - and we know that between us we are earning more than them.
I suppose the guilt is assuaged, somewhat, by the fact that throughout our married lives, we have run weekly folk clubs - never taking a penny out for doing so - and have this provided work for folk musicians on an estimated 1800 occasions, apart from all the tours that we have arranged for singers and musicians.


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: Stower
Date: 27 Oct 09 - 02:29 PM

Stringsinger, not sure if you're asking good questions or making accusatory assumptions. Not sure if your questions are general for anyone or aimed at me. If the latter ...

"What is your motivation for wanting to make a living at folk music?" Because it is what gets me out of bed in a morning.

"Is it just to gratify your ego?" No.

"How much regard do you have for the music?" Answered above.

"Is it just to promote your songs so that they will be picked up?" I don't write songs. I play traditional music - largely English, a little Irish, Scottish and French.

"Do you really think that a larger audience will give a damn?" How much larger? They did in the days I used to play festivals and tear about the country while trying to hold down a full time job. I'm more interested that the audience respects the music than their size.

"For a folkie to make a living at it, who are the best models for what you want to do?" Not sure what you mean. Musical models? Behaviour models? Business models? Models of success (define 'success')?

"And the final question is: why would you want to put yourself through this?" Answered above. Friends and audiences have been urging me for years to try and make a living out of this. I have always resisted. I now wonder if I could. I'd like to think it is possible, but have real doubts, which is why I started this thread.

I apologise in advance, Stringsinger, if I have taken your questions the wrong way, but your tone came across as rather accusatory. We have never, as far as I know, met. If we had, you wouldn't have needed to ask. Anyhow, you have your answers.


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: The Sandman
Date: 27 Oct 09 - 02:23 PM

take each day as it comes.
think, observe , learn , practise.


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 27 Oct 09 - 02:11 PM

I think the question has to be asked in more depth. What is your motivation for wanting to make a living at folk music? Is it just to gratify your ego? How much regard do you have for the music?   Is it just to promote your songs so that they will be picked up?
Do you really think that a larger audience will give a damn?

For a folkie to make a living at it, who are the best models for what you want to do?

And the final question is: why would you want to put yourself through this?
A songwriter once described his career as "pole vaulting through the glass window
of a ten story building and picking the splinters out of your skin when you made it through".

Both Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie were never motivated by wanting to make money at it. They both made a lot but in the case of the latter, it came too late. Joan Baez engineered her career quite well but took a lot of abuse from Dylan as one of her causes.
They spent a lot of time on the road by themselves away from friends and family.


Most successful folkies who made a living at it struggled and compromised their health and finances. Are you willing to spend a lot of money to support your career with diminishing financial returns? If you get big, you have to pay others to help you.
If you remain "small" then you might get by but still will pay dues.

How much abuse are you willing to take from crooked bookers, managers, and jealous
performers? I can assure you that they will be there.

This is not an optimal way to live IMHO. But the career chooses you.


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: The Sandman
Date: 27 Oct 09 - 01:49 PM

yes Vic,it has, I have had to busk, I have taught music, and still do,
I refuse to play wallpaper gigs.I have in the past done one or two but
I would rather busk,because playing wallpaper music is soul destroying.
any gig is alright if the audience are not ignoring you,some people play hospitals[that is perfectly valid it gives people pleasure].
if you want to remain in love with your music and show it proper respect,and are hard up consider as extra to folk clubs
1.teaching.
2.busking.
3.hospital gigs.
4 school gigs.
but[imo] do not do unamplified or ampilfied solo pub gigs,where no one is listening.


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: DonMeixner
Date: 27 Oct 09 - 01:09 PM

Assuming this was a serious question.

Treat your music like it is a business and you are a businessman. Learn your audience and what they want. If your audience requires Danny BOy and Wild ROver to stay in the bar of the man paying you then play Danny Boy and Wild Rover. Do six covers of the stuff that gets you hired for every one bit of original music or art song you play.

Keep good books of your business. Be accurate of the miles you travel and the expenses you clain to the IRS. Be prepare to lose money or breakeven for three of five years on the road.

Never be snotty, vulgar, or mean from the behind the mic. Microphones are always on and people are always listening. Always take and do a request but never do a song you barely know just because some cutie requested it. She'll be gone by the first break and everyone else will know you did a crummy job of someone's favorite tune.

Please the bartender as he is the man who pays you. Tip the waitress because she brings you a pint or a cup of coffee and she is working too. Don't leave the place a mess when you leave, the owner remembers.

Don


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: InOBU
Date: 27 Oct 09 - 12:40 PM

Armed robbery can fetch a bit of a living... and does not get in the way of your night time gigs...


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: Tim Leaning
Date: 27 Oct 09 - 12:19 PM

Hmmm Backing tracks    oh dear.


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: s&r
Date: 27 Oct 09 - 08:49 AM

This is why in hotel work etc a lot of performers use backing tracks (not a suggestion just an observation)

Stu


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: Banjiman
Date: 27 Oct 09 - 08:42 AM

"One of the problems with working in a band is that the promoters want to pay for one act and they expect you to split the same fee among three or more of you instead of paying three people."

"want" might be the wrong word. As a smallish time promoter I pay the maximum we can afford for any act...... if the act is going to bring in 3 times as many people, I can pay 3 times as much, if not, I can't.

It's the market, see.


As a member of a band, I know how difficult this can be for the acts.


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: kendall
Date: 27 Oct 09 - 07:43 AM

One of the problems with working in a band is that the promoters want to pay for one act and they expect you to split the same fee among three or more of you instead of paying three people.


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: Stower
Date: 27 Oct 09 - 04:55 AM

As the last 2 contributions have said, thank you, thank you all for your contributions. This has given me a lot to think about.

Having done some thinking, there are people I will want to talk to privately, within and beyond Mudcat.

But please keep 'em coming. Performers have given their experiences and advice. Are there any folkie promoters or record label people out there willing to have a say?

Thanks again.

Stower


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: Seamus Kennedy
Date: 27 Oct 09 - 02:29 AM

Wow, Some great advice here. I might try some of the suggestions and hope for the best.


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Subject: RE: How can a folkie make a living?
From: Tim Leaning
Date: 27 Oct 09 - 01:31 AM

Wow heck of a thread Keep em coming..


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