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Getting on the bottom rung

GUEST,Like a complete unknown 05 Jul 12 - 03:42 PM
greg stephens 05 Jul 12 - 03:58 PM
GUEST,Like a complete unknown 05 Jul 12 - 04:05 PM
stallion 05 Jul 12 - 04:43 PM
treewind 05 Jul 12 - 05:08 PM
Will Fly 05 Jul 12 - 05:39 PM
GUEST,Like a complete unknown 05 Jul 12 - 06:13 PM
GUEST,Stim 05 Jul 12 - 06:19 PM
Tootler 05 Jul 12 - 07:14 PM
GUEST,Stim 05 Jul 12 - 07:35 PM
Leadfingers 05 Jul 12 - 07:40 PM
Big Al Whittle 05 Jul 12 - 07:44 PM
johncharles 05 Jul 12 - 07:53 PM
GUEST,Tony Rath aka Tonyteach 05 Jul 12 - 07:57 PM
GUEST,999 05 Jul 12 - 09:06 PM
Ebbie 05 Jul 12 - 10:24 PM
GUEST,Like a complete unknown 06 Jul 12 - 03:21 AM
GUEST,Banjiman 06 Jul 12 - 03:39 AM
cooperman 06 Jul 12 - 04:21 AM
Will Fly 06 Jul 12 - 04:24 AM
GUEST,Like a complete unknown 06 Jul 12 - 04:43 AM
Big Al Whittle 06 Jul 12 - 05:32 AM
johncharles 06 Jul 12 - 06:14 AM
Vic Smith 06 Jul 12 - 07:23 AM
Vic Smith 06 Jul 12 - 07:26 AM
GUEST,Howard Jones 06 Jul 12 - 07:58 AM
Will Fly 06 Jul 12 - 08:06 AM
Tootler 06 Jul 12 - 09:11 AM
Northerner 06 Jul 12 - 09:23 AM
theleveller 06 Jul 12 - 09:25 AM
GUEST,Blandiver 06 Jul 12 - 09:56 AM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 06 Jul 12 - 10:43 AM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 06 Jul 12 - 10:52 AM
GUEST,Like a complete unknown 06 Jul 12 - 11:05 AM
Charley Noble 06 Jul 12 - 11:10 AM
GUEST,Like a complete unknown 06 Jul 12 - 11:14 AM
GUEST,Blandiver 06 Jul 12 - 12:00 PM
GUEST,Blandiver 06 Jul 12 - 12:08 PM
Phil Edwards 06 Jul 12 - 12:58 PM
johncharles 06 Jul 12 - 01:18 PM
Big Al Whittle 06 Jul 12 - 02:18 PM
johncharles 06 Jul 12 - 03:10 PM
GUEST,Banjiman 06 Jul 12 - 03:42 PM
Phil Edwards 06 Jul 12 - 03:46 PM
GUEST,stevesg 06 Jul 12 - 03:48 PM
GUEST,Banjiman 06 Jul 12 - 03:51 PM
GUEST,Like a complete unknown 07 Jul 12 - 05:01 AM
GUEST,Blandiver 07 Jul 12 - 05:03 AM
Big Al Whittle 07 Jul 12 - 05:28 AM
Phil Edwards 07 Jul 12 - 06:11 AM
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Subject: Getting on the bottom rung
From: GUEST,Like a complete unknown
Date: 05 Jul 12 - 03:42 PM

[Regular 'catter, cookieless for reasons that will become obvious]

I've been singing folk songs for a while now. But if I used my real name you wouldn't have heard of me--or rather, you might know me on Mudcat, but the chances are you wouldn't know me as a singer.

I got up on stage at a folk club eight, nine years ago; I thought I could do it. Three minutes later I KNEW I could do it. I'd been coming to the folk club for a few weeks, getting up courage to put myself forward, and after I'd done my song the MC came up to me and asked why I hadn't told him I could sing.

So I'd arrived. Hooray. I'd arrived as a floor singer. Eight or possibly nine years later I'm still a floor singer--although I mostly go to singarounds these days.

It was reading the Elle Osborne thread that got me thinking. Everyone had an opinion--she's great! she's overrated! she sings flat! she sings like nobody else!--and so it went on. Now this isn't Elkie Brooks we're talking about or even Eliza Carthy. (Is Elle Osborne even professional? I'd be delighted if she was but I somehow doubt it.) In terms of fame and fortune she's not THAT far above the level of interesting floor-singers and singaround regulars like me--but at the same time she's in a different league. She's one of the people that people talk about on Mudcat, not one of the people who do the talking.

What makes the difference? Let's say it's about having an online presence. Or let's not, because I've got one of those. You can even buy my music (or listen to it free, obviously, I'm not stupid). So far I think the number of paying punters who aren't personal friends is 1. Might have been 2, I forget.

Or let's say it's about gigging; let's assume you've got to do the gigs, old-style, Transit van up and down the M6, whatever. So how do you get the gigs? Make it easier: how do you get the first gig, and the second and the third? If you're not an immediately attractive selling proposition--if you haven't got the kind of voice that you can listen to singing the phone book, and not many of us have--how do you get people thinking that giving this particular floorsinger half an hour might be a good idea? (To be fair somebody did once ask me to do a spot, but by the time I asked him about it again he'd sobered up and forgotten all about it.)

I don't want to climb the ladder--I don't kid myself I could ever go pro--but it would be nice to at least get my feet off the ground (or the floor). But how do/did you do it? How do/did you get started?


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: greg stephens
Date: 05 Jul 12 - 03:58 PM

You raise Elle Osborne as an example of someone who is a rung or two or three up the ladder and you are still feeling a bit on the ground. Well, for a start she has been performing all over the shop for ages. I don't know about online presence particulalrly, but the reason I felt liuke commenting in the thread about her is that I've run into her many times in many places.
So let's start with that: maybe this is a difference? Do you get around? Have I for example met you and heard you a few times? Because then, I could talk about you on Mudcat, and if someone said you were crap, and I thought you weren't, I would write in and say so. But if you just sing the odd floor spot in your local folk club, well the odds are I won't have heard you unless I come to your club, which is unlikely as I dont play folk clubs very often.


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: GUEST,Like a complete unknown
Date: 05 Jul 12 - 04:05 PM

Thanks for that, Greg.

What do you mean by 'get around'? Honest question, not meant sarkily. I did a bunch of different folk clubs for a while--name a folk club within a bus ride from where I live and I've sung there--but I guess you don't mean them. Are you talking about festivals or...?


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: stallion
Date: 05 Jul 12 - 04:43 PM

who is Ellie Osborne? link maybe?


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: treewind
Date: 05 Jul 12 - 05:08 PM

Getting to all the folk clubs a bus ride from where you live is a start. Going to folk clubs further afield is the next step. If you (not you personally, you said you don't want to do this, but your hypothetical bottom-rung singer) want to do gigs you'd better have your own wheels to get to those gigs, so use them to visit clubs as far as you can reach in an evening - an hours drive away, maybe an hour and a half. Set up a web site (or facebook page, YouTube channel, whatever) get some cards printed, maybe a small promotional leaflet. Make a demo CD. Let club organisers know you are looking for bookings, either before you visit, while you are there or afterwards, or all three. Don't be put off by the majority that say no. Be nice to people and make friends. If you know anybody with some influence, twist their arm. Do the same with festivals. Funnily enough, festival appearances can lead to club bookings, more than the other way round. Keep at it - eventually you'll get lucky, but it is a painfully slow process, and like any sales or seduction effort, if 99 out of 100 say no, you call that a success!


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: Will Fly
Date: 05 Jul 12 - 05:39 PM

Good advice from treewind, which I won't repeat.

I do have one question, though: Are you any good? Do you honestly feel that you've got what it takes to hold an audience for 30 minutes - 45 minutes - 2 x 45 minute spots? If the answer to any of these is not a positive "yes", then you have to work even harder. I'm not implying that you're not good, by the way, just that you have to have a realistic view of how you measure up - ask people for their honest opinions if you're not sure.

OK, so you can sing. Good! Can you perform? More than that, can you entertain? It's not always the greatest singers or performers who get regular work. Rapport with an audience, the ability to click with an audience, to feel at ease, to engage, perhaps to amuse. The ability to not get phased or panicked if a spot isn't going well. Being totally rehearsed and professional in attitude. These are also important.

Are you performing what people want to hear? No reason that you should, by the way - do your own thing by all means - but knowing what 'sells' can be important. I'm always amazed when I get a booking in a mainly traditional folk club, because traditional songs form a very small part of my repertoire. Quite apart from ceilidh band work, which is regular (if seasonal), I perform anything from jazz to blues to rock'n roll. But I do a fair number of freebies - at which I'm usually asked for a card or a telephone number - but I wouldn't get asked for card or number if someone hadn't heard and seen something they liked... So the freebies can bring in gigs.

And how far do you really want to go? I sense some ambiguity about this in your post.


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: GUEST,Like a complete unknown
Date: 05 Jul 12 - 06:13 PM

Will Fly--that last question is a good one! Honest answer: I don't know. I started this thread because my inner Kevin The Teenager was complaining that it's totally not fair that I never get to sing to lots of people and make albums people want to buy, and I thought rather than just bracing myself and trying to do something constructive--which is what I usually do when the mood comes on--I'd put some of the grumbling out there for people to pick holes in.

Could I do half an hour? Well, I've never done half an hour--because I've never been asked to do half an hour--so I've never worked out a half-hour set, so I don't know if I... correction, I know I COULD, but I don't know if it would actually work. But you don't know until you've tried.

Can I entertain? I know I have entertained, both in the sense of holding a room and in the sense of raising a laugh--one of my fondest memories is noticing someone in the middle of the audience helplessly crying with laughter, and I hadn't even got to the end of the song. But would that transfer to a half-hour slot? I don't know. How can I know if I've never tried?

Still chewing over how-far-do-you-want-to-go. However good my singing may be, I'm nowhere near as accomplished a musician as any of the people who've replied, and mostly-unaccompanied singing is always going to be a hard sell. And I do like to have the odd spare evening, and my family like to have me around at weekends - so in some ways obscurity suits me pretty well! Right now I think I'd just like to be asked some time, even if it was only four or five songs, even if it was for beer money. Just like to feel I'd moved on a bit in terms of recognition from the complete unknown who got up nine years ago.


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 05 Jul 12 - 06:19 PM

It takes more than just getting around, you have to make an impression.

Some people do it with funny glasses, or blue hair, or a catch phrase, or with a signature song, but whatever it is, it should be something people will remember.

Confidence is critical, too; you should always walk into a room like everyone knows you, introduce yourself, and, (this is really important) remember names. Being nice is great, but there are some who manage very well by being a bit self-centered and slightly condescending(a little of this goes a long way, tho)


Here is the best advice anyone ever gave a performer, in the form of a song: Give em the old Razzle Dazzle


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: Tootler
Date: 05 Jul 12 - 07:14 PM

Do you really, really, really want to succeed?

I mean really, really, desperately want to succeed?

I ask this because I have a daughter who though she might like to make it as an actress. She was good enough but lacked that inner compulsion to succeed, so she got nowhere. She got a drama degree and spent two years doing work experience type projects and in the end my wife found her a job supporting special needs adult students in a college. She found she liked that and was good at it, so she has abandoned any thoughts of acting, having realised it was never for her.

In the end, without that inner compulsion you won't want to make the effort to do the things that are being suggested in this thread or, more likely you'll start to do them but when things don't go your way, you'll start to lose heart and eventually give up.

Think hard now and avoid disappointment later.


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 05 Jul 12 - 07:35 PM

If you wanted to do this, you need to work up a set list. Since you're singing, you just to know how to play the chords and keep the beat. It's that simple.

The deal is, though, no one is going to walk up and hand you performing opportunities, you have to get out and make those happen on your own. At first, you'll probably have to push your way into playing at birthday parties, store openings, reunions, and such things, but it will give you a chance to figure out how to Razzle Dazzle 'em.


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: Leadfingers
Date: 05 Jul 12 - 07:40 PM

Basically , its being in the Right Place , at the Right Time and doing the Right Thing . In Other Words , LUCK .


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 05 Jul 12 - 07:44 PM

Well - people on this site always accuse me of being bitter and twisted, but here's my advice and assessment of your situation for what its worth.

Face facts - folk music is a bit of a closed shop, and if you've been giving it your all for ten years (longer than it takes to qualify as a doctor) - the chances are, they ain't going to let you in the door.

I would say   learn to play your instrument well, England's a great country to be a musician - its what I've done most of my life. Believe me, if you've got the chops - you'll make a living. And you will have money for all the instruments you need (not all the ones you want!), and you'll have leisure time to think about and learn about folk ,music. and from the outside you'll out find out why the poor frightened sods need to keep it so exclusive.

Actually I'll tell you the secret - its a simple equation of supply and demand.


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: johncharles
Date: 05 Jul 12 - 07:53 PM

your comparison of yourself to Elle Osbourne is flawed. It is clear that she gets paid gigs and features in reputable papers/journals.
Wanting to remain annymous is hardly likely to help your cause. post some songs give your name and ask for honest feedback. ( slightly problematic given the inherent niceness of much of the folk community)
john


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: GUEST,Tony Rath aka Tonyteach
Date: 05 Jul 12 - 07:57 PM

Interesting thread. I have working as act doctor to a newish duo called Monkton Wyld who work the London clubs. Luke is a very very good guitarist and entertainer who writes good songs and has a partner who plays a number of instruments and sings very well. They have been working the circuit for a year and have made progress BUT it is a hard grind and all the advice above applies.

Interested in Al Whittles points - I am a good all round guitarist and singer and piano player I have worked as an actor and MC and do not suffer with the nerves. Adrenalin yes - fear no Maybe its time I had a go. I can play fingerstyle blues - pick blues -flat picking - flamenco - fingerstyle guitar - classical - boogie - blues and jazz piano - bass and also a trained singer. I am cheap reliable and available. in the London area. I am however large and very ugly which may put some people off


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: GUEST,999
Date: 05 Jul 12 - 09:06 PM

"Just like to feel I'd moved on a bit in terms of recognition from the complete unknown who got up nine years ago."

A whole nine years? Listen up: nine years ain't nothin' in music.

One of my three 'best' friends is one of the greater musicians I have ever heard. He's a good performer, becoming a great songwriter, and he can play guitar better than most in about five genres.

Another friend is one of two greatest guitar players I ever met; the other greatest is mentioned earlier. He is a tremendous back-up guitar player and he makes me sound twice as good as I will ever be. In fact, we play together when we get the chance because we love playing together. We have so much fun doing that that it will no doubt be declared illegal. I was asked a few years back by another 'musician' if I didn't feel insecure playing with someone of his quality, the implication being that I was overshadowed. I said, "Tell me, did you like the performance?" He replied, "It was great." I then asked if he went out of his way to find back-up people who were weaker than him so he would be the best thing on the stage? Silence. More silence. As I left I said, "I am honoured to work with people better than me, and when THEY don't want to work with me anymore, then I'll know it's time to pack it in."

I write songs, and so many people don't like them I have often wondered if I should qui--in fact I quit music in 1980 and didn't get back to it until about 2005 with the help of people like Amos Jessup, Bill Garrett, Ron Bankley. I know I will never be famous. I listen to people like Bob Knight and Kathy Stewart and Joanne Crabtree and wonder why I think I could ever be so arrogant to think I'm in their class as a singer. I know I'm not, but that isn't what matters.

As I deal with self-induced lung cancer, I am about to do a gig with the two best musicians I ever met, and I intend to hit a sustained note that lasts for 45 of 48 beats in a moderately-paced song. I can do that, and hold the note. So, how many people you know can do that? But, how many people give a shit! Almost none.

You stop looking for help here and instead write me at

irishancestry @ gmail . com

I'll "i'll gie ya a han, jimmy"

BM


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: Ebbie
Date: 05 Jul 12 - 10:24 PM

{{{{{hug Bruce}}}}


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: GUEST,Like a complete unknown
Date: 06 Jul 12 - 03:21 AM

Wow--that's a lot of replies! Thanks all.

Tootler--no, on balance, I don't. It would be ridiculous to think I could be a success in this field. People much more talented than me scrape a living at this stuff or can't even do that. My dream is just to be asked to perform somewhere and come away with money in my pocket, and to shift a few CDs/downloads. Bottom rung!

johncharles--just to be clear, I don't want to stay anonymous; I am known on Mudcat and my music is available online, under my real name. (41 plays last week. No downloads.) But I want to stay anonymous ON THIS THREAD, so that I can say things that would embarrass me otherwise and people can respond honestly.

From floorsinger to full 'spot', that's the hurdle I'm falling at. Maybe Al's right and it would have happened by now if it was going to.


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: GUEST,Banjiman
Date: 06 Jul 12 - 03:39 AM

...... have you ever asked anyone if you could do a gig at their festival/ club/ venue?

If not, how do they know that you want to do one?


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: cooperman
Date: 06 Jul 12 - 04:21 AM

It's a big step going from a couple of songs to 45 minutes. I built up with a few charity events to start with. The organisers are looking for people to fill up the bottom of the bill and volunteers are usually gratefully received. You don't get paid but that works both ways - if it doesn't go well you don't feel you've let anyone down particularly or guilty about taking the money. You gradually get used to doing longer slots, your confidence builds up and you get known (and you help a worthy cause). Just a suggestion.
The other thing is, unless you are spellbinding, you need some variety to keep people interested. There are some instruments that are relatively easy to learn (washboard!!!) and you can throw in a couple of songs on those.


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: Will Fly
Date: 06 Jul 12 - 04:24 AM

Just like to feel I'd moved on a bit in terms of recognition from the complete unknown who got up nine years ago.

So... is this what you want: recognition? Or is it money? Or is it that adrenalin rush that comes from a burst of real applause at the end of a song? Or all three? Only you can decide.

Al's comments about folk clubs are, as ever, interesting. The folk scene is complex, unlike others I've played in. Here's an example: When I played in a 1950s rock'n roll trio - the real stuff, by the way, nothing earlier than 1956 and nothing later than about 1961 - work was plentiful, and still is. We played Trades & Labour clubs, Con clubs, Working Men's clubs, British Legions, etc. in Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire, Kent and south London. We did support for name acts of the time like Showaddywaddy, Matchbox and Bernie Flint. We played showcase R'nR weekends in wintertime holiday camps, monthly stints in local pubs, golf clubs, tennis clubs, rugby clubs, Sergeants' Mess functions for the Parachute Regiment in Aldershot and for the Military Police in Chichester. We did gigs for social clubs of all kinds - prison officers at Ford Open Prison, pilots at the Beehive Club at Gatwick, birthday parties, wedding receptions, etc, etc., etc. In the immortal words of Mick Jagger about the early Stones: We knew we were bloody good. We played several nights a week and made quite a bit of money - even paid tax on it! After 13 years of this, I quit it - utterly tired of making music. Took a break, joined a Southern Soul band for fun, played once a month for peanuts, and let the music flood back into me. But note this: that scene is still available. There are rock'n roll clubs all over southern England and it would be no problem to get a band again and get work again - which I don't want to do. In short, the venues were/are incredibly varied - but the music is utterly consistent: 1956 to 1961, full stop.

The folk scene is, IMO the reverse. Every club I've been to - and I've been to them all over the place - has a different take on the music and a different atmosphere and ethos. They're usually run by individuals or a small band of individuals - all hard working and dedicated (otherwise they wouldn't be doing it) who have their own idea of what they want their club to be. You have to fit into this somewhere and gauge the market for what you do. You either perform what you think these people want - or you do your own thing regardless and see where it gets you. As far as folk clubs are concerned, I've always performed what I have personally liked and taken whatever outcome that implies. You have to make that kind of decision - and also abide by the outcome. If folk clubs don't like what you do, conform or forget it and move on - form your own club, play in a rock'n roll trio, join a blues band, get a duo and do covers in pubs, be a singer-songwriter...


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: GUEST,Like a complete unknown
Date: 06 Jul 12 - 04:43 AM

Recognition? Yes. Money? Not too fussed--I'm not even dreaming of going pro--EXCEPT that the money's a token of recognition--if they pay you they probably like you (if they pay you twice, anyway). Applause? Yes. Yes please. Had it, loved it. But it has to be for something I chose to do--which comes back to recognition.

"If folk clubs don't like what you do, conform or forget it and move on"

Thanks for that--lightbulb moment!

I've known for a while that I could get a spot at my local FC if I was half as good a guitarist as I am a singer. (The problem is I don't play guitar, and getting to that sort of standard from scratch would take years.) But I've always seen their tendency to prefer guitarists unaccompanied singers as a fault on their part--or a terrible injustice if I'm in Kevin-the-Teenager mode--and it's not really. It's just what they like--accept it and act accordingly (find somewhere else or get a guitar and start learning).


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 06 Jul 12 - 05:32 AM

'I am however large and very ugly which may put some people off'

I think you may well have inadvertently stumbled over your unique selling point -

'Quasimodo - a smile, a song and a hump in the back of the van....'


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: johncharles
Date: 06 Jul 12 - 06:14 AM

Dear Like a complete unknown, I have been on mucat for some time and I don't know you. so how will I ever be able to give you feedback.
I have been playing with a couple of friends the last 5 years. We play what we want to play and have been lucky in getting a few gigs at clubs and festivals (good contacts help with this). we attend our local club and run a fortnightly slow session. we also made our own luck; we set up our own session in a local pub which has been running for 18 months.
Playing a beer festival tomorrow hoping for some free beer.

string theory
I guess you have to make it happen for yourself no one else will.
We are amateurs with a shared love of music, we play in order to have fun and if along the way we get a gig or two or an occasional payment that is a bonus. we like this rung on the ladder. John


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: Vic Smith
Date: 06 Jul 12 - 07:23 AM

There's some pretty frightening things going on at the moment. Yesterday I received a brand new CD through the post from a superb five piece band. I played it straight away and it was excellent.
Where are these guys on the ladder? About half way up, I'd have thought. Three of the names are pretty well know from other bands they have been in and I have reviewed albums by them enthusiastically in three different folk music publications.

The frightening thing? With that album came a note. - Hope that you like our album and will review it. We would love to have a gig at your club and would not expect to be paid.

I will probably put it to the others involved in running the club that we should book the band but we will expect to pay them! I don't think that I could live with myself if I were to ask them to travel from a different county, play two sets and then say, "Thanks, lads, that was great! Now off you go."


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: Vic Smith
Date: 06 Jul 12 - 07:26 AM

Coincidence time!
As I was typing my previous post, there was the thud of today's post on the door mat. Several albums as usual including a second copy of the album mentioned above; a review copy from a leading magazine. It will be receiving an enthusiastic review from me.


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: GUEST,Howard Jones
Date: 06 Jul 12 - 07:58 AM

Firstly, to pick up on what Al said earlier, it doesn't appear that you have been "giving it your all" for 10 years. You've been doing floor spots in a few fairly local clubs - that's not giving your all. So to suggest that gives any indication of whether you're good enough to make it is misleading.

If you're not used to doing longer sets why not ask one of the clubs you regularly play at if they'll give you a longer spot?

From my own observation, it's often not the most technically proficient singers or musicians who make it, it's the ones who can entertain an audience (by which I mean hold an audience's attention), who are able to network, and who are prepared to pursue every opportunity, no matter how unlikely or unpromising it appears.


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: Will Fly
Date: 06 Jul 12 - 08:06 AM

Good on you Vic for insisting on paying for the talent. I raise a glass to you.

As for "getting on the bottom rung", there are so many good musicians out there who play in their local community with hardly a thought of doing other than enjoying themselves and entertaining their friends. Here's a mate of mine from Exeter, Ian Gardner with his wife Jane on washboard, on YouTube. Lovely playing, lovely singing - Jane manages a smile here and there in spite of nerves - and I'm looking forward to getting over to them in Exeter to join in their local fun in the Whipton Music Club after Sidmouth Folk Week.

Ian & Jane Gardner: "Easy Riding' Mama"

Ian helps to run the Club:

Whipton Music Club

and is very active in the local scene around Exeter.

There are probably thousands of people like Ian, making music for the hell of it, organising stuff, getting paid now and then, having a good time, giving people a good time. Recognition? Who knows... I certainly recognise his talent and enjoy his friendship.


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: Tootler
Date: 06 Jul 12 - 09:11 AM

Will has hit the nail on the head!

Get involved in your local music scene(s). You will probably find there are a number of overlapping scenes locally. I belong to a choir and a wind band, the North East Recorder Orchestra, play in a folk group who get gigs in local events - village hall, WI; that sort of thing - as well as going to local folk clubs. I don't go to as many of the latter is I used to. I had a mild heart attack a couple of years ago and my wife gets a bit edgy if I go out too often, but I keep busy get regular performing opportunities and generally enjoy myself. Mostly purely amateur and unpaid, but the folk group mostly gets paid, not much, especially after it has been divided up. Most important, though, I am enjoying myself.

By getting involved you get yourself known and from that opportunities can arise.


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: Northerner
Date: 06 Jul 12 - 09:23 AM

If you want to do a full set you need to build up to it in stages. After all how do you know that you would remember your hour and a half of materila, and present it in a way that is entertaining? Ask your local club for a hot spot; it is half the length of a full spot. You won't be paid money but you will gain valuable skills. Offer to do short sets for charities etc. Folk singers don't just perform at folk clubs; they also work alongside poets, artists and acoustic musicians. They perform in care homes, arts centres and libraries. Explore the different venues in your area. Learn to play an instrument so you can add variety to your set. If a guitar isn't your instrument try something else. Good luck!


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: theleveller
Date: 06 Jul 12 - 09:25 AM

"I've known for a while that I could get a spot at my local FC if I was half as good a guitarist as I am a singer."

I think you just isolated the problem. I can't think of many solo unaccompanied singers, no matter how good, who I'd listen to for 30-45 minutes. Why not get together with one or more musicians and sell yourselves as a duo/trio/band?

I played around clubs, singarounds etc. for years before, with mrsleveller, we suddenly got several gigs. What it made me realise was that I wssn't good enough even to be a support to a pro folk musician - so, with a sigh of relief, I went back to the floor spots and signarounds which, I've realised, together with a bit of amateur home recording, are really my natural habitat.


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: GUEST,Blandiver
Date: 06 Jul 12 - 09:56 AM

1972: 10,000 punters for every 10 performers.
2012: 10,000 performers for every 10 punters.

Or so it seems. We've moved into a phase of Traditional Culture now with much democratisation as Celebrity Culture levels off into talent show MOR blandness & often the most interesting stuff is being done in bedrooms & posted on line with only a very small audience. The point is the taking part & the collectivity & seeking one's voice...

In folk, I've met lots of very succesful professionals in one field or other who feel the need to be folksingers too. Thing is, they invariably bring their career ego with them - feeling that just because they're at the top of their game in anthropology (or whatever), then that qualifies them to be folk singers too. It's a cliche really - the folk singing middle-classes; I grew up with it. Indeed, my introduction to folk came via a teacher when I was 11; needless to say said teacher was very middle class, very wise, and sang the old songs with a passion but sounded like a tenth-rate wannabe which is exactly what they were, but in their mind they was determined to get the bookings which always eluded them.

You meet a lot of very sour souls who feel the odds were unfairly stacked against them with respect of breaks; the more localised the mentality the worse it is.

Being a musician is a matter of quiet humility; you know you've been chosen but it might not be clear what for. Mostly it's an end in itself & an honour besides; occasionally it might become something more, but it all depends on the scene really. I go with Sun Ra when he says that Music is gifted on you by the Creator of the Universe (please note although an athiest I still believe in the Creator; my atheism is with respect of the God of Religion and the Creator is most certainly not the God of Religion) and whatever you play goes straight to his throne, which is how you are judged, according to your music, and the reasons why you're doing it.

Sour grapes ain't good; I've worked with tons of musicians whose boots I am not fit to lick. Somewhere out there in the feral fringes of Traditional Song it's often a matter of ploughing long & lonely furrows in the knowledge that that's exactly what the old singers did. I get more pleasure singing whilst walking on the beach than I ever do performing in a Folk Club - fact. Whenever I do perform I try and bear that in mind. Not easy. In fact, I'm never happy with performances because there's no going back & editing them; too many variables & things to go wrong, which they always do, and if one thing goes wrong it overshadows everything.

Integrity. Humility. And lots of Practise. And Patience. It's a Zen thing. And if you think you're as good as Elle Osborne, then take time to relect that you're probably not.

Anyone heard of Esme Ryder? She's the greatest female singer on the planet, easily on a par with Peter Bellamy. You might have heard her singing with Annemarie Summers as part of Magpiety. Why Esme isn't a household folk name for her voice alone is one of the great mysteries of our time. I know TONS of amazing singers who remain unknown outside of their local circle. Dave Peters of Preston is the greatest male folk voice ever, IMHO.

I do get pissed of with wannabe professions who wear their egos in public - I've met too many truly gifted singers & musicians who evidenced no ego at all to cope with that. I have shared fags with Marshall Allen under the Edinburgh stars; I once discussed the vagueries of Folk Hospitality with Peter Bellamy even before I ever ever heard him sing. No matter how good a person is, I hold no truck with showboating. The real thing is just a matter of accepting the calling & being prepared to pay your dues & being philosophical about people liking your shit or not. Be true to yourself; what happens happens, what doesn't happen, doesn't. As Sun Ra says, either it is, or it ain't.

And when it all gets too much, then click HERE, and keep on clicking until all your cares just melt away....


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 06 Jul 12 - 10:43 AM

.. and to consider a different angle of approach & ambition...

Our Band of lifelong old mates is slowly fizzling out..
For the last decade we've enjoyed sporadic gigs for the fun of it;
mostly 'political' benefit gigs, or support to visiting European bands.
If we ever got paid, it was never enough to cover individual travel
and food & drink for the night or weekend.
We're all getting older, and increasingly held back by family commitments and mid-life health conditions.
What used to be 'fun' has slowly started becoming a bit of an inconvenient chore;
and the last gig we managed to all get together for was a year ago...

For a long time I've nurtured my own ideas for solo material and full presentation 'stage act'.
This point of my life [early to mid 50s] would be an opportune time to start doing something about it.

Thing is, no matter how much I've imagined and planned a full creative live & recording career package.
I just have to accept that I have never had the personal driving desperate ambition, ruthless personality, or talent
to have any hope of making it as a solo music artist.

No excuses, its the brutal truth and I've faced up to it.

I'm not even a remotely sociable person.
I detest going to parties and the wife's work social functions.
Networking and social brown nosing is complete torturous anathema.

But, The internet...

Now this is where I can still hold out some realistic positive hope.
I can potter about in my home project studio with all my toys
and crackpot recording inclinations.
Enjoy the fun of recording and brutalising old trad tunes and songs,
making tracks sounding the way I'd like to hear if only someone more talented than me
would do it....
Then stick the results up on some free trendy muso's website
to invite ridicule and consternation from all true folk music aficionados.

If anyone actually enjoyed it, and encouraged me to continue so they could hear more.
Well, that little amout of respect from contemporaries would be more than enough motivation and reward
to make me feel it's all been worthwhile.


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 06 Jul 12 - 10:52 AM

This is what happens if you open up threads and don't refresh for an hour before getting round to posting.

Blandiver as usual covers similar ground as me but far more eloquently...


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: GUEST,Like a complete unknown
Date: 06 Jul 12 - 11:05 AM

I'm going to stop being LACU soon (although not on this thread)--I'm hearing from enough 'catters who know me under my real name to make this a bit uncomfortable.

People have given some excellent tips. I think now that what I was asking for isn't advice about folk music at all--or at least it's advice with much wider validity. And it's been given, for which I'm very grateful. Summing up:

Q: Why isn't it happening for me?

Answers:
"Sour grapes ain't good" (Blandiver)

Do you really want it to happen? What are you doing about it? Are you complaining because you've made an effort and got nowhere, or because you don't want to make an effort? (Tootler, treewind)

Are you good enough? Really? Is there some practising you could be doing instead of feeling sorry for yourself? (Will Fly, Blandiver)

Are you trying to sell tofu to steak-eaters (or vice versa)? Might it be a better idea to try a different approach? (also Will)

"Being a musician is a matter of quiet humility; you know you've been chosen but it might not be clear what for. ... The real thing is just a matter of accepting the calling & being prepared to pay your dues & being philosophical about people liking your shit or not. Be true to yourself; what happens happens, what doesn't happen, doesn't." (Blandiver again)

Interesting to get such similar advice from two such different musicians as WF and B.

One final, personal note. (Handy things, pseudonyms).

"I get more pleasure singing whilst walking on the beach than I ever do performing in a Folk Club" (Blandiver)
I know just what this means. I haven't lived by the sea since I was a kid, but I used to really go places singing down the length of a windy beach (there to dance beneath the diamond sky... he knew what he was talking about). And that was when I didn't even know the old songs--walking the dog with Tam Lin would be a meditation in itself. (Wait till my wife gets home. "I've had a brilliant idea, we're moving to Formby. And getting a dog.")

Anyway... what you don't get that way is the applause. And God, I love the applause. But talking about walking on the beach reminds me how lonely I was growing up--and maybe what I really like about the applause is that it's the sound of people saying "we like you". And the reason I long to be offered work, without ever actually asking for work, is that I think it's only if something's offered freely that you know they're doing it because they like you.

Hangups, in short. To be ignored. Concentrate on music.

Many thanks, everyone--you've given me a lot to think about.


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: Charley Noble
Date: 06 Jul 12 - 11:10 AM

Trying to break in, assuming you do a good job with the songs you lead, also requires scouting out possible venues. You need to know the contact people, how to reach them, what they like for music, and what their personal schedule is for booking. Persistence is also an asset, as in follow-up on the initial contact, and thanks afterwards if you are booked. And, finally, know when to fold them when the contact is not working.

Sometimes it's useful to have someone else recommend you who is respected by the person doing the booking. Eventually you need to stand on your own two feet, or one if you have good balance.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble, a star in his own mind


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: GUEST,Like a complete unknown
Date: 06 Jul 12 - 11:14 AM

PFR:

"If anyone actually enjoyed it, and encouraged me to continue so they could hear more.
Well, that little amout of respect from contemporaries would be more than enough motivation and reward to make me feel it's all been worthwhile."

Whereas I just think "Only 41 plays in the last week!" Somebody I moaned to about this (offline) said that if I was getting ten times the number of hits I'd be saying "only 410 plays!" Either that or "410 people! They can't *all* like my stuff!"

Hangups. To be ignored. Concentrate on music (initially wrote "concentrate om music", which I suppose would also work).


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: GUEST,Blandiver
Date: 06 Jul 12 - 12:00 PM

And God, I love the applause.

Here's something - I'm deaf to applause. After a recent session my wife commented on how well a particular song had gone down, but I hadn't noticed. I guess it comes with being in the zone really. I'm always amazed listening back to live recordings just how well it's gone down because I never hear it at the time.

It's worse doing concerts, especially if there's a PA. I hate PAs. They just get in the way of the music & the audience. I still use 'em though, but it's always best without, especially in a small club room. We did a wee spot at the KFFC last year with no PA & it felt amazing - largish hall too... I felt I could actually talk to the audience without mumbling into the mic.

As a storyteller, you learn to hate PA systems.

Anyway; I never hear applause but the sea always roars!* But not just the sea; I like windy woods & open moors where I can really howl at the moon. Or deserted country churches where I might record my fiddle improvs by way of far darker communion than anything you're going to get in front of an audience. Shit, sometimes it gets so spooky you think there is an audience. Several times it's taken weeks before I've got the nerve to listen back to the recordings. One time in Norfolk I got so freaked out when I was recording my doromb in a remote church (the upper room at Salle) I deleted the recording out of fear of what sort of thing I might have heard on the recording. Oo-er.

Or was it just out of respect?

Respect is a good thing. I get lots of respect, but just as much hostile indifference really. At our old folk club the same people would always go out to the bar when it came to my turn. Once I had one woman scream blue murder at me to shut up playing my crwth because she hated it so much. We'd been such friends hitherto as well, but we never spoke again after that, and now she's dead. And I really miss her. RIP. Respect.

Just a thought - if you want honest appraisals, post your stuff on YouTube. You get some corking reactions there for sure. We recently picked up a troll on a live clip of our CWMD...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9IJQzcyDTQI

As on Facebook though, not liking something generally means people don't like it. Same on Mudcat - I often put up a link thread here to something I've done and if no one comments it's because they don't like it. Generally this doesn't bother me at all, but I once offered a come-all-ye to 'Catters to contibute to a folk song project of cover versions of the songs on Martin Cathy's Landfall album - I think about three people got back to me. Are we downhearted? Not bloomin' likely!

* Does that strike anyone else as a Penguinism? In the old Batman film (1966) he paraphrases The Great Selkie of Sule Skerry: On land you may command, but on the sea it is me! (wha what wha!) Burgess Meredith, one of my lifelong heroes.


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: GUEST,Blandiver
Date: 06 Jul 12 - 12:08 PM

PS - If you want people to like you, don't do folk. It really is that simple.


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 06 Jul 12 - 12:58 PM

I once offered a come-all-ye to 'Catters to contibute to a folk song project of cover versions of the songs on Martin Cathy's Landfall album - I think about three people got back to me.

Hey, I remember that - I offered a Cruel Mother I'd just recorded. Shame I was in such select company - it would have been good.

If you want people to like you, don't do folk. It really is that simple.

There's certainly something in that. Folk music is an end in itself - it has to be.


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: johncharles
Date: 06 Jul 12 - 01:18 PM

How to tell how you are doing
a. do the audience stay in the room
b. do they applaud
c. do they thank you after the event
d. do they offer to buy you beer (my favourite)
e. if it is a collection divide the total by the number in the room and your worth to them is there to see
f. do you get a re-booking
g.do they buy your CD
g. did you really enjoy it - you probably will have with any three of the above


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 06 Jul 12 - 02:18 PM

Yes I can confirm all this.

Once when I was onstage they threw heavy objects and shouted, 'Why doesn't this idiot shut up!' - but I was so much in the zone that I didn't notice.

Real folk music has nothing to do with folk at all.


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: johncharles
Date: 06 Jul 12 - 03:10 PM

you should have waved your big red sauage at them Al.


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: GUEST,Banjiman
Date: 06 Jul 12 - 03:42 PM

"As on Facebook though, not liking something generally means people don't like it. Same on Mudcat - I often put up a link thread here to something I've done and if no one comments it's because they don't like it."

Oh Mr Blandiver, that's so not true mate.

There are all sorts of reasons why people don't "like" a link that people have put up on Facebook or on here.

1/ They've already "liked" 3 things you've put up this week
2/ They don't see it
3/ You haven't reciprocated when they've put something up
4/ They don't want you to think you're too popular (some of us are English after all!)
5/ They don't know you and they only "like" their mates stuff
6/ You're better than they are
7/ They've already "liked" a dozen other peoples stuff today
8/ They don't read anything anyone else puts up anywhere anyway and are only interested in their own posts.
9/ They just can't be arsed.

If you read no feedback (online anyway) as a negative I think you're misreading people.

I think JohnCharles's checklist above is a much more accurate way of judging if people like what you do.....


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 06 Jul 12 - 03:46 PM

Once when I was onstage they threw heavy objects and shouted, 'Why doesn't this idiot shut up!'

Once?

I think JohnCharles's checklist above is a much more accurate way of judging if people like what you do...

Which is why somebody like the Great Unknown - sorry, "Like a complete unknown" - might find it so frustrating to be prevented by mysterious occult forces from ever getting a spot. Or by not actually asking anyone.


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: GUEST,stevesg
Date: 06 Jul 12 - 03:48 PM

there is music, and there is entertainment.

if you want to be a musical entertainer, musical talent helps, but is not necessary. you _must_ be a unique and skilled entertainer.

other than that, it's being able to capitalize on the luck of the draw.

it's a business. a living. not necessarily a life.

s.


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: GUEST,Banjiman
Date: 06 Jul 12 - 03:51 PM

GUEST,Like a complete unknown .......

I just wondered if anyone has ever asked you to do a "gig" or other spot....... or has anyone ever asked you if you have a CD they can buy?

I've always assumed because no one has ever asked me these things (solo anyway) that I'm not good enough to think about looking for gigs. So I don't, I stick to very informal singarounds etc. I'm a moderate singer and OK banjo player..... nothing more (but happy with that as I'd never picked up an instrument until my mid 30's and I'm still amazed I can play at all!).

My control for this assumption is that people do regularly ask my other half to do gigs or if she has a CD they can buy. Which is why she started looking for gigs and has recorded CDs. And she is pretty good.....

I think people will let you know if it's worth trying to take the next step.


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: GUEST,Like a complete unknown
Date: 07 Jul 12 - 05:01 AM

"I just wondered if anyone has ever asked you to do a "gig" or other spot....... or has anyone ever asked you if you have a CD they can buy?"

Well, no--that's what started all this off, the fact that I never have been asked these things despite regularly knocking 'em dead as a floorsinger.

That would certainly be the simplest explanation--I'm not good enough, or at least I'm not good enough at doing something people want to listen to for any length of time.

In which case I just have to think--do I want to do something different in order to be more 'bookable' (and part of me yearns pathetically to be even a tiny, weeny bit bookable)... or do I want to concentrate on doing what I do.

I'll settle for doing what I do, and hopefully getting a bit better at it. But I'll promote myself a bit more, in the flesh as well as online (I'm no stranger to self-promotion online)--what's the worst that can happen?

Thanks again all (including Banjiman).


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: GUEST,Blandiver
Date: 07 Jul 12 - 05:03 AM

Liking is an active thing; not liking is passive, default. I think Mudcat & Facebook reflect that as a whole. Myspace culture was cloying & sycophantic; YouTube can be brutal at times, but, apart from the occassional troll, it's mostly good fun. One our most popular 'folk' videos is a montage made of the Chester Cheese Rolling some years back - the comments this has generated are far more entertaining than the video, or the occasion it records:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=993m0yRR0bg

I don't think Mudcat is the sort of place to tout your wares though; you'd think it would be a good place to share stuff though, but even this there's a general collective mindset that resists such things. Odd, because the come-all-ye ethos is something we all have in common, pretty much. Maybe it's akin to the mindset of a club audience that expects to be won over with banter before they'll start listening to the songs? As one club organiser said to me recently 'Just because you've been played on Radio Three don't expect to go down well with out lot!' 'Okay,' said I, and turned his offer of a gig down because sometimes I'd just as soon not bother to be honest.

But then again I was born with a complete lack of ambition which is over compensated by a surfiet of self-satisfaction & general contentment. I think you need the inner angst to 'get out there' and 'polish your act' to give audiences the sort of thing they want to hear. It's like my wife and I doing our 'Fun 'n' Folk Act' thing which gets us a modest amount of critical approval on the fringes of the 'Weirdlore' fringe, but the real money comes from our glitzy Pop Cabaret Act residency in a seedy Blackpool hotel of a Saturday night where for two hours work covering the Hits o' Yesteryear (with the occasional bawdy trad number thrown in as an afterhours treat; the filthier the better, but The Molecatcher is always a hit, The Crabfish likewise...) we can net ten times as much as you get in your average folk club, and that's before tips - and you don't have to put up with the banjo jokes.

Nice work if you can get it.


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 07 Jul 12 - 05:28 AM

Can you eat the cheese afterwards?


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Subject: RE: Getting on the bottom rung
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 07 Jul 12 - 06:11 AM

When Suibhne does cabaret, I should think you can cut the cheese with a knife.


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