We live, as the saying goes, in interesting times. Some things are very positive: for example you can read here about the extraordinary success of our recent Kickstarter campaign and how it is already allowing us to move ahead with considerably more optimism than a few months ago. And just wait until you see next month’s fRoots – the newly improved Spring issue. Well…
On the other hand, our own particular musical universe is increasingly being forced back to self-support, having to rely more on its own grapevine and underground promotion again. We’re proudly central to that community.
For example, as many of you know – since half of you are Guardian readers (oh, the cliché!) according to our last readership survey – that newspaper has for a long time included a couple of folk and world music album reviews a week. In recent times, the former have been done by Jude Rogers and the latter by Robin Denselow, both excellent writers and supporters of our hard-pressed genres. Now each is being editorially rationed to just one main review a month with a few other mentions tacked on the end. Which is still better than most of the other ‘proper’ newspapers, mind. Actual feature interviews are rarely seen any more. The dadrock monthlies like Q, Mojo and Uncut now cover very little at all in our fields, with occasional notable exceptions (there was a nice splurge on this issue’s cover stars Stick In The Wheel in the latter recently). So really, visibility is back to last century levels.
The more you look, the less there is to see. The days when the presence of judges with wider-cast musical interests meant that folk artists might crop up in, for example, the Mercury Award nominations, are long gone. Ditto the glory days of documentary films, special concerts and festival coverage on TV channels like BBC4. Austerity broadcasting and public service broadcasting clearly don’t mix. We’re lucky that Radio 2 sticks with the one hour per week of folk that we’ve never really exceeded, and still funds the Folk Awards long after the Awards for World Music got axed. Small blessings
Meanwhile we have a new Minister for Culture and other unconnected stuff. As far as I know that’s what used to be the Minister for the Arts. His name is Matthew Hancock. I’ve searched his website and Wikipedia entry for any mention of any interest in or connection with Culture (or the Arts) and I can’t find a single one. His main interest seems to be horse racing (and oddly enough I never heard one sing…)
So folk musicians and live promoters are again finding it ever more difficult for their creative efforts to appear above the parapet, let alone to make ends meet. In the increasingly disjointed mainstream, it’s all down to algorithms and nonsensical target age groups. Here in Bristol, where there were up to 30 notable folk gigs each month last autumn, you’d have looked in vain to find mention of any of them in the main cultural listings magazine or its active web presence. Several restaurant plugs a day, though. Follow the money. Never forget that so-called millennials are the children of Thatcherism.
These are indeed interesting times. But here we still are!