Band member subs are unrealistically low, perhaps stifling development. Discuss.

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by North Londoner, Oct 16, 2011.

  1. I'd like to offer and open up for discussion an opinion that brass band members' subscriptions in the UK are, in general, unrealistically low and out of line with membership fees expected for comparable social and educational activities.

    This thought has been prompted by a couple of recent prospective new members who declined to join us or 'any band that charged subs of more than 50p to £1 per week'... and then these same people came to the pub with us after rehearsal and, without flinching, bought in rounds of drinks that probably cost in excess of £12 a time.

    The two lovely, senior gentlemen in my example are long-standing brass banders, good players too, perhaps accustomed to the older ways of doing things, but we've found that younger people are perfectly willing to pay higher subs to support the employment of professional conductors, coaching staff and to fund decent rehearsal premises, some instruments, equipment and an ever-expanding music library.

    It seems to me that if bands, across the board, were able to collect a decent level of subs, consistent with comparable evening classes and professionally-led music workshops (comparable even with a round of ten-pin bowling, a few games of snooker or joining a slimming club, for goodness sake), then many of the current issues around external funding, sponsorship, pressure of concert ticket sales, charitable fund-raising etc would diminish.

    For the sake of discussion, I'll set the bar a little on the higher side and say that, in a perfect world, our band would like to request from members who are working and have the means to afford it a weekly subscription of around £10, which would cover a minimum of two brass band rehearsals per week, without surcharge for events, refreshments and contest costs. This would also serve to subsidise free, professional coaching for children and young people in our training band and could allow access for people in genuine need due to unemployment or other hardship and those struggling on a retirement income.

    My question to the Forum is 'Would you consider a £10 per week subscription in the *UK to be unreasonable, unaffordable or both? Or do you think that, ignoring the detail of the exact amount, a proper level of subs like this might help bands deliver the full programme, coaching, playing opportunities and service that their members deserve?'

    We can moan about the difficulties of getting grant funding these days or getting punters through the door for our concerts, but if we really love playing brass band and our members have the financial means, why don't we ask them to contribute more (to the band, not just to the pub)?

    *I'm prepared to accept the impact of modest regional variations and some different demographic needs
  2. johnmartin

    johnmartin Active Member

    What a great topic, and one that I have been giving a lot of thought to recently.

    By comparison

    Season ticket for Celtic - £500 minimum
    Golf Club membership - £450pa
    Fishing season ticket - £300pa

    And for my sons activities
    Tae Kwon Do club - £370pa
    Swimming training - £200pa
    Breakdance classes - £150pa
  3. Adamskied

    Adamskied Member

    Us at friary Guildford pay £25 a month.
  4. towse1972

    towse1972 Active Member

    Crikey! We think a tenner is a lot at Milnrow.....
  5. Backrowmike

    Backrowmike Member

    This topic does cause a great deal of discussion. Bands I have played with have done without subscriptions. I think many of us get banding on the cheap. It probably costs bands c£10,000+ a year to keep going, this will be considerably higher in the upper sections. With revenue falling, I think a lot of bands will have to look at raising realistic subscriptions just to survive in the present economic climate. Like you I know many who will balk at paying any subscription, yet I love banding and I would be willing to pay £500 a year, because it's worth it!

    To add to John's list of comparisons, I have friends who are members of the local wargames club who pay £360pa for wargaming two and a half hours per week! My local AODS the subs are £5 a rehearsal.
  6. mictop

    mictop New Member

    Difficult one to answer as soon as you mention subs the excuses start from forgot my wallet/purse to I will see you next week, my band has a direct debit scheme which is alot simpler,I did play for a band that didn't charge subs but for that privelage we were out every weekend in the summer and did alot of christmas jobs to pay for it.

    Another problem that can crop up is if you supply you're own instrument and then have to pay for any damage or maintenance, should you pay the same subs as sombody using a band instrument, you then have to look at sliding scale of subs, if you have two members of the band in the same family do they pay the same as everybody else?

    Having in the past run a band as a treasurer believe me the mention of subs is just opening a can of worms i.e leave the lid closed!!!
  7. The Wherryman

    The Wherryman Active Member

    This was discussed at length a few years ago I don't think there is a 'one-size-fits-all' solution.

    The OP makes it sound as if all the bands are part of one organisation. They aren't. Each one has to stand or fall on its own merits and efforts (and income).

    'Means tested' band membership. Now that's an interesting thought. I am retired, but I wouldn't say I'm struggling to survive. But I know a number of players, in full time work, who would struggle to pay such inflated subscriptions. Would I get a reduced rate, just because I'm over a certain age, or would I have to disclose my income and be judged rich or poor?

    Many bands only survive because they share players with other bands in the area. How many golf clubs or health clubs do people usually join? I'm happy to pay subs. to two or three different bands, provided the subs. are at an affordable level. Increase them and there will be choices to make - which band(s) do I drop?

    The comparison with a football season ticket/golf club/fishing season ticket etc is rather misleading. Each of those (and the other) activities has a different set of expenses. Even the difference between the finances of a 'top' band and one bumbling along in or outside the 4th section is vast.

    £10,000+ a year? Most of the bands I have played in have been happy to earn half that amount.
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2011
  8. johnmartin

    johnmartin Active Member

    But that is the root of the problem. If we continually stick our heads in the sand and hope that someone else will look after it then the result could be that we see more bands going to the wall.

    I don't think the comparison is misleading wherryman. They are all means by which we choose to spend our leisure time. And every activity we choose to engage in, invariably charges for that privilege. Only yesterday I took my son to football training in the morning (£7) and myself and two boys to the driving range(£15). Two activities that I chose to be involved in and both cost me money.

    I think the £10,000 figure was for how much it costs to run a band per year. That is realistic, perhaps even conservative. Lets say you employ a resident conductor at £50 a rehearsal, and 100 rehearsals a year (for easy arithmetic). That amounts to £5000 expenses before you even get round to buying music, equipment, contest entry fees, etc.
  9. The Wherryman

    The Wherryman Active Member

    So it's a fair comparison to equate the cost of running a professional football team or golf club with how much it costs to run Backwoods Brass Band?

    Which is why many bands don't employ a resident conductor, but that's for another thread.
  10. johnmartin

    johnmartin Active Member

    No, thats not a fair comparison. But it is fair to compare how much it costs an individual fan to follow their team with how much it costs the average bands person to engage in their favourite activity.
  11. Accidental

    Accidental Supporting Member

    Indeed - and every time this subject has come up on tMP, it appears to be one of the highest rates going. We also all pay all our own petrol expenses for gigs and contests and hotel bills etc for the contests that need an overnight stay.

    Its still a heck of a lot cheaper than many other hobbies, smoking 40 a day or going to the pub/eating out a few times a week!
  12. Tim Pritchard

    Tim Pritchard Member

    At jersey premier brass we pay £20 a month. We have no conductors fees, in fact I pay subs. Our travel expenses are massive however and the band is almost always in the red. If we asked for any more we simply wouldn't get it.
  13. eflatbass

    eflatbass Supporting Member

    To me, one of the most surprising aspects of brass banding is how readily bands offer instruments to all-comers, free of charge. Theoretically, I could join a band today and walk away with a beautiful, perhaps even new, top of the range instrument, and it will not have cost me a penny! Why don't bands charge a monthly rental fee for all the instruments they provide, perhaps based on the value of the instrument? Would it not be a small price for a band member to pay for the privilege of having possession of a lovely, good quality instrument?
  14. The Wherryman

    The Wherryman Active Member

    So the cornet players on their £2000 Yamaha Xenos pay one rate, while the BBb basses on their £10,000 Sovereigns pay 5 times as much? I don't think so.

    But if the band can afford those instruments in the first place, subs probably wouldn't be very far up the agenda :roll:
  15. eflatbass

    eflatbass Supporting Member

    Perhaps we are looking at the extremes of cost here. I am sure bands could calculate a workable solution in terms of rental fees. Am I wrong, or is there any other hobby where my equipment would be provided completely free of charge?

    When I joined my first "decent" band, I walked into the bandroom and was presented with a brand new Imperial baritone (okay, it was in the dark ages). It was an absolute dream, and I certainly would not have objected to forking out a reasonable sum of money for the pleasure of having custody of it. Perhaps, however, I am in the minority.
  16. Accidental

    Accidental Supporting Member

    Riding schools don't charge for the use of tack and hats; gymnastics clubs don't charge for the use of the trampolines and other equipment; Scouts and Guides don't have to pay to use the tents etc..... those are just the ones I have direct experience of, I suspect the list is actually pretty long!
    With those hobbies, the use of essential equipment is part and parcel of the subscription or lesson fee, not an added extra, and its the same with all the bands I've ever been part of too.
    Nothing wrong with that imho - the members all contribute to the band income through subs and turning out for the gigs that bring in fees; if instruments are avaialable then I don't think they should have to pay any extra for them.
  17. Great discussion, so far. Thanks, everyone. Some useful insights being gained.

    With regard to the instruments, at our band we do currently charge a nominal hire fee as this is the only way we can afford to maintain and replace stock. It's the same cost, at our band, to hire a cornet as it is to hire a bass, although I can see the arguments why that should not necessarily be the case. Our most expensive instrument cost a few hundred quid, second hand off eBay, so no big problem there justifying hire fee differentials!

    In our limited experience to date, we have observed that if you hire or lend learners and new band members quite a basic, but workable instrument, when they start to get handy with it they're off down the music shop themselves to get their own intermediate to pro-quality instrument. If you give them a top of the range model free of charge or at a token cost they hang onto it, and where, then, is the incentive to save up or get a loan for your own instrument?

    I agree that the cost of funding professional conductors takes a large part of subs money, where the band chooses to engage someone in this way. It is, however, also one of the most obvious and productive ways that band members can see that their hard-earned money is being reinvested to good effect (or otherwise), so it keeps us all on our toes!

    On the whole, I believe that people are happy to pay higher subs if they can see that the money is being put to excellent use - and this includes spending it on decent rehearsal premises... and Yorkshire Tea and Chocolate Hobnobs at break time :)
  18. nethers

    nethers Active Member

    I put a lot of time and effort in to the band I play with, and I enjoy what I do - we don't pay subs but it has been discussed. I personally wouldn't mind, I think it is well worth parting with a few hundred bucks each year to give the band a few more options financially, although with the competition to get good players here in Auckland it would be a bad idea for the band. There are a number of committed players who offer their professional services, materials and sometimes money to the band nothing though.

    A good way to raise some cash is to have your own 'social club' of course, with donaters able to access a fridge full of beer (or soft drink!)...
  19. The Wherryman

    The Wherryman Active Member

    Provided, of course, that the players have both the time and the inclination to do sufficient work in their own time to take advantage of that investment. It's usually those who can't be bothered (or who don't have the time :) ) to make that level of committment who are the first to complain about costs rising, but they still occupy a seat. Unfortunately, the banding situation is such that, in general, bands just can't afford to lose even the less committed players, as where do the replacements come from?
  20. Daisy Duck

    Daisy Duck Member

    The one thing that does make a difference is that brass banding is one of the only hobbies mentioned where the band actually has other income than just subs. Our greatest source of income in our band is not from subs but from the gigs we do.
    The fees from gigs go a substantial way towards funding the band, whereas a sporting hobby or evening class isn't something that has any other income.

    We have reasonable subs, lower than some bands in our area, higher than others.

    We have a fantastic conductor (who is paid) and we buy HUGE amounts of new music every year.

    We've recently applied for loads of grants to help fund a substantial investment in new instruments (watch this space...!) and we've also had grants to help fund the costs of our recent trips up to Harrogate. Band members have still had to contribute towards these though. We also took on extra gigs over the summer to help fund these trips.

    We're trying to encourage new members to join and if we had ridiculously high subs, that might put off some people. We also have reduced subs for students / pensioners.

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