Do we undervalue our hobby?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Anno Draconis, Jul 29, 2006.


Would increasing the cost of being in a band improve members' commitment?

  1. Yes, players would commit more if they were paying more

    6 vote(s)
  2. No, increasing cost of membership will drive players away

    27 vote(s)
  1. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    Having read the "disagreements in public" thread (which has turned into a bit of a debate about commitment in banding) I have a theory which I'm going to put forward as to why people are less committed to banding than they used to be:

    Being a member of a brass band doesn't cost enough money.

    Let me explain. I play for Middleton Band. If I decided I'd had enough and wanted to do something else, these are some of my options locally:

    1) North Manchester Golf Club - seriously expensive annual membership plus purchase of clubs, silly trousers, etc. Assuming I was allowed in, of course.

    2) Esporta Gym - last time I checked, about £100 to join and about £48 a month membership, plus obviously you need to have all your own gym gear.

    3) Assheton Bowmen Archery Club - annual membership, insurance, etc. totalling about £130 (I think) plus purchase of bow (£100-400), arrows (£15-ish each and you need about 12) and accessories (add maybe £60-100)

    Plus there are riding clubs, the cricket club, a rugby club, etc. etc. All of these would cost you, I reckon, a minimum of £500 a year to pursue regardless of whether you turned up or not.

    Membership of Middleton Band, where I do my best to make as many rehearsals as possible - I think I've missed maybe 4 this year - costs me: £0

    The band has had a policy of not charging subs for a while and generates revenue from concerts and social/fundraising events. In many ways this is admirable, and I am not for one moment criticising Middleton or anyone there. However, I do feel sometimes that if it actually cost more money to join a band and remain a member, players would be less inclined to miss rehearsals or jobs for "frivolous" reasons. Bands would also be less obliged to take rubbish park/marching jobs for insultingly low fees from councils/churches , which I know is a problem for some bands and which de-motivates a lot of players.

    Here's a "for instance". Let's say your band, Bloggsthorpe Brass charges £2 a week subs, or £50 a year. Someone has to go round at each rehearsal with a tin collecting it, there are always a few who don't pay (especially when they've missed a few weeks rehearsals) and the band ends up with maybe £1000 in revenue. For the £2 a week players get a bandroom (lit and usually heated), an extensive music library, a uniform jacket/tie (sometimes two), usually an instrument, stands/mutes etc., plus tuition from a conductor who in many case will have professional brass playing or conducting experience at a high level. They also issue the band's property to new members without even taking their address or getting a receipt. From 2007 Bloggsthorpe Brass operate a new system; membership is £180 per year payable in advance, or by monthly direct debit of £15. Members who don't pay are suspended. Anyone who leaves can have their fee refunded when their jacket/instrument etc (for which they now sign a receipt) are returned. Exceptions would be made for those in full time education, getting jobseekers, over 65s, etc.

    Bloggsthorpe Brass now has a more or less guaranteed annual income of £4500 - in return for this the band guarantees to prioritise things that band members prefer doing, whether that be more contests, an annual band tour, social events, recording a CD. In the worst case, if paying members don't turn up for jobs, at least there is a bit more money in the kitty to pay dep expenses so that there aren't empty seats all the time.

    I'm of the opinion that if it was costing a bit more money, people would be less inclined to think "oh, it's only band, sod it, I won't bother tonight". I know there will be some who regard this as the thin end of the wedge, but when you sit back and consider how much it costs to run a brass band these days (if you don't know, ask your treasurer, I guarantee you will be horrified) the majority of banders in this country get their hobby very cheaply indeed, and I think that low cost is reflected in the low priority that banding sometimes gets in people's lives.

    What do you think? How much do you value your hobby? Should banding cost more to reflect the amazing value it offers? Or would that drive you away?
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2006
  2. Charmed

    Charmed Active Member

    Very interesting post. However, I have not been able to vote for either option in your poll because I don't think paying subs will make members commit more to this hobby and having reintroduced subs last year, I can't say we have lost players because of it.

    When we reintroduced subs we put it to the band that by paying £2 a week each this would generate about £2500 per year (realistically a bit less to compensate for occassional empty chairs, non-commited members etc.... and what is £2 a week to most? Less than one of their pints of beer they drink in the pub afterwards. In exchange we promised we would not accept low paying engagements week in week out through the summer but aim for more prestigious concerts etc. The problem with subs arise when week in week out players 'forget' to pay their subs until the amount really mounts up and this becomes a problem.

    I agree that as a hobby, playing in a brass band is financially a lot cheaper than most other hobbies as you have suggested. However, for some reason, some are of the mind set that they are giving up their time, using petrol to attend rehearsals and engagements, why should they have to pay? I say to them, "Get in the real world". What other hobby gives you the experience of being part of something as great as banding without the huge costs of a lot of other hobbies. How do band members feel the expenditure of bands are covered? Having been treasurer, promotions officer, secretary and currently band manager, the stress of finding finances to keep a band going (unless your lucky enough to have a sponsorship where this is all covered) is horrendous. AND it really infuriates me that players feel we ought to be kissing their feet becaue they have, for what afterall they have signed up to do, turned out for rehearsals and engagements!
  3. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    I have also heard this slightly peculiar argument. I do actually think that there is mileage in the idea of players providing "benefit-in-kind" services instead of paying subs or a membership fee. For instance, on of the major objection in my band to paying subs is that several members of the senior band give up a lot of their time to help out tutoring and joining in with the youth band, thereby in theory securing future players for the senior band. I actually think this is fair enough, and there are other things that people can contribute in lieu of a financial contribution.

    However, the sort of members who make this kind of contribution are generally the ones who are there week in, week out anyway. Like you I have no patience with the argument that goes "I use my petrol, provide my services and turn up, why should I pay as well?" - as I get older and crankier I become more of the opinion that we don't need this sort in banding.
  4. Charmed

    Charmed Active Member

    Ahhh, but, the people you have described above are usually the one's that have no objection when it is for the benefit of the band. ;)
  5. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    I feel that the type of hobby one gets involved in is important to consider ... whether it is a team or individual pursuit. For the latter, anyone can use the facilities at their own leisure and put as much effort into the hobby as they wish. Organisations that rely on team effort is a totally different concept. If they are there just for the enjoyment of that activity, then mistakes would be tolerated by anybody and only controlled and restarted from a point of break down. Am I right in suggesting that clubs that encourage teamsports tend to be cheaper for the members than that of clubs taylored for individuals? There is more pressure of responsibility given to an individual whose chooses a team orientated hobby as well. If the team wants to improve then certain expectations are required from each person. To attract people of the right quality, the costs of participating must be attractive as well. So then we see sponsorship and grants being applied for to keep costs down. That is something you don't see when someone only wants to become a member of the local gym. Just my thoughts on that issue.
  6. tpcornet12

    tpcornet12 Member

    Just a thought - If you charged players as a pricing strategy to increase commitment rather than to cover costs, what would the band do with the extra revenue?

    In an ideal world, the engagements would provide enough revenue to pay the conductor, buy music, hire a coach for competitions etc. Sometimes this is not the case (for varying reasons) and therefore it is necessary to ask for subs to meet the shortfall and keep a band liquid. That, in my opinion is the correct way to operate a non-profit making / charitable organisation. If bands started charging players to the point of it greatly increasing the band's turnover then you would say that the players are paying for a service and almost become a customer. I think that would have a terrible effect on morale and commitment.

    Also, with more money coming from players, less would be needed from engagements so would a band start taking on less jobs?? again - bad for morale.
  7. Bungle

    Bungle Member

    Maybe committee members should get reduced subs, as they use petrol to attend meetings. It would also be an incentive for people to join the commitee. I'm not talking a lot maybe £10.

    Our band charges £80 a year, but don't do as many jobs as other bands i.e. zero in August. Also band members and familly quite often get into events free of charge which is a benefit. A familly ticket for the 'War and Peace show' where we played was £45.
  8. ian perks

    ian perks Active Member

    Well at Gresley we pay £1 per week this goesd for a band draw and a prize pay out each week its like a 50/50 club.
    But as for undervaleuing our hobby then its down to waht each band sees best for that band.
  9. I think, to get more commitment, you have to bring it up to date and generate enthusiasm from younger people. The commitment comes from wanting to be there, for what you get out of it. Once you have that, maybe you can charge people without denting their enthusiasm or breaking up the communal spirit. Without that, you might be adding another spanner into the spokes of the movement.

    I think there has been a big shift, since the days when brass bands first boomed (mid-1800s to mid-1900s), when it was seen as an exciting part of the community. Want a good hobby? - forget the pub, join a band! What a great idea! ...But now it is one of hundreds of things people can do; and also, we are in an age when people, including children, are far less community-minded. I'm not sure what my answer is though.
  10. stevetrom

    stevetrom Well-Known Member

    We don't pay subs (we are lucky enough to have a club and our own band room so most of the day-to-day costs are covered) and neither do we pay any expenses (to members, we do offer somethiong to deps).

    Some of our players do a 50-60 mile round trip to get to band and if we then asked them for subs I think I can guess what the answer would be !
  11. persins

    persins Member

    A very interesting thread!!

    I immediately thought about that the subs issue would drive people away but then as I read through the post began to realise that the position is justified. I have played in bands that have paid subs and bands that don't and much prefer not paying.

    However, I would be prepared to pay if it meant that the band could then concentrate on more useful activities than continually looking for where the cash is coming from.

    I do not believe that having subs will mean the end of rubbish or poorly paid gigs as I believe that the performance schedule is a decision made by the committee regardless of whether subs are introduced.
  12. horn__blower

    horn__blower Member

    If talking just about getting commitment better, i think a lot depends on the man in the middle. no one wants to go somewhere where they are going to get shouted at, and be shown no respect. they would be prepared to do that for the sake of the many other benefits of enjoying their hobby, but if they then had to pay for that 'privilige', (knowing the money was paying conductors wages among other things), then i think they might just rather stay home
  13. Charmed

    Charmed Active Member

    I agree with what you are saying, however, not knowing your personal experiences as indicated above, why do you think Musical Directors shout?

    From my personal experience, our 'man in the middle' has never shouted at me. Why? Because I'm there 100%, barring illness and holidays, I practice my parts (even though I may still struggle on some), I respect the 'man in the middle' even though I may disagree with something he says and I accept that he has been put there for a reason. On the other hand, I have heard him shout at others, and even though it is perhaps not good for morale in the band, I do understand why. Erratic rehearsals, not playing their parts correctly, arguing back when it's pointed out that they're not playing their parts correctly, giggling, talking etc, etc....

    Don't get me wrong, this does not happen all the time, and on the occassions that it does, the 'man in the middle' is spoken to to discuss the issues, but the 'players' are also spoken to, mostly. But some, you just can't get through to! :biggrin: And I know I'm getting my violin out again ( :eek: ) but 20 years ago, the player(s) concerned would have been shown the door! Now though, this is not always possible because of lack of commited players.

    So, going back to your 'suggestion' perhaps players not only need to show commitment but also to show respect and then they may find the experience what it shoud be, an enjoyable one and perhaps may want to turn up more!!!
  14. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    This question comes at an interesting time for me: at Hadleigh Temple we each pay our band fund, currently £40 per year. As an SA band no travelling or other expenses are paid to band members (or conductor), but the coach for away engagements is covered by the band. It could be argued that, because of our situation as SA bandsmen, our commitment is slightly different, but I would say the majority honour their commitments, attending whenever possible, and sending apologies if unable to get there.

    I have received this week a questionaire from another group that I play with occasionally. They are looking to formalise things with this band, which draws people from quite a wide area. There is a request for commitment to a monthly Monday evening rehearsal, as well as a monthly Sunday afternoon, and the question of subs is raised. This has been avoided thus far, at least in part because fo the considerable travel costs incurred by some members. Although I can fully see the benefit of these developments, as it will certainly promote the introduction of new repertoire, quite important as the group has a couple of prestigious engagements coming up, I am faced with some difficult decisions.

    Over the past few years, I've been happy to help them out when I can, and always enjoy playing with them, usually just managing the occasional rehearsal before the engagement. I now have to decide whether (a) I am able to commit to the proposed schedule, and (b) if not, would they still be willing to call on me as "first reserve". As there is the possibility of a couple of visits to the continent and a cd recording in the offing, I must admit it is very tempting, but it's a question of whether that can be balanced with family concerns & existing commitments . . . Decisions, decisions . . . .
  15. HorniKaz

    HorniKaz Supporting Member

    I have always paid some sort of subscription to the bands I've played in. Whether its in the form of a simple you pay, you play or a bonus ball scheme where you have the chance to win £25 back. I wouldn't expect to not have to pay anything. The day to day running costs of a band can be very high, especially those who do not have their own bandroom & therefore need to pay £30 - £50 per week just for a rehearsal venue. Then there is the man, or woman, in the middle. Freebies are very few & far between, & I think that a "wage" is not unreasonable. Some of these guys put hours away from the normal practice nights into getting the best out of the band. I've known conductors to do a whole day on sectionals starting at 10am & going through till 6pm. Often unpaid!! Then there's contests!!! Entry fees, coach hire if its too far & risky to travel in individual transport & the music of course. Everything adds up & getting reasonably paid jobs is a very difficult business. Mention anything over £250 up here & thats your band struck off the list.

    So in a nutshell, I'm quite happy to pay subs because what I get out of banding, is priceless!! Anyway, moan over. Over to the next person!!
  16. HorniKaz

    HorniKaz Supporting Member

    PS Get people to pay their subs by standing order if its a larger amount! Dead easy :tongue:
  17. nook1938

    nook1938 Supporting Member

    I like Karen have always paid Sub's, but have not minded because we did not pay for coaches or any Hotels plus music / a nice warm Bandroom etc and I was on my own but I used to wonder about how some of the members managed, some of the players consisted of complete Familys, Man / Wife and maybe Two Children a nice little amount of money to find every whatever. I suppose that is how much you Value your Hobby. Keep playing you know you all like it.

  18. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    Some good points there; here are my thoughts on what you raise. Yes I think a band would initially take on less jobs - less crappy jobs. We've all got one or two awful jobs at our bands that come up every year and make you groan, but they have to be done because they bring in much needed funds. If bands were free to pick and choose, they could turn down the rubbish ones. Part of the problem now is that councils know that most bands are strapped for cash and have to take whatever scraps are offered. If a band is in a stronger financial position they don't have to accept insultingly low fees for an afternoon's marching or 3 hours in a sweltering park. Instead they can put their own money into maybe a foreign trip, or promoting and financing their own concerts (something I think bands should do much more), or running composers workshops - anything. The point is, the band is free to choose and even organise their own interesting and rewarding jobs instead of waiting for Oglethorpe Council to offer a paltry £125 for a wwekend in the park bandstand. I think that would increase morale.

    I kind of agree with you that by introducing or increasing membership fees players almost become "customers" of the band. I think that's a good thing. I totally disagree that it would have a terrible effect on morale and commitment - my point at the start (and I wish I'd thought to express it this way) was that if you pay nothing for something, you are more likely to think that that's what it's worth; nothing. If it's costing you £200 a year you're more likely to want your money's worth.

    All of this of course depends on having an committed and enthusiastic committee - there is no point having a load of money in the bank and doing nothing with it. But the financial model that most bands are built on now has no future, as far as I can see. It worked 50, even 20 years ago, but not now.

    As an aside to this, I've recently started to think that bands should have a "business plan" for 3-5 years of how they intend to survive and prosper. Does anyone actually do this?
  19. tpcornet12

    tpcornet12 Member

    Fair enough.... you've almost swayed my opinion. To elaborate on what I had said though; if a band member felt like a customer of the band, there's a chance of the attitude; I'm not paying £200 a year to do a job like that!! Maybe a bad example but you know what I mean?!

    I am probably being a little naive here but I would like to take financial concerns away from the band as much as possible. I prefer to not know what we get for a job or whether it's for charity. Just as I don't want to know what we pay the conductor. The treasurer makes sure we stay afloat and if we needed to supplement the income by way of subs I would be happy to. I know it wouldn't work if everyone felt like that but that's just me!!

    Another thought.... If come the AGM, the band declared a surplus in funds more than what would be considered Operating Profit, members of the committee would no doubt look at how to balance this... I'm sure the 1st idea would be to reduce subs!!

    But anyway, If my band increased subs JUST to affect my attitude I would leave I'm afraid.
  20. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    Actually a very good example. Possibly a function of higher subs or membership fees would be to make bands more democratic - potentially unpopular jobs would have to be put to the band before being accepted if there was no financial imperative. Again, I think this would increase morale because everyone feels involved in the decisions. In any case, there are examples of attitude like that in many bands that don't sharge subs anyway - the "I give up my time and petrol" brigade that Sue mentioned earlier.

    Possibly, and over the years the band could reach a kind of operating equilibrium where they charge just enough. What I'm saying is that £0, or the £2 or £3 a week charged by many bands isn't enough. Also the band could have a policy of not operating a big surplus, so at the end of the financial year there could be a band social, or some sort of capital expenditure like a new set of timps to use up any excess. There are always things a band can spend money on, it's getting the money in the first place that's difficult.

    I don't think you're alone in not really wanting to know the detail of your band's finances, it's pretty dull. That's part of the problem I'm talking about, I'm convinced many banders don't realise what tremendous value they get out of their band compared to how much it would cost to join a Golf Club, or take up Ballroom Dancing, or something. But if (God forbid) your treasurer came to rehearsal next week and said "I'm sorry folks, we simply can't afford to carry on" wouldn't you want to know why? I don't think many people realise how close to the wind a lot of bands sail.

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