Dwindling Audiences

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by brassneck, Dec 4, 2004.

  1. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    I have just read 4barsrest's article about the lack of appreciable audiences for the major brass band contests claiming that the cause is due to repeated performances of test-pieces being no longer appropriate or relevant. Is this really what is to blame for crowd apathy? The major contests had always attracted droves of bandspeople to hear challengers for the top titles playing the same work against each other so a comparison can be made. There weren't many complaints then, so why now?
    So, what changes have occurred since these times? I can think of a couple ... much increased accomodation/travel costs and a change in banding social culture that makes these venues an attraction for meeting up with friends and drinks rather than performing and then listening to the competition. (This is not to say that everybody goes straight to the bar). Remember, contests have largely existed for the banding community and if the general public attended too, even better. Why this social change has happened is something I cannot answer but it has! The test-piece choice and contesting format is not going to please everbody and, in my opinion, cannot be blamed for this situation, sad as it has become. What are your reasons for the decline?
  2. lewis

    lewis Member

    I can't remember the last brass band contest I was at where I heard a conversation of "did you hear ..... ?". I think that it has just got to a stage now where we all spend so much time rehearsing these test pieces that come the day of the contest the last thing we want to do is here another band play that piece. Added to what you said about the social side of banding then audiences are going to sufer.
  3. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Something else that has changed recently is that competing band players are now starting to get charged for entry tickets at contests, e.g., this year's Harrogate Lower Section Finals (.. tell me if I'm wrong). If this scenario spreads, even less will want to listen!

    p.s., 25 yrs ago at the Albert Hall the test-piece was Volcano (Robert Simpson). 4barsrest used this date when describing a packed audience for Dyke's winning performance.
  4. lewis

    lewis Member

    Not just for the lower section finals it's the same at the albert hall, and has been for a while, that bandsmen have to buy their own tickets to watch other bands. At least at the areas your ticket gets you in to watch, although that is only your own section now (used to get you into all sections at Stevenage) and it also costs the band a fiver extra when registering for these tickets now also!
  5. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    So, possibly can we maybe see that as part of the problem?
  6. lewis

    lewis Member

    Definitely! I know that if I have the ticket in my pocket and hear that a good band is about to go on then it might just pull me away from the bar but if you have to go and buy a ticket first it just adds another reason not to bother. Having read the article on 4bars as well now, i think they are swaying more towards the question of whether a single test piece is a good idea anymore. On this in would certainly make it more appealing to go and watch a band that isn't playing the same piece as your own band.
  7. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Then again, after the Open, their team questioned whether the format of three tests was correct as well. I don't think they have come up with any suitable alternative to replace what they claim to be the fault. I personally don't have any dispute with the single test format. At least we don't have the concern deciding whether one piece is harder to play than another, therefore becoming more point-worthy!

    The adjudication process, which has been discussed before, may have some responsibility too! Maybe bandspeople don't care about other performances as much if results are seen to be haphazard. If there is a major discrepancy between what the audience and judges think on a regular basis, enthusiasm would wain.
  8. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    (I've been Googling again looking at any references for trend changes to audience figures in the Classical World and it looks like they are suffering globally too! An article from The Scotsman in 2003 is a fair summary of what I've covered so far ... )

  9. BoBo

    BoBo Member

    Imagine life with no music of any kind for weeks on end, then suddenly one day you hear a band - how fantastic would that sound? Well I reckon that's pretty much where we were not so long ago. Now we are in the opposite situation where it is difficult to get away from music, and some of it bad music at that.

    Another modern characteristic of bands, generally speaking, is that they are not as local as they used to be, I imagine villagers were proud of their bands and supported them in the same way as their football teams.

    My concern about audiences is not so much whether the bandsman go into the hall to listen but whether the general public do. So given that the general public can turn on high quality music at the flick of a switch and that relatively few of them ever listen to their local band, is it any surprise audiences have dwindled?
  10. lewis

    lewis Member

    Digital music has affected orchestras as well, look at any concert done today. The barbican hardly ever opens the balcony now, let alone it being full. What I don't understand is that brass bands, orchestras and pop always had good audiences and only pop still does? I know it's more for the younger people but what about all the older people, do they do to blue gigs too?
  11. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    I'm sorry, Bob I cannot imagine a life - any life - without music. Even if there were only one living organism (I hope I spelled that correctly I once said it incorrectly but that's another story) there will still be rhythm.

    Although I wouldn't want to go back to the days when music was scarce, I think there is too much of a disposable quality in much of today's music. Like the rest of our society, music has become a throw-away commodity. Popular music is deliberately written so it only has a short 'shelf-life'. This helps to condition the 'consumer' to like music that is a certain length (about 3 mins) and the types of popular music that are blasted out of radios and other devices are simple (if not simplistic), repetitive and not at all thought provoking.

    The consumer wants instant gratification, doesn't want to have to put energy into analysis or thought and wants everthing delivered in a nice clean package for as little financial cost as possible.

    Listening to bands requires thought, analysis and delayed gratification as well as an ability to listen to a piece several times without boredom setting in. I'm afraid that the last several generations of children are simply not capable of it. I have seen a gradual (though latterly a much steeper) decline in the ability of homo sapiens to handle complex and exploratory thought. Rather than homo superior, we seem to be producing generations of homo (CBA) inferior. Anything that involves putting yourself out is too much trouble. If the answer isn't there in front of you there's no point in making the effort to find out what the answer is. Someone else will do it.

    These comments apply to the current generation of children. But they also apply to their parents and grand parents.

    An example. Last week I attempted to get a class of y8 (12-13) to listen to a piece of music (a set of variations) that was 12 minutes long. This was a bright class, mostly from 'middle-class' backgrounds. Within 4 minutes, half of them had gone glassy-eyed. By the 10th variation (10 minutes) 95% were comatose. Only 2 of them actually survived the course. I had 3 letters from parents and a note in a homework diary complaining that I was expecting too much of their children to listen to such a long piece of music. We don't do symphonies any more anyway. Probably just as well.

    10 years ago, that class would mostly have lapped the music up, asked for more and wanted to know how the composer thought up all his ideas and then based a composition around the same theme. This year, no chance.

    Banding audiences are no different. They are the product of a system that discourages failure, prevents exploration and derides analytical thought.

    Can't you tell I'm feeling negative tonight.

    I went to junior band tonight. The junior band's conductor was helping the children (very ably, I thought) to get over some technique problems. Buqqer me if a parent didn't come up to me at the interval to complain that she thought he was pushing the children too hard!!! I thought he wasn't pushing them enough! Many parents are so wishy-washy these days. I don't want flaming for this, but I really can't be doing with vapourish girls (or boys) and their weak and over-indulgent parents. For God's sake, whatever happened to "Give it a go. If it goes pear-shaped so what - at least you gave it a good try!" IMHO if you never make a mistake you might as well be dead because you'll never learn anything new. If you're going to make a mistake make it a ****** good one!
  12. lewis

    lewis Member

    This should probably be a new thread altogether but I find it amazing you managed to get through a 12 minute piece with your kids just falling asleep amazing, come and try that in London. I do a lot of music workshops in schools and I find it amazing firstly the lack of respect kids have now-a-days (bear in ind I only left school 6 years ago!) and the music they are prepared to listen. If it isn't Eminem (is that how you spell it?) then they are not interested and just mess around. I think it does say alot about our audiences today and sadly says even more about the audiences of the future!
  13. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    The worst thing to me is that it actually says a lot about their parents and grandparents. What is wrong with teaching them a bit of self-discipline? They are very quick to go on about their rights.

    The problem with your rights is that they will inevitably infringe someone elses. You will also forget that other people do actually have rights. I have the right to be able to teach my classes without suffering abuse, for example.

    This is completely off topic! Hobby horse reserved for another thread....

    Who gives a **** about the audiences anyway? ;)
  14. lewis

    lewis Member

    Every kid knows their rights hey?? Bring back the cane!
  15. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

  16. lewis

    lewis Member

    Thanks brassneck,

    I've skimmed it, it looks interesting, I'll read it properly tomorrow. I had another horrible day in another horrible school yesterday and probably one glass of wine too many as well. bring on match of the day!!!
  17. euphfanhan

    euphfanhan Member

    I think you're being a tad harsh on the younger generation. I, for example have no objection to orchestras, but make me listen to one for 12 minutes in front of friends...well I'd probably shove the CD somewhere rather unpleasant.

    And it's not just children who are narrow minded, have you ever tried making many classical music appreciaters listen to traditional brass band music? It is amazing how snobby they can be, like you say, the music played by bands requires thought and feeling, so why is it so many classical players look down their noses at those in bands? After telling my music teacher I played piano and euphonium, she just stared at me blankly before enquiring as to what a euphonium was. When I told her it was a brass instrument she sighed and said 'thank god you play the piano'. I am yet to force her to allow me to play euph for my GCSE recording, apparantly 'the examiners wouldn't like it...'

    Aswell as that, there are many younger people who detest pop music. I am 15, think Blue and Westlife deserve to be shot, and have what is quite frankly considered as an unhealthy obsession with Jamie Cullum and brass music. I may not be exactly a world class player but I am trying, as are many of the members of the youth bands I play for. Children have the excuse of not being well educated, but what have the adults to say?
  18. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    I couldn't find anything relevant to my topic on this thread though, even though there are loads of theories and arguments of socio-cultural shifts in the 'playground' of youth and how these have affected change in musical appreciation.

    What I was really looking for was evidence of public support travelling to contests for bands and it's subsequent decline. Years ago that did happen and on various band sites, many illuminating stories confirm this (one great example can be found here). I am looking for the 'break-point' that signalled loss of public or work-related interest in band contesting. Was it just after the 2nd World War and the growth of the media industry? The decline of industrialisation in the 20thC has mirrored the fall in numbers of bands but it is only in the last decade or so we have experienced the number of contests seriously dropping (and bands attending them). In the 30 years I have been in and out of banding, I can't remember much support outside family, former band players and a few friends going away to contests.
  19. lewis

    lewis Member

    I won't argue with that. The most of my musical training has been done in the orchestral scene and you won't believe how many rolled eyes or sighs I've received when I enthuse about brass bands, but my argument was that kids won't listen to any music that isn't cool!!! You are obviously in a minority and I wish you all the luck in the world but unfortunately there are not many children about that think blue aren't cool. We have to generlise a bit on here but we'll never put down an up and coming star.
  20. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    Euphfanhan. My opinions are based on my personal experiences with children. A school of 1632 children can only field, at the moment about 100 musicians (mostly rock guitarists and keyboardists). When I was a pupil, my school of about 600 produced a brass band of 200, a training band, an orchestra of about 100 and a very large male-voice choir (no girls in my school).

    That school is now much larger, but has nothing like the musicians it used to. Partly because my music teacher retired and his replacement wasn't interested.

    In my day, parents supported the teachers in getting their children involved in as many activities that were run by the school as possible. These days some parents can't be bothered even turning up for parents evening. Music is very low on peoples priorities. They want their children to be scientists, mathematicians or media persons, but they can do that without music. My school panders to the latest initiatives and it wasn't helped by the previous Head of Department who was both a technophobe and a musical snob.

    Brassneck - as to the decline of the bands and contests. You need look no further than the Thatcher years. Pit closures, various businesses shut down and the creation of the 'culture of the self' with all its corollary effects have destroyed the fabric from which these activities arose. Many mining communities all but disappeared and people are so wrapped up in trying to get their lives back into some kind of order that banding is pretty low down on their priorities.