How can Brass bands become more 'relevant'??

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by JohnnyEuph, Aug 20, 2006.

  1. JohnnyEuph

    JohnnyEuph Member

    I'm sure we've all noticed the type of audiences that brass bands attract. Not wanting to sound derogatory to any age group - but we seem to play to the elderley people of this world - ie, we entertain people's grandparents, a certain, ageing social demographic.

    Playing in a Brass Band is hardly considered a 'cool' thing to do nowadays, A perception that i'm sure we - as a movement and as individals are aware of.

    How can we, as a movement, shake off our cheesy 'silly men in silly coats' image and appeal to a younger, more trendy audience?

    Ideas that i've had are:

    More current popular repertoire?
    better advertising/marketing?
    'Fusion' projects with musicians from popular musical genres

    Please discuss.
  2. Matt Lawson

    Matt Lawson Member

    There will always be people who like brass bands because they are... brass bands.

    When you start to appeal to younger people, you lose the older generation.

    When the young people get bored of being appealed... you lose young and old.

    Long live traditional brass banding... I'd rather be a brass band and play in front of 50 people than be something which brass banding shouldn't be and play in front of 150.

    It's all down to making a name for yourself... bit like footy.

    Manchester United and Chelsea (despite hating them) are good at what they do and attract 50,000-70,000 to every performance.

    Bury are not very good at what they do and attract 1500 people to every performance.

    Brass banding in the lower levels is all about entertaining people, no matter how small the gathering.

    If there's 10 people at a concert, I know that those 10 people have come to watch a brass band play music... and that is good enough for me to make me proud of what i'm doing.
  3. I asked this question on another (non-musical) forum. They reckon the uncool image comes mostly from the media - films like Brassed Off and American Pie. Maybe what we need is a film with positive vibes.

    The other mentioned was that we play old music. The oldies might love the old classics, but young people want more recent stuff from the charts.
  4. JohnnyEuph

    JohnnyEuph Member

    Surely there is a flaw in this? For example there will always be those who will follow bands because they simply like bands - they are the same group that will most likely tune into LTTB every friday for half an hour - and that paltry half an hour per week is all that the BBC sees is fit for Brass bands nowadays. We are simply not seen as a relevant enough part of popular culture in this country to justify any more air time.

    I speak as someone involved in banding, and as such, banding is personally relevant to me, and I am young enough to see that to young people that are not involved in the movement, banding is simply not an interesting enough form of music to warrant discussion - and therefore, this is why broadcasters for example, have no time for it.
    re: your football analogy- I have resorted to a similar one from time to time to describe gradings, because that particular analogy explains what we do in relevant terms.

    The part of our movement that the public see most often is generally the performance/'in uniform' side of things. To someone not familiar with bands, we look a bit silly, and generally we don't play music that is relevant to most people.

    How can we change these perceptions. Please try to think outside the box
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2006
  5. Matt Lawson

    Matt Lawson Member

    Just to clear something up, I didn't mean to use Bury "not being very good" as a means of saying that lower section bands don't do what they do very well.

    I was using it more for the audience figures!
  6. brassintheed

    brassintheed Member

    There are many ways to attract audiences, many different types of music and entertainment. The argument for crowd pleasing music is a strong as that for serious contemporary repertoire, so I don't think there is one single way to go about bringing relevance back to Brass Bands.

    In my opinion though the first and most essential step is to make the mental switch from contests to concerts; From pleasing ourselves to pleasing our audiences.

    Contesting has a similar effect on musical development that incest has on genetic development. There are no new ideas coming in, everyone aspires to be the same (or an exaggerated and fine tuned version of everything which has gone before).

    Once we realise that music is about performances and exploring new ideas rather than self congratulation and retrospective musicality then we open ourselves up to the possibility of development. Once this happens, then anything is possible.

    On a purely selfish basis, I love contests and always have a fantastic time, but I honestly believe that the contest mentality of Brass Bands is what is causing the ever increasing detachment from the rest of the musical spectrum and ultimately removing any relevance that Brass Bands have in today's world.
  7. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    One way round it is to ask the public if they are interested. Someone to collate a survey which breaks down the sample population into age and demography. It can then focus on what they know, what they expect and what changes they would like to see.
  8. DublinBass

    DublinBass Supporting Member

    Well put Brassneck...our band actually did that after a concert last spring. We had a band member sort all the data and it gave us some verification of what we thought in many areas and a few things to look out for in areas we hadn't yet considered.
  9. tubafran

    tubafran Active Member

    OK take your average audience age of say 60 that means they were born at the end of the 2nd World War (baby boomers) so when they were teens that would be the early 60s - think Beatles, Rolling Stones then moving on to hippies and flower power. So your average brass band audience consist of Mods, Rockers, Hippies and supporters of free love-ins.

    Perhaps the audience grow to liking brass bands with age - for the last 60 years a lot of bands have been playing the same old music it just that where the audience now sit and listen before (50s and 60s) they'd have thrown stuff at you.
  10. ISBBBb2

    ISBBBb2 Member

    Its a dangerous thing to presume what young people want. I could name a dozen "young" people who are now no longer involved in any form of music making due to people using them as an excuse to try out their own 'radical' ideas!

    As a Salvationist, not only do we have to try to overcome the obstacle of making the brass band appealing to people who come to hear our concerts and festivals but we also have to make a brass band relevant to the newer more contemporary styles of worship. How can a brass band compete with the sounds created by electric guitars and keyboards? In truth it cant.As already stated in the thread we are at the end of the day a 'brass band!' So to compensate for this the brass band must remain a brass band but also try to incorporate a contemporary approach to go with the traditional form.
    The use of multimedia presentation, stage lighting hey even a dancer or two to bring music to life works wonderfuly if done well and if you like 'masks' the cloth cap image.

    Visual images can hold a persons attention far more than having to sit and simply watch a band blow its brains out for a few ripples of applause!
    Black Dyke used this to great affect at Bridgewater hall which I was fortunate to attend.
    For those of you who have seen Regent Hall Band's expressions concerts you will know what I mean!
    Give people a show and not just a concert!
  11. brassintheed

    brassintheed Member

    Absolutely right. people should go and see some of the Staff bands to see how concerts should be put on.

    Brass bands have a bit of a tendancy to think about what they want when they put on a concert, not what the audience wants.
    One that annoys me everytime is when bands are confronted with something different - or potentially cheesy - such as having to shout OY or something like this. They don't realise that 6 people sort of mumbling OY with a pained look on their faces is much more embarassing that the entire band standing up and shouting it with glee at the audience. Whatever you decide to do, do it to the best of your ability.

    The audience pay for their tickets, they are the one's we should be satisfying, not ourselves. Old music, new music, cheesy music, serious music... it all has a place, just think about who you are trying to please and do it well, put on the best show and you'll keep getting audiences.
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2006
  12. JohnnyEuph

    JohnnyEuph Member

    This is what I want to discuss please, as many ideas/ways of doing this as possible- I have already recognised the current audience we mainly appeal to. If we attract new audiences, then in turn we will attract new people to our movement, new players, supporters etc. HOW can we do this?
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 21, 2006
  13. johnflugel

    johnflugel Active Member

    Any Staff Band in particular? Is there something in particular they do that other bands can learn from in your view?

    I agree that bands have a tendency to be self indulgent. Often there is little in the way of the bands acknowledging the audience or any sort of interaction with them. I do fear band audiences are getting older.

    I think as a movement, bands can do more to encourage each other. I enjoy the competitive element and everyone likes getting one over their rivals but sometimes it's taken too far. If we cannot appreciate each others existence, how can we expect the general public to?
  14. ISBBBb2

    ISBBBb2 Member

    If my memory serves me correctly the Canadian Staff Band brought across the waters a piece penned by a certain William Himes entitles Jericho Re-Visited. You have to hear it to believe it. the piece is written with a narrator telling the story of Joshua and the battle of Jericho (found in all Bibles!)
    Its probably over 20 years old now I imagine but as it is so different to anything we hear its a really memorable piece and probably the one piece to stick out in peoples minds! Take Black Dykes rendition of the battle of Trafalgar for example!

    Just spoken to Jim Wrights daughter who is in no way an avid bando but does know what is and isn't entertaining! and I quote her:

    "Instead of trying to remould the experience of brass banding altogether, just add to it. Give it a new set of eye shadow instead of an entire facelift."
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2006
  15. tpcornet12

    tpcornet12 Member

    What a fantastic analogy!!:clap:
  16. JohnnyEuph

    JohnnyEuph Member

    While analogies are all well and good, they don't really serve to answer the question of making our method of music making more relevant to current audiences.

    I saw an ad on the TV the other day that showed the BBC orchestra accompanying British R&B artists, My immediate thought was 'Wow, that's different', on further reflection, as a project it was introducing both styles to new audiences whilst mutually futhering the reach and credibility of both, all whilst creating a whole new form of music (ie, reaching new audiences and doing something different). I feel that as a movement we are lacking in this policy of change.

    Are there any 'off the wall' ideas similar to this that may be made to work with Bands? Would Brass Band composers be interested in working on something like this?
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2006
  17. yorkyboy

    yorkyboy Member

    Anyone who went to the concert after the recent silkstone march contest featuring the Silkeborg Brass Band could have seen how far away British Brass bands are from entertaining the public. The place was packed with people enjoying the concert and getting involved in the music
  18. dyl

    dyl Active Member

    Errrm. Acid Brass?
  19. JohnnyEuph

    JohnnyEuph Member

    Ok yorkyboy. . what did they do that was different, was the audience full of bando's, did they have a theme or an obvious target audience with their programme choice ?

    Are there any different Ideas ( we've all heard/heard of Acid brass, vgood - faireys were very brave with that), Evidently a bit braver than most bands if you take a minute to skim through the world of brass catalogue.
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2006
  20. yorkyboy

    yorkyboy Member

    The audience was full of brass band people as well as friends and family and generally people who had come to the contest for a day out - so possibly a slightly biased audience.

    The band were outstanding musically - which is a help , but they performed in a very different manner.

    For starters there was none of this nonesense of start with a march followed by and overture, then the principal cornetist must play a solo followed by an get the idea.

    The music they performed was a lot of original compositions written by there co conducter ,who also played the flugel in the band, mixed with some tunes that we are all familiar with such as share my yoke and toccatta. The two conducters swapped between playing the flugel and waving the stick.

    There was a bit of improvisation in a few of the pieces, some singing and also some physical movement in one of the items.

    The key things were they were convincing, they knew what they were about and they did everything with 110% effort and it was clearly evident that they all were enjoying what they were doing.

    How often can we honestly say that we see british brass bands on stage enjoying what they are doing. They all were smiling and it makes such a difference to the audience.

    The audience that night were interacting in the music, clapping , cheering and it is something I have not seen in a brass band concert before.