Is there a Roundtable in banding ?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by midwalesman, Jan 11, 2004.


Should all contests be ruled by one ruling committee ?

  1. One committee of representatives of all the contests ?

  2. Keep the organisers apart and able to control their own little patch ?

  1. midwalesman

    midwalesman Member

    Since joining my present band and also looking into banding in greater detail I have become increasingly frustrated at the state of the contesting situation, both musical and organisational.

    I admit that organisers on the whole do a good job in giving bandsmen competitions which keep banding running every year.

    My concern however is to do with the overall running of band contests over the year. I have to say that I am confused, in that we have a Brass Band Federation which represents brass bands and bandsmen yet it does not control any of the contests in a year ? Although i assume they haver involvement in these contests, do they have the power to actually do anything at all when an issue needs changing? Ultimately don't the people who run the contest have the final say, since its their baby (so to speak!)
    Richard Franklin and Phillip Biggs at least listen to bands and their requests and subsequently do something about it! Now, why don't the people responsible for the other contests pay attention to their management ? Do the people behind the Nationals listen to what bands have to say. I believe they don't, as far as they are concerned there is nothing wrong so status quo remains!

    I have details that may surprise or confirm things to many of you out there.

    In 1980 the prize money earned by the winning band at London was £2000
    In 2003 the prize money earned by the winning band at London was £2000

    During this period these prices have changed :-

    In 1980 the Programme was priced at 60p
    In 2003 the programme was priced at £3.00
    In 1989 the Stalls cost £6.50
    In 1998 the stalls were £15.00 (Not sure what they cost last year)
    In 1994 the Loggia were £11
    In 2003 the Loggia were £25

    For as far as I can remember they have cut the prize money for 4th place altogether. It is staggering why the prize money for the contest has not increased since 1980!!

    Point 2:-

    We have a test piece a few years ago by Jan van der Roost which involved standing in various places on the stage in the Albert Hall. Yet that year bands were squashed on stage and could not spread out as much as they could to create a better sound??? The year before and after had plenty of space ? Is there logic there ? Are the lights on but no one is at home ?

    By no means do I mean to overly critiscise anybody, but surely there should be a committee with representatives from all the contest organisers and the Federation and talk about issues, instead of the nearly tribal effect of having seperate chiefs and no communication between them.

    So my point is, why isn't there a main committee that has power over all the contests? Why isn't there an increase in the prize money at the Nationals, especially when bands would be lucky to get as much as 30% of the money that they spend back even when they win!

    Every society needs a controlling body, look at sports and look at other musical ensembles around the world that take part in contest. I have and surprise, surprise they all have ONE committee ruling.

    What do you think ?
  2. lynchie

    lynchie Active Member

    I think the logistics of one body organising every contest in the country would be impossible. So often contests are scheduled for the same weekend in a number of different regions that a single body could not do a reasonable job of organising them all.

    However, on the issue of national prize money, I'm quite surprised the first prize hasn't increased in 23 years! Maybe the reduction in popularity due to the mine closures, combined with what I imagine would be the increased cost of using the albert hall for the weekend has made it difficult to budget for a greater prize.
  3. Roger Thorne

    Roger Thorne Active Member

    Its the same with all big sponsorships - take the tobacco company out of it and you won't have a lot left.

    I'm sure if WD & HO Wills were still sponsoring Brass Bands the prize money would be more than adequate.

  4. midwalesman

    midwalesman Member

    A composers response to his critics - Shoshtakovich

    Perhaps I've generalised too much on the objective of my idea. I agree that every contest in Britain would be difficult to organise. But perhaps for the Open, National, Masters, Area Competitions there should be a committee. For the other competitions there should perhaps be sub committee's. I find the lack of cohearence in banding baffling. All things need a head, financially, biologically etc. Banding seems to have 3 or four heads which control certain elements of the body, but each element does not have contact with the other parts. One hand moves one way and the other part works in an opposite way, the conclusion, nothing goes in any direction!

    As for the money and sponsorship...hmm...perhaps its time the playing field was levelled and instead of bands getting huge sponsorships competitions get the money. All bands benefit, the sponsors benefit, the financial aspect would be improved. Whilst everything remains tribal, we won't get anywhere!

    The problem in the long run is that bands at the lower end of the spectrum will soon not be able to go to the contests they wish to. 4th section bands die out, having a detremental effect on the higher sections and then extinction! It will be sad to see. Does a firm enter a venture knowing that it will lose money even if it wins ?? It doesn't. And as everyone points out, the contest is the centre piece of banding. However, Bands getting say £1000 for doing a concert will in eventuality, will give them a profit of £400 say, will come to the eventuality that its more profitable to do concerts and entertain an audience than be the meat for an audience bent on amateur adjudication and a contest which will cost them an arm and a leg.

    Here's a hypothetical question :-

    You have been invited to do the Proms concert, but it clashes with the Open. Your band is one of the top in the country and is likely to be in the prizes. The Proms people are sympathetic but say that if the band came and played they would give them £3000 for 1/2 work and guaranteed to be on television for more than 30 seconds plus accommodation. The band hold a meeting. Do they go to a concert which may cost them 2,500 and win 2000, losing at least 500 or do the more lucrative concert for a profit??

    or how about this one :-

    You are invited to go to perform at the local town hall for a big concert. Guaranteed 1,000 people and a healthy chunk of profit plus CD sales. But you have already thought about entering a competition down in Stroud ? The bus alone will cost three quarters of the winnings and the band cannot afford to stop over so they come straight bk ? What do they decide to do ?

    There are a number of other scenarios that are possible. The ridiculous amounts given at contests will bankrupt bands in the future. As with so many other aspects of banding it is time that bands took a step into the future and get a rise in their winnings. For the amount of work a player and band puts into a contest the money given is scandalous. A person working as hard in a job would surely expect more respect from their employers.

    I am so fed up at being under valued. If contesting is an entertainment for all concerned why is there no audience! Tactics should be updated for he 21st century, sadly we are stuck in a 19th century time warp in most of the contests (the Masters being the only example of a contest that listens to bands!). In most cases we are as professional in our approach as any orchestral player.

    In a hypothetical situation the Liverpool Phil and Halle are asked to perform at a concert in the Albert Hall playing the same pieces and there was a cash prize involved to the one the audience found the most pleasing. Would they except a cheque for £2000 for rehearsing everynight ? Would they want to except the fact that the money, even if they agreed, would be decided by personal opinion?

    To finish, One more point! If I were a lower section player again, probably soon if I get fired, then what would give me motivation to turn up to band every week. A trip to Skegness for the lower section finals ? Or as it was years ago, a chance to play where famous people have performed, i.e in the Royal Albert Hall, or even Symphony or Bridgewater halls ??
    A weekend where the lower sections and championship sections would surely be a better financial proposition not to mention that more lower section bandsmen/women would get a chance to see the Championship section, thus these people will enjoy top quality performances and the
    Championship section bands will get more people in the audience. the way it is now is totally and utterly absurd!
  5. Why does it really matter?

    I play Solo Cornet in a Brass Band, I suppose mainly for my own enjoyment - but my enjoyment comes from improvement, both myself and the band, and of course the music itself.

    I do have very high standards.

    Do contests matter at all - I think not.
  6. VenusTromster

    VenusTromster Member

    How can you say that contests don't matter????
    I would say that it is part of a banding tradition, and that as players we strive to reach the best contests!

    I feel that in a way that when there are so many contests being run independently, its hard to think that a band are getting a fair deal. However I also feel that if contests are goverened by one body then it also takes away the individuality that can make a contest. So I feel that in a way, bands in general are not getting a fair deal, but players see it as part of the tradition that comes with banding.

    There are people out there willing to listen, but it is a bit concerning when there is prize money that hasn't been altered for the past 23 years!!!

    I could go on for ages about Richard's comments but it would probably bore everyone, however I can't disagree with the fact that its a very interesting point to raise.
  7. Okiedokie of Oz

    Okiedokie of Oz Active Member

    Personally, I say if you win a cash prize, you are damn lucky!!

    May not help, but here's an insight to Australian (well, Queensland) brass band contests and management.

    We have a national ruling body, the National Band Council of australia (NBCA) made up from key members, plus delegates from state bodies. We also have our state managing bodies. In Queensland we have the Queensland Band Association, or QBA. I know very little about the inner workings of the NBCA, but I know the QBA can be divided up into management, Delegates and the MAB and DAB (Music and Drill advisory boards)

    I don't about other staes, but we also have here our Zone comittees, which onbly meet bi- or tri-monthly, mainly due to the distance between all consituents. Queensland (for the tourists it's the pointy shape onm the East Coast with the Great Barrier Reef running down the coast to about halfway down the Mainland's body) is the second largest state in Australia, but has more people and habitable areas then Western Australia, which is mainly desert.

    NBCA is charged with, as well as doing all the legal stuff for the nation, organising our National contests. Likewise our State Bodies do states, and zone bodies organise zones. We all have to follow the same rules, and most of the prizes are perpetual trophies, meaning they hardly ever change really. Some bands, Like Maryborough City and Nambour & Maroochy District go one step further and organise large "brass festivals" which is designed to be a mini contest in a less formal environment. However, QBA is making sure to be fair these contests are all using the same rules as everyone else.

    MAB selects test pieces, and Adjudicators for all contests, DAB selects drill adjudicators.

    Contests (not counting the brass festivals) are constantly moving, to try to allow all bands optimal chances of competing without having high transport fees. Darwin Brass, for example, can only compete in Nationals when it's in Queensland (Usually Brisbane) or sometimes in Adelaide.I believe ther last nationals I went to cost our band $20 000 in bus costs alone.

    Host cities for state titles usually form a sub-comittee charged with the organising and running of contests. These organising comittees have to find venues, liason with QBA to make sure we have all "standard arrangements" met, plus organise fundraising and sponsorships. The last part is usually the hard part, as some cities do not have big businesses willing to give money. QBA usually assists financially if, after budget, we enter the red, but thjey also want their shares of any profits sub-comittees make too. Sometimes there are ways around that, with the Gladstone Contest comittee in 2002 making a lovely donation backk to the band of $14 000, whichj I then blew on repairs, a new cornet and baritone in 2003.

    We don't usually have cash prizes, so if inflation doesn't change the prize, then we have no need to complain.
  8. andyp

    andyp Active Member

    I don't think contesting for financial gain is ever going to be viable, even for the top bands. There just isn't the audience prepared to sit through a contest to pay the money to give out huge prizes, they'd much rather go to a decent concert. Contesting for me is purely a means of improving the musical standard by competing against your peers. (And a chance to meet all your friends from other bands in the bar!).
    One thing I think should be changed is the bizarre local/national gradings situation, everyone should just have the one, at the moment you have times where a local 2nd section band plays in the Area 4th section. I realise this means that a band can get promoted by playing only local contests, but at least then bands would be in the correct section at the Area, which would still be the national finals qualifiying contest, so you couldn't get to London by playing only locally.
  9. I thought this already had been changed?
  10. JamesResurgam

    JamesResurgam Member

    Dear Richard,

    The answer is quite simple, EMPIRE BUILDERS.
    Nineteenth Century Logic applied in the Twenty First Century.
    Viewed from my ivory tower up here in the North East, I can hear the mutterings “Sour Grapes”. I would reply farmyard manure.
    One ray of hope is taking place in Scotland in the changes which have taken place in SBBA. They’ve dropped the “Amateur” for a start.
    To quote the English bard, “thus fall Caesar”. I say amen to that.

    An old fart!!!!
  11. midwalesman

    midwalesman Member

    Points taken so far.

    Yep, Empire builders needed here! As soon as possible I believe. However there are certain people out there who still revolve around the old ethos of distrust all those who aren't in your band. Suspicion and tribal bias will; always get in the way. A group of people may try and change something but the conservative side of things will always regroup and mutter words to the extent of, it's not broke so why fix. Its sad that most of these people think banding is a big entity like it used to be. Sadly it isn't at all, in schools wind bands are taking whats left of the traditional music types. I seem to remember a conference in the early 90's that wanted radical change ! What happened ? The traditional conservatives led a charge against them. Who was it again ? Was Howard Snell involved ? And others with sense too. From reading the articles involved I got the impression that one lot didn't like the fact that there was an organisation in its infancy that might steal their how tribal is that! :? Wasn't that the role of the BBFB ?

    I am totally bewilderd by the lack of bite that bands have in the running of competitions.

    In the next couple of years what would happen if the bands at the very top decided that they are tired of forking out money to go to contests when they can get more from a lucrative concert in one of the festivals around Britain ? Or a tour of Belgium, or a tour of America or Australia at the same time as a contest every year ? What would happen say if Faireys, Brighouse and Fodens did not turn up at the Masters or open for those reasons. More oppoertunity for the other bands true, but would it be as attended ? And if the organisers (this is hypothetical remember) said, right you're not doing this contest again. A band can turn around and say, SO WHAT, what can the organisers do ? Can't ban them bands from the Nationals or Open because they don't have any connection. In any scenario you can think this is the case. A band doesn't enter the area, so they don't go to London and they get relegated to the first section. So what, that band, who is in the second section could turn up at the Open and win it, what can the Nationals do about it ? Nothing.

    I have read the message from our Australian friend. There seems to be at least a solid structure of power in their country and its bigger than ours ? In a year where England claim dominance in Rugby Union I think its about time that like the rugby we learn something from our Southern Hemisphere friends, or al least those on mainland Europe. English Rugby Union at the beginning of the nineties was the best, winning grand slams etc. However beating southern hemisphere sides was rare or never. they learnt to take a professional model from others and encorporate them into the English Rugby structure, just as Wales, Scotland and Ireland are in the process of now. Even the Welsh, who live on past glories realised that the past was holding them back and elected to modernise the game. It's time for change or there won't be a future. Prize money, organisation structure, and in music most people live in the hope of having a second coming from an Eric Ball-type composer, they will have a long time to wait, and by then we will have so little left it will be pointless to carry on!

    We stick to the legends and ghosts of times long past whilst those who want the movement to progress are gradually reeled into the mediocrity of status quo that exists.
  12. Okiedokie of Oz

    Okiedokie of Oz Active Member

    Re: Points taken so far.

    We do aim to have a system that rivals yours, and supposedly we still look to our UK brothers to pioneer the way. I don't know if we have a "solid" power structure, because it does feel like it's the same peeple on these comittees over and over again.

    Part of the reason, however, we have such a fairly stable system if the geographical distance between bands. I constantly see posts here about "Hi, I live in whosiwopperville. Which band would suit me best?" We don't have that sort of choice here!

    Maybe that could be part of the problem. Limited resources spread too thin?

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