Problems facing bands at the present time

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by DaveR, Feb 21, 2015.

  1. DaveR

    DaveR Active Member

    I'm about to start writing a thesis for a masters degree at the Open University on the issues that brass bands are facing in the current day and age; researching how bands survived similar problems in the past, and whether those 'tactics' might still be applicable / adaptable in the current time.

    I wondered what you think is the single biggest issue that your band is currently facing that could potentially influence the future survival of your band?

    Here are a few ideas to start you off, but by no means is this an exhaustive list!

    Lack of players
    Cost / availability of rehearsal venues
    Internal politics

    I'll be fascinated to hear what ideas you have!

    Last edited: Feb 21, 2015
  2. Bbmad

    Bbmad Active Member

    1. disconnnect between the band and the audience. Difficulty to appeal to a 'younger' audience without compromising musical integrity
  3. I'd say, the relevance Of the brass band in the modern day. There is a fear that brass bands will only exist to entertain the players that perform in them.
  4. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    Lack of incoming players, particularly those in their late teens and early twenties.

    I believe that social change is responsible for the drop off in both of those youth age groups. The late teens have many easy entertainment options whilst learning to play is: hard, time consuming and (more so now than in the past) expensive. Some in their early twenties might have learnt to play as youths but gave up on going to University (unless they did Music) and probably didn't return to their original community (and so possibly their old band) after graduation. Those that might consider playing again have obsticles in their path such as: nowhere to practice, no transport, little spare cash (to buy an instrument or even for some tuition), finding a suitable band, and un-polished skills.
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2015
  5. Bbmad

    Bbmad Active Member

    In other words, that is EXACTLY what Bbmad thinks.
  6. Pauli Walnuts

    Pauli Walnuts Moderator Staff Member

    The over emphasis on contesting & its associated rules around registration - which imho feeds into the points made already. The concert going non playing public don't care if everyone on stage is a registered member, they just want to be entertained.
    (non banding examples: Joe Loss used to put out 2 or 3 bands on the same night under the Joe Loss name, the Glenn Miller Band is still going strong years after he died and the rock band Yes did sell-out tours over the last couple of years performing 3 albums in their entirety where neither the singer nor keyboard player were members when the albums were recorded).

    You might want to look at the brass band scene in the US - I play occasionally with Mission Peak Brass Band near San Jose - they can't really contest due to the geographical issues of simply getting to the NABBA events yet their concerts are of an extremely high standard and often include works you would normally only hear at a contest. There is also no snobbery from the Orchestral world & many of their players come from the orchestral world - indeed, their excellent MD is a tuba player with the pro Silicon Valley Orchestra. Much to learn here. (you can also have a chat with Nigel Horne who is heavily involved in the band scene now in the US).
  7. Basstiger

    Basstiger Member

    People's work/life balance. Often trying to fit rehearsals and concerts never mind contests into your life. Some bands it seems make unrealistic demands on their players, and it can result in loss of talent etc. I live in rural Dorset and have a job that means I work until 7pm weekday evenings. Luckily my band are sympathetic and are quite happy to have me for half a rehearsal rather than not at all. There are not many contesting bands (mine doesn't) who would be so accommodating, certainly where I was before wouldn't...
  8. iancwilx

    iancwilx Well-Known Member

    Personally I think that is very true. In the main, I think a lot of brass band players consider audiences an irrelevance.
    The enjoyment seems to be in participating in rehearsals and the social side of banding and in some cases the competitive element of contesting. Entertaining an audience in public performance is often viewed as a boring chore I'm afraid. I suspect a majority of banders don't even listen to other bands at contests and certainly wouldn't turn out to hear another band in concert.
    I think it's a case of viewing each band as a separate entity with different aspects to their enjoyment of playing their instruments and not lumping them all together as a "Movement" and trying to ascertain which way the"Movement" is going or whether the "Movement" is flourishing or diminishing. Bands are as different as individuals, with diverse tastes in music and differing ways of gaining satisfaction from their music making.
    To try view bands as members of a niche club all subject to the same rules and to attempt to discern how banding trends are evolving could be a long and frustratingly fruitless task.
    Just as I see it of course.

    ~ Mr Wilx
  9. hobgoblin

    hobgoblin Member

    I share your concern with loss of talent. For some years now my playing has been on the slide, but I've resigned myself to steadily diminishing talent and just try to enjoy myself.
  10. iancwilx

    iancwilx Well-Known Member

    Me too, but it is frustrating when however hard you try you can't do things that you did a few years ago, even if you are doing all the right things in practice, and the more you try the worse you get. I know that I have to accept it, but I certainly don't like it !
    "Tempus Fugit"........Well......Something like that ;)

    ~ Mr Wilx
  11. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    Though it would be number two rather than number one on my list I very much agree with Basstiger. IMHO the majority of bands do make overly large demands on their players and hence loose some or don't get them in the first place.

    I'm no great loss to my local bands but when lower section contesting bands advertise their vacancies they hold no interest for me, I'd find it a burden to do all those fund raising concerts and loads of rehearsals just to (try to) show other bandsmen in some contest - which is often far from home too - that my band was the best. Others, I know from reading in this forum, love that way of life but I suggest that it isn't attractive to everyone, a large percentage of musicians outside of brass bands are very happy to just play.

    My own choice is to play for fun, enjoy rehearsals for the music made there and the company of other players, and to enjoy a small number of concerts (per year) as social events which support the band and local communities. Maybe that's not really a bandsman's way of life but I like it that way and find it sustainable .....
  12. iancwilx

    iancwilx Well-Known Member

    That sounds about right, although I used to enjoy the rivalry of contests and the preparation which I think helps to improve every players musicality and technique. Through being in the NYBBGB I had many friends who played in different bands all over the country and our friendly rivalry was fierce.
    As a young bandsman in the 1960s I'm afraid I found concerts a bit of a bore. Having said that, I used to love playing in massed band concerts at Huddersfield Town Hall. Now they were real prestige gigs.

    ~ Mr Wilx
  13. Basstiger

    Basstiger Member

    2nd Tenor that sums it up for me too. I've never enjoyed the contesting side of it and anyway have always been in bands in the lower sections. Nowadays I play purely for the pleasure of it.....and for payment in cream teas at the summer fetes!
  14. stevetrom

    stevetrom Well-Known Member

    Not enough bands train their own youngsters, if the only place to learn to play is at school there seems to be a tendancy to treat playing as another school activity which is left behind when they leave school.
  15. owain_s

    owain_s Member

    A very good point - plus, as has already been mentioned, those opportunities are in any case not as widely-available as they once were.

    On the other hand, perhaps banding (or some bands) did come to be rather dependent on youngsters receiving tuition via music services, rather than starting them off from scratch? This can't always have been the case, the vast number of bands which existed in the 1920s didn't come about via local authority tuition...
  16. stevetrom

    stevetrom Well-Known Member

    another reason could be the decline of local Salvation Army bands and Junior bands, that's where I started and I'm sure there are many more ex SA players around.
  17. Pauli Walnuts

    Pauli Walnuts Moderator Staff Member

    Not so sure about the music services - certainly, where I grew up in the South East in the late 60's/70's, there were a lot of youth bands but in the main, they were run by brass band enthusiasts, who happened to be teachers, and not the music service itself. Back then, the music service was dominated by orchestral instruments as well. Today, that has all changed and kids have a much wider choice of school musical activities such as Samba bands, steel drums, guitar, electronic keyboards.
  18. Cornet Nev.

    Cornet Nev. Member

    One thing not mentioned is the OP's last point, repertoire!
    There still isn't very much available in arrangements for band of the more recent popular music that might appeal to the younger players. Or if there is and I am wrong, then maybe a reluctance from MD's and other band members to play them.
    Granted, some modern stuff may well be very easy to play and be looked upon as below the standard we want to play too, however if it has an appeal to both younger maybe's or wannabee's, and an audience it should be played. Music shouldn't just be about showing off how good a player you are! In fact if a good player, you should still be able to give some feeling and dedication to even the simplest of pieces, modern pop or not.
  19. Basstiger

    Basstiger Member

    With regards to repertoire some brass band music is very exclusive and definitely not to everyone's taste. Whilst on that subject the whole idea of contesting may not appeal to all, who wants to spend weeks and weeks playing the same piece over and over?
    Also is it not the case that brass bands are perceived in some circles as the poor relation, indeed some instruments are probably not taught as "there will be nowhere to play it" (tenor horn, baritone, Euph, sop, flugel etc) and as has been said before bands are not bringing through their own players so much now for a variety of reasons least of all being the need for anyone having responsibility for children to be CRB checked.
  20. Tom-King

    Tom-King Well-Known Member

    There's tonnes of popular music (and film music) arranged for band and yes it does appeal to younger players...
    ... but only as long as it remains "recent".

    Then all too quickly becomes old hat - the costs for bands to keep up with all the latest "popular music" arrangements is prohibitive.

    The other problem is that most popular music these days is mind numbingly repetitive - Baernarts and co don't make this stuff repetitive and there's only so much that can be done to spice it up.
    That's tolerable (if rather unfulfilling) for a piece or two, then it just gets plain dull and becomes a turn-off.

    Very easy is tolerable, below standard is fine (that can be balanced with stuff that's up to the standard we want to play)...

    I'm not convinced that the average brass band audience is interested in it (and I don't mean young people who happen to be in parks on sundays - I mean people who go out of their way to listen to the bands).
    I'm not sure hearing a few pop tunes played by a band is going to attract more young people to start playing.

    Absolutely agree that the best players will play everything well/correctly.