Too many bands, not enough players

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Mofman, Apr 18, 2012.

  1. Mofman

    Mofman Member

    This has probably been discussed before, but looking through and advertising in the Recruitment section I can't help thinking that there are too many bands and not enough players.

    If only say, one or two bands local to each other folded, then the players from those bands could fill up the other local bands.

    i.e. Area One has 4 bands, none of which are full, if bands A + B fold the players could join bands C + D or form band E. Leaving all bands full.
  2. Accidental

    Accidental Supporting Member

    Its a good idea on paper, but chances are 4 bands fairly close together have different standards, different levels of commitment and different objectives, and all have a t least some players who have absolutely no interest in playing in a different set-up.
    I've only ever seen it work when 2 bands of very similar standard and outlook have merged after a long period of helping each other out all the time anyway.
  3. DRW

    DRW New Member

    Sounds logical, but I would imagine for many bands sentimentality would be a significant factor. Many people are in bands that have a history of 100+ years with lengthy family or other emotional attachments. Giving up on such a band would truly be like losing a family for these people as well as a loss to the heritage of the locality.
    These sentimentalities may be the key reason some of these old bands survive. My perception is that when new bands are formed (or re-invented) there is less chance of survival than those that have been long-established or where the identity is clearly associated with the original band.

    If my band folded and joined with another band, I don't think I would feel as attached to the new band therefore my support of the brass banding movement would diminish. Therefore even though the action would have been logical and done with good intent, it could mean that the movement suffers. That may just be me though.

    Illogical I know, but I suggest it's a reality.
  4. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    In Yorkshire we've seen a good few bands fold in recent years. Pennine, Sellers, Yorkshire co-op to name but three.

    Yet still loads of people are short of players - especially cornet players.

    So the logic doesn't necessarily hold true that fewer bands = more full chairs at remaining bands.

    The problem is that when people have developed a bond of loyalty towards a band, and that band doesn't exist any more, then some of the love of the hobby goes with it. A lot of players don't move on to other bands. They just stop playing.

    I know I didn't stop playing after in the aftermath of the one of these foldings i was involved with (at a distance) but - no disrespect to any subsequent band intended - I know I've never quite felt the same affinity or fondness I felt for Co-op at any band since. It's been close a few times, and I'm really enjoying playing where I am now.... but it's never quite the same....
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2012
  5. GordonH

    GordonH Member

    I know two cases where two bands very close to each other merged, but they still advertise vacancies.

    (By the way my grandfather was from Marple - his name is on the war memorial).
  6. whitewitch

    whitewitch Member

    it seems to me that the same type of vacancies keep appearing. bass, cornet and percussion.

    therefore 2 bands might merge, and have 4 euphs etc but still no Bflat or tuned percussion.

    i think that it is the type of players, that is the problem
  7. Sonorous

    Sonorous New Member

    You're absolutely right Andi. I don't know the specific answer but I think there are several factors that combine in varying relevance:

    1) Many people involved in banding are involved for the sport rather than the music. Not that this is a bad thing, (each to what makes them happiest) but it's often about the specific team. And if that band folded they may not be interested in moving on somewhere else. Also many of these people will hang on to the dying embers of a band as long as humanly possible (and this is not a criticism, it's actually to be commended)

    2) When a band folds, you will find a percentage of players just don't bother going elsewhere due to the simple aggrevation that tends to lead up to a band folding - it can put a portion of players off.

    3) There are many players who get involved in brass bands for a short period of time, then go off to do other things. Eg students. This was one of the things that gave Pennine it's success, and ultimately it's short life. Now this may be unsolveable, but personally I think that part of the problem is that we are perceived to be backward looking and averse to change and diversification as opposed to many other more 'fashionable' styles of music. After all, being paid to be part of a band is quietly frowned upon (never understood this.. surely we should embrace the possibility that our style of music contains professional players at the top level? And that bands will strive to perform at the highest level, and raise funds to ensure this.... Our attitude against professional players is purely driven by the contest mentality and has absolutely nothing to do with progessive music)
    Think about this point: How many times do you see a player progress from another field into brass banding? it's almost always the other way round...

    4) There are a chunk of players who simply follow a conductor (or maybe even another player). So a band will often go from being full, to being half empty within a couple of months as the cycle goes round.

    Many other complex factors, but these spring to mind from the off. So in my mind, reducing the number of bands doesn't solve the issue at all, it just means there's less bands with exactly the same problems.

    Personally I think it might help if we lose the rigid obsession with being 'amateurs', and our disaproval of professionals in the business. eg pushing a couple of bands to go out and become true professional organisations would start to lead the way with musical diversity, public and critical acceptance, attracting players/composers into the fold, creating revenue etc. We should also remove the fact that contests are the be all and end all of brass bands, even at the very highest level. Use contests for what they were intended (and what they're good at)... an inspiration to improve... but make it about the music, the concerts, the audiences above all else. We might find that we stop this ever decreasing circle.

    it's never going to be an overnight solution whichever way you look at it.
  8. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    An excellent post, but I need to comment on one historical point.

    Our contests were originally conceived as a means to make promoters money - paying audiences of tens of thousands for some contests in the early days made the concept look financially attractive. But then they became an end in themselves, pretty much run by the bands for the bands. The audiences dropped off as contests started only looking inwards (cause or effect?), and here we are today.

    It's very striking that almost all of the contests in the 19th century were held in fields, attached to competitive flower shows or agricultural shows. Prize money attracted the bands, and the contest was very clearly brought to the public as something that they might be interested in at an event that they were already attending - something that it would in fact be very hard to ignore. Now, what do we do? We shut ourselves away in halls, almost frightened of the idea that members of the public could take an interest in our competitions. The contrast is extremely vivid.
  9. Sonorous

    Sonorous New Member

    Thanks Dave.

    I'll amend that point to let's use contests positively as they are used in other musical organisaions. As an inspiration to improve up to a level, but remove the constraints from the higher end..
  10. tat

    tat Member

    Are you proposing Marple Band should fold to fill the other bands vacancies in your area???
  11. DRW

    DRW New Member

    I'm not convinced on the benefit of introducing a culture of professionals within banding and believe it could encourage fewer players.

    1. Presumably this evolution would start with the bands which had players most worthy of payment, I.e. Black Dyke, Grimethorpe etc. My perception is that these bands are already successful and unlikely to fold. They are also already regarded highly by the critics / public are they not?

    2. At the lower levels, it is unlikely that it will be possible to pay all players. Therefore, in having some professionals, it wouldn't be long before there becomes an unfair position between the good amateurs and paid professionals resulting in disgruntled ex-members.

    3. I like the fact that brass bands are accessible in a way that few other musical ensembles are. I like the fact that bands train beginners from scratch and most don't have specific entry criteria. I like the fact that we often provide the first musical steps and give an opportunity to anyone that is keen. I like the fact that there are bands that are not so good that they are intimidating to the prospective new musician. These are things that brass bands are known for above the other organisations that some seem to strive to be like. I can see these qualities gradually disappearing with the introduction of a professional culture.

    4. If my band decided that a professional player should be employed I would question what benefit that adds to the band and whether it's appropriate use of my subscriptions or band funds.

    5. Most brass band players I know have successful careers in fields outside of music. We are proud to be amateur musicians and pleased that there is a medium in which we can perform as amateurs at a high standard. There is a risk that the introduction of professionals will mean that eventually there becomes a divide such that there is no opportunity to play with a high-standard band unless one is professional.

    6. I'm not sure how paying players and 'creating revenue' (who for?) will encourage composers. My experience of going to concerts by orchestras / concert bands with paid players vs. brass bands is that the former play hardly any, if any recent compositions. (One could argue that the contesting culture is an advantage over other ensembles in that it often commissions new works).

    I don't know if I'm completely missing the point here. I can understand why professional musicians feel frustrated that they cannot earn a living through brass bands, particularly if they developed musically within brass bands. However, I really can't see how this will encourage more bums on seats.

    As far as I'm aware, there is nothing stopping someone from forming a professional brass band. Why not create one?


    Too many half bands that won t join with other half bands = a lot of **** half bands.Some I know have had a half band or less for decades and refuse to do anything about it in the hope that things will hasn t .
  13. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    We all know the answer... Found a youth band or two.

    But that's a "maybe next year" sort of project to take on...
  14. Sonorous

    Sonorous New Member

    Hi, yes I think you misconstrue what I'm saying. Basically you're points are completely valid, but that is from a viewpoint of leaving things exactly as they are (therefore 'professional' players brought in are basically bands cheating in a way - or at least looked on as that for understandable reasons).

    i'm actually talking about encouraging certain bands to go off and be professional. Leave contests for us amateurs. In my perfect world, the contest scene would be a secondary stage for the bands wishing to aspire to those great professional bands that bring in all the money and the glory. This absolutely doesn't happen over night, and it takes very clever people to market a band correctly, and work very hard to remove the public image of brass bands, but we all know that the top level of banding is no less technically able than many professional classical outfits.

    Can you imagine... if there were several bands out there with the critical respect, and commercial demand of say the LSO?.. I for one know that this would go a long way to reverse the decline.. And yes, that is an extreme example, this may never be possible to that degree, but it does illustrate the point.

    And this doesn't become unfair on amateur bands, it actually becomes more fair. Let's make contesting for the rest of us a constructive and progressive thing and let those who are able go off and try to forge the way for the rest of us. A starting point would be maybe to remove bands which have a turnover of over 'so and so' thousand a year from the regional contests? Restricting them to just the prestige contests? Could be a way of starting to move in the right direction.. forcing the hand.
  15. Bonwin

    Bonwin New Member

    The ideal solution would be to increase the number of players rather than reduce the number of bands! Back in the 80's as a learner I was given free lessons from a professional peripatetic tutor, a free instrument, and the opportunity to progress from small school band to a contesting city-wide youth band as I developed through the grades (exams also paid for). All this courtesy of funding from the local LEA. It's not that I was particularly dedicated or encouraged, and I still had other interests such as playing football and computer games like kids do these days. Just part of the education system I found myself in back then. I'm guessing the funding isn't there any more or has reduced significantly? Certainly the bands I have been in recently have brought in upon themselves to form junior/learner bands and offer tuition - they do their best but often the tuition is substandard and the kids are pushed too early into the senior band instead of achieving their own milestones within a youth setup.
  16. GordonH

    GordonH Member

    As Jack Higgins (famous agent) said to Don Lusher when he complained he wasn't getting many gigs: "What do you expect, you play the least popular instrument in Britain".

    The fundamental problem is that people just don't want to listen to brass bands. They don;t like the sound. Some do, but not enough to make a viable market for professional bands in the way we have professional orchestras. If the market was there then these groups would already exist.
  17. nethers

    nethers Active Member

    Yet there are no (shouldn't say that, probably 'very few' is more accurate) bands out there who are doing this. Dyke, Grimey etc play off of their history which is fine for them.

    A band wanting to break through and attract real new audiences, with professional management and players with a professional attitude would be an exciting thing.

    The most important thing in my opinion would be completely ditching and burning anything that reinforces the traditional brass band stereotype.
  18. DRW

    DRW New Member

    But I still say why not go out and start a professional band from scratch? This would surely be the easiest way to get it off the ground rather than 'convert' a traditional band. I see professional 'pops orchestras' and the like starting up so why not take the lead and do it with a brass band. Or maybe the commercial viability isn't that great?
  19. Accidental

    Accidental Supporting Member

    Absolutely! In these days of declining numbers, how can anyone think there are 'too many' bands?! We don't need fewer bands, we need more players, and as you and Moomin rightly point out, the most sensible solution to that one is bringing in kids through schools teaching/music services and youth/training bands.

    because imho any move that takes players away from existing bands just compounds the problems and leaves even more empty chairs to fill, it doesn't fix anything. If there's potential out there to earn enough to sustain 28 - 30 professionals, think how much more that money could do if it was spent on youth and development programmes to help ensure the bands we have now are still going in 10,20,30 years.
  20. DRW

    DRW New Member

    Possibly. I think it's more likely that it's just not a viable venture.

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