Why bands fold!

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by jpbray, Sep 3, 2004.

  1. jpbray

    jpbray Member

    Why do some bands fold and others manage to keep going strong? It is quite well documented that there appears to be a slow decline in banding, but I would like to suggest that the decline is more down to mismanagement and apathy of local bands rather more than a disinterest in people wanting play brass instruments.

    Therefore the point I would like to make is; should bands adopt a more “corporate” style by using simple management techniques to make a forward “business” plan to give direction and yearly plan to keep the band focused throughout the year taking into consideration contests, carnivals/fayres, and working new challenging pieces of music for concert work.
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2004
  2. brasscrest

    brasscrest Active Member

    This is a huge topic, but here are a few ideas:

    1. Music (in general) is competing with increased academics and other things for young people's interest. Fewer young people doing music equals fewer players available for bands, over time. In the US, many schools are cutting music education altogether, because increasing academic standards are making it impossible to fit into a school day.
    2. Bands are like many small groups, in that there is a definite life cycle. Groups begin with a big, enthusiastic reponse, enthusiasm for the group dwindles over time, and eventually the group either breaks up or goes through a radical reorganization. This is true of many small groups in any kind of endeavor, and brass bands are no exception.
    3. Some bands are held together by charismatic personalities, and cannot survive the loss of those personalities.
    4. In general, there is a decline of commitment to long-term hobbies and activities, because there are more such activities available in modern society. At least in the US, this is a documented trend in all types of associations, not just musical groups. I suspect that the same thing is true in other countries.

    In some cases, a more formal style may help. In particular, I think it would be wise for any band to have a leadership succession plan in place - if the MD or another key person leaves, what's the process for searching for a new person? But too much formality may drive some people away - it's a balancing thing.
  3. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    I think one difficulty that can arise is if a band has worked its way up through the sections, often with a well-established group of players, but then the decision is made that, in order to retain their new-found status, they need to bring in players of a higher standard. Without wanting to go into the rights and wrongs of that in itself, if the band does then begin to struggle, those newer players may not feel the same loyalty to the band, and could decide to move off elsewhere, bringing about something of a downwards spiral.

    If the band has generally retained the same core of loyal, longstanding members, then there is a much better chance of survival. Equally, with more local players, any financial restrictions brought about if the band hits hard times are less likely to have quite the same effect.
  4. sparkling_quavers

    sparkling_quavers Active Member

    1) Many bands becoming so focused on contesting they have no (or less) links with the local community and schools. This can lead to no local support i.e financially and also getting younger players involved. Although I think this has got better recently and there does seem to be more and more training bands appearing again.

    2) Bands gaining reputations for being 'hire and fire'. At the extreme of this scale it can lead to bands blowing out all their local resources and the inability to sign new players/get deps in.

    3) An unsuccessful contest period and the band losing key players (often connected with number 2!) or loss of players to another band.

    4) Changes in the organization/committee of the band (for many reasons)

    5) Loss of financial support.

    6) Loss of MD/struggle to get right MD in.
  5. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    The thought occurs to me that some bands rely on a hire/fire reputation to attract top class players, but thankfully, I've never been and wouldn't stay, in a band like that.

    There are too many stories about of bands (and football teams) like that falling apart after a few years.

    We are going to lose our MD this year for family reasons and I am going to be involved in the selection process for a new MD. We are going to have to be very thorough and rigorous in making sure the new person will fit into the band's personality. I'm dreading it, really, because I think bands are like people, and the choice of a wrong 'head' could result in the band falling apart.

    We've always been very stable in our personnel, with few leavers and few joiners. All the players know each other well and, although we don't 'live in each others' pockets' we all get on like members of the same family. The new MD is going to have to be able to do that as well. Good job it's not like the Munsters or the Addams Family :)
  6. hellraiser

    hellraiser Member

    I'd say there is a good case to be made here as I think in this day and age bands will need to take this kind of approach. I think it's very important for bands to have direction and explain the importance of engagements, rehearals and competitions to band members. It's no coincidence that band members suddenly make themselves unavailable when a carnival comes around, but I often think this attitude could be avoided with better explanation by the band to its members of WHY the band must do these things.

    Also, like others have mentioned, brass bands now compete for people's time more than ever. Generally I think there's lack of PR or lack of selling to people the benefits of taking part in a long term hobby like playing in a brass band. It's certainly been good to me in many ways to be part of a brass band from an early age. However I do feel that many parents need to be shown that it is a benefit for their kids to be a part of organisations like this because it's far easier for many parents to let their kids quit band and watch TV instead. But I'm not just talking about informing new people about banding, I think there's a heck of a lot of educating people in bands about things like the importance of turning up to rehearsals and the consequences to the band of not turning up, the consequences to their playing of not practicing inbetween rehearsals , the difficulty for conductors when players are missing from rehearsals, arriving 5-10 minutes before the start of rehearsal for a warm-up etc.

    Finally, some bands think they want to make their way to the top section without considering the implications of being a top section band - will they really be in a position to sustain themselves in the top section when considering finances, availability of top section standard players etc? There is no shame in aiming to be a decent 2nd/3rd section band if that's realistic for your band to achieve.
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2004
  7. Soppy

    Soppy Member

    Problem with the 'corporate' approach, is many committee members wouldn't know how to do that. Also, committees tend to be dominated in many smaller bands by the older generation. Having tried to make changes in my committee, it was incredibly hard to get them out of their set ways. This changed when the committee got 'younger' members.

    And as it has been pointed out, people just aren't bothered any more, and don't turn up to practice etc. Nothing can be done about that sadly.
  8. My previous band had much similer problems, it was never consistant they had so many up's and downs over the recent years. The band I am with now seems alot more organized with alot more commitment and a good musical director who encourages new young players in schools to come to the youth band. The main problem with my previous band was commitment, as well as poor organization I think. The key to keeping the band alive is a youth band, sadly the number of youth bands in my area has declined over the past few years. It is when you have no longer got a feed of players in the main band when things can start to go wrong. The music making standered tends to drop over time, and this does not attract any new interest in potential brass players from schools into the youth band. This is my view on the situation with bands having their 'up's' and 'down's' anyway.
  9. Okiedokie of Oz

    Okiedokie of Oz Active Member

    I think the key lies in how bands fight against folding. I know my band is making massive moves to keep people interested. We're playing a varied program (mainly lollipops but it keeps the kids there), performances, and we're starting to work with the schools again in order to keep a crossover association occuring.

    Some bands don't do anything like this, just stand alone against the elements, and as such they do tend to decay!
  10. jpbray

    jpbray Member

    Looking at the success of this web site and 4Barsrest, there appears to be more than enough interest to sustain the banding movement.

    The benifits a band provides both educational and socially are immense. How many times have you played at a fete; and you have heard "the band played well" or "it was nice to hear the band". Music is once again climbing up the academic agenda, musical direction at the top is in good shape.

    The biggest problem seems that we are very adept at shooting ourselves in the foot, and we seem embarrased for want of a better word, in saying "hey look at us". Accordingly with a little forward planning & direction and a possitive image I think it is easliy possible to recover some lost ground.
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2004
  11. jpbray

    jpbray Member

    Half empty rehearsals is one of the best ways of losing interest in a band, then people start drifting away.
  12. tubafran

    tubafran Active Member

    Bands folding

    Isn't this thread more about why is it hard to keep a band going? A slow decline in the number of bands is not really so bad if we are only losing a few bands. On a personal note over the last 30 years of banding in North East Derbyshire/South Yorkshire how many bands have actually folded? - To my recollection we have Rhodean (Championship) mid 90s, and Thornton (Championship) recently and Escafeld and Eckington (non competing) way back in the early 90s. It would be nice to know if there are any more to add to this list and when it happened.

    Are there more bands folding elsewhere?
  13. IYOUNG

    IYOUNG Member

    For me there are a number of key things required to keep the band going and full of interest for the players you have. Its not easy and takes time to build which may involve some bad times and some tough decisions being taken.
    Some of them may seem blindingly obvious but are easily forgotten:-

    1. Establish what type of band you are

    2. Find out what your current player base wants from the band - absolutely key to keeping players by doing things they want to do.

    3. Gauge your engagement list accordingly

    4. Don't be overly burdened by Financial requirements - Do want the band wants not the Treasurer as long as your solvent you'll never have enough money to buy that new set of instruments anyway.

    5. Ensure the music is new and fresh - throw some entertaining oldies in by all means but keep them to a minimum.

    6. If you have players not on the same wavelength ship them out over a period of time, they will only be disruptive to the cause if you don't

    In my experience by doing these 6 key things you have a band who actually WANT
    to be there, mould them into a team and you should be ok
  14. postie

    postie Member

    This topic is very interesting from my bands point of view as Bestwood got down to six players at one point during the late 1990's. So rehearsals at that point had more empty chairs than full. I think the main reason bands fold is that people loss interest and if you haven't got commitment to stick in there than the band goes.

    Obviously from a personal point of view I am eternally grateful that those six did stick around, as the band has now got 30+ players and very full rehearsals.

    The main point is if your band is struggling stick with it as a silver lining may be just round the corner.

    Richard Greenwood
  15. hellraiser

    hellraiser Member

    This is very important and I'd say this is largely influenced by the personnel on the committee. A conductor may have big ideas but if the committee is ineffectual then you won't get very far.

    There are no shortcuts. Establishing a direction for your band and achieving it will take a lot of work- you are effectively changing the culture of the band i.e. the attitudes and the way people behave at your organisation. If attendance is a problem then you have to sort that out and it won't be easy if it's been the accepted norm for so long for people to come to band when they like! Changes will not be achieved unless you have a determined committee who are prepared to take the difficult decisions and make the sacrifices to deliver success.

    It really is a team game and they say that a team is only as strong as it's weakest link.
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2004
  16. jpbray

    jpbray Member

    I think this thread could converge with Dave Payn's Contest: could you live with out them; it would appear that the successful band at what ever level is a busy band that can strike that elusive balance between contest & concerts/fetes, in addition to keeping the music fresh.
  17. WhatSharp?

    WhatSharp? Active Member

    Agreed. As long as the players are enjoying themselves, a happy active band attracts new members, sometimes they gel sometimes they don't but building up the core of regular players is the key, once those core players lose interest or become disheartened and drift away then your in trouble.
  18. Abeverley

    Abeverley New Member

    We're still here!!

    (i understand the lateness of the reply, i have only just found this website)

    In response to the post of tubafran on 6,9,2004 regarding the folding of the Escafeld Brass Band in South Yorkshire, I would like to make it known that we haven't actually folded. We went through an extremely rocky patch, losing our MD and Assistant MD in a short space of time as well as over 25 members. It was an extremely stressful period for everybody involved.

    HOWEVER, we are still here, and going strong, and playing engagements like Centre Parcs and various charity events in Sheffield and South Yorkshire.

    We got to a point where we had 9 members, no MD, and many of the various parts weren't even covered, but slowly, over time we have built our ranks back up to 25 strong and are in the process of launching a new PR campaign. I believe it was our willingness to take members of any age and ability, to teach them how to play in a relaxed, non-contest environment that has been the key to our survival. I thought i'd post this to show that it isn't all doom and gloom for brass bands these days, I am just 18 and we have many memebers younger, (around 9), I have taken over as acting MD and although my musical theory knowledge isn't completely sound, I have a sound understanding of what sounds great in a band and how to achieve this.
  19. if a band folds then its obviously going to make some players available to join another band, and so i think that maybe more people could try and form new bands, maybe in areas that dont have a large number of brass bands.

    brass instrument playing has to be encouraged, especially for younger players, more in schools or like an after school club or something along those lines, this could create new promising players and therefore the opportunity to form a new band.

    i understand it takes more than just a group of players to form a new band, im currently forming 1 myself, but it seems to be the lack of players thats contributing to bands forming, so lets make it a cool thing to do to play brass, more focus has to be aimed at younger people, and for them to then carry it on once they leave school/college/uni.

    mike gilroy has said on the hade edge documentary that about 25 bands fold every year, well lets counter against this and get some fresh blood into brass banding!

    i intend on making it only 24, as halifax band's progress is coming on very nicely, if a 21yrold can form a band, with some help from others, then anyone can.

  20. This is a great story and i wish you and your band the best of luck. it kinda backs up what ive said in that age should not be an issue here.

    good luck for the future!

    Clive Morris, MD Halifax Brass Band

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