Woodfalls asking for £3000 to survive....hmmmm

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Simon Preshom, Aug 16, 2009.

  1. Simon Preshom

    Simon Preshom Member

    Have just read this.....


    My question is: after 14 years of atleast high four-figure sponsorship (although I would guess five-figure) that the band is now putting out an emergency shout for £3,000? What exactly has the band spent its money on in that period? I think the press release says it all: "To maintain our high standard and attract the best players, we need funds....."

    Isn't this that got them into this situation in the first place? Conductor's travelling long distances with extensive CVs do not come cheap, nor do the 'best players'. But, even with sponsorship, the band has not been operating at the very top level, i.e top 2-3 finishes most years in its area, not in the British Open and cannot remember it ever winning a Nationals prize, so what it is about its previous money-spending existence that make them want to continue on the same track (no pun intended)?

    If I was a Salisbury businessmen and the group approached me for £3000 of my hard-earned cash, I would firstly ask them what they had done with all the money they had before, and then ask what my cash be used for. It would not get a penny unless it demonstrated that it was to go to long-term planning and structuring instead of disappearing into the pockets of conductors and some players which is essentially, a short-term pursuit. I can name bands who operate at a much higher level than the mentioned group, who do so on no sponsorship at all.

    This is not restricted to Woodfalls: other bands, such YBS/Hammonds are a shadow of their former selves, with no building society money left in its bank account and 60+ player turnaround in the last few years, all because money was not set aside for a 'rainy day'.

    The Woodfalls situation could have been avoided with a few choice phrases:

    1) "Sorry, we don't play players"

    2) "Sorry Mr Conductor, we cannot afford you."

    I realise that I can expect a barrage of abuse from people saying 'you know nothing about Woodfalls'. This may be true on a personal level, but I have know what it costs to run a brass band and own a calculator.

    I just feel sorry for those at Woodfalls who turn up week to week and have no involvement in the financial side (and probably don't get paid), who will probably be left to pick up the pieces if the uncertain future that has been predicted materialises.

    'You reap what you sow'
  2. fartycat

    fartycat Member

    Your post is so way off the mark Simon that it needs correcting.

    Thing is, as bandmaster of Woodfalls, I can tell you that whilst SWT's sponsorship was generous, it wasn't the five figure sum that you imagine, nor did it come close to covering the costs of the band. What it did do was help the band get out there into the community, help us run composer competitions, help us with transport to get to concerts/contests and it also helped the band raise tens of thousands for charities over the 14 years of our sponsorship.

    And, we have never ever paid for players apart from the usual expenses for deps. We also don't have a turnaround of 60+ players in the last few years, in fact our team has been relatively stable recently so our dep bills are hardly massive.

    As for long term plans, we own our bandroom, and have redeveloped it extensively over the last 14 years. We own a considerable number of instruments, a van and have a decent library. So aside from conductor costs, this is where our money goes.

    Running a championship section band, even one not in the top ten, is expensive, and I'm a bit disappointed with your cheap shots.

    But instead of just saying woe is us, we've been proactive - our Secretary has done a fab job in getting a fundraising concert off the ground in Salisbury Cathedral and as far as I know, this is the first time that a newspaper has sponsored a band for one night only - it's innovative and is getting the message out to the community that a band that's been playing for 135 years is having problems, primarily because of this recession.

    Perhaps Simon you'd like to come down to the Woodies bandroom on a rehearsal night (Mondays and Thursdays) and see for yourself what we're about and why we need help?
  3. towse1972

    towse1972 Active Member

    Running a championship section band is expensive. Very true. Milnrow run on a donation from the Co-op which is not huge but very welcome. We dont charge a lot for jobs. We still manage to run without going cap in hand and waving a begging bowl on the internet. We have a programme for replacing instruments, have our own youth band and play a large part in the local community.
    I suppose the difference is we think well into the future and plan carefully and we dont pay silly amounts for star conductors.
    I suppose the lesson to be learnt is cut your cloth accordingly!!
    Good luck for the future Woodfalls!
  4. fartycat

    fartycat Member

    Perhaps the slant that 4BR has taken on the story doesn't exactly help matters. If you read the original Salisbury Journal article things are a little bit clearer regarding the £3,000 - ie that if the concert in Salisbury Cathedral is a success then this will raise the finance we need but that we are also looking for a new sponsor.


    I presume the mention of a star conductor refers to Woodfalls using Nick Childs for some contests. I don't want to go into the financial arrangements we have with our conductors on a public forum but they are reasonable (not silly amounts) with some of the travel costs being sponsored.
  5. tromguy3

    tromguy3 New Member


    Hmm..well i know he doesnt come cheap...flghts to rehearsals...hire cars....? plus fee for the contest/concert....it really does bother me the fact that bands will pay out £4figures when they have a chance of gaining at best a small £3figures. I know it menas maybe a nationals or bragging rites over a rival band but is it not better to sorce local conductors? There must be ones down that way..? maybe not...i dont know...

    as for players...are they all local ones? if not that could be a sorce of draining funds...why dont the band put in £100 each for the good of the band...? im sorry maybe they pay subs like i have done in the past...i dont know...
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 16, 2009
  6. Simon Preshom

    Simon Preshom Member

    I appreciate the direct response Paul. Despite this, I still remain a little confused.

    Firstly, I need to clear up that I never actually said that Woodfalls had a turnover of players of 60+ that was referring directly to YBS/Hammonds. Apologies if I did not make that clear.

    Now to my confusion:

    If you don't pay players, why was your secretary quoted something to effect of 'needing funds to attract the best players.' Was he referring to something else indirectly?

    The point made by tromguy3 is interesting. Your conducting team will not come cheap. This is not a slur any of your conductors - they are making a living, and that is absolutely fine. They charge what they want to charge, but that said, the band does not have to say 'yes'.

    Well done for purchasing the bandroom - that is a great move and a sound investment. That said, you don't have any rent money to pay, so that must be a fair saving that so many other unsponsored bands have to pay for.

    Is the Salisbury paper's quote, "2009 may also be the year it has to close its doors forever" accurate? If so, why? Why would any band, especially one that has been lucky enough to have sponorship for 14 years, face an uncertain future to lack of sponsorship? I could give you names of several bands that not only survive, but flourish without it. If the paper's statement is not accurate, I would complain to them for taking your 'plight' out of context.

    Thank you for the invite to the Woodfalls bandroom. I do not have to visit you to know about the hard work that goes in. That was never questioned by me. I also know the the players and team will continue to work hard for the band....but that is all you need: continue to plough that effort into all areas of the band's operation and the support, practical and financial, will come. This is the motivation behind my 'reap what you sow' comment.

    My original post was never intended as a cheap shot - I was just asking the question why the 'begging bowl' was out when so many other, in many cases, more successful bands do not have it?
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2009
  7. Mesmerist

    Mesmerist Well-Known Member

    There are some good local conductors down south and some fine players too
  8. tromguy3

    tromguy3 New Member

    Thought there would be!!
  9. johnmartin

    johnmartin Active Member

    Much as I don't like highlighting the plight of any particular band, Simon does raise a very valid point. We have seen the demise/re-invention of several high profile bands over the last couple of years and what most of these bands had in common was some form of funding from a main sponsor. Are we, as a movement, too short sighted to plan for a future with no sponsorship; do we just take the money and happily spend it for short term gain or to maintain current standards. After years of sponsorship do bands start to operate differently. Does contesting success become more important than enjoyment? And, in pursuit of that level of excellence, do the band forget what its like to have to go out and earn some money to keep things running. Does the loss of sponsorship then come as a great shock to a once affluent band. Such a shock in fact that some do not survive.

    The above comments are not directed at Woodfalls in particular, nor any other band. I hope they will, as intended, stimulate some reasoned debate on the pros and cons of outside sponsorship. I wish Woodfalls all the best for the future and hope that they continue successfully for many years to come.
  10. fartycat

    fartycat Member


    1) We do not pay players. End of. The snippet is taken from a longer quote out of the Journal that starts “We are still very much an amateur village brass band, but of a very high standard." If you don't believe me, then that's your problem, but I'm not going to keep going over this ground.

    2) Conductors - I totally disagree entirely with what you are saying as does our entire band (we've asked them). Employing the right conductors is not a short term measure. We employ two incredible musicians, both of whom shape and mould our band. Melvin has worked with us since the 90's, Nick has been here 3 years. How can that be short-term? As for their costs, I'd be staggered tromguy3 if either conductor has talked to you about their employment at our band. How would you know? As I have already said, a lot of transport costs are sponsored and the costs of conductors are very reasonable, more reasonable than a lot of local conductors who don't have the reputation of our duo.

    3) Contest results - a band can not be measured on contest results alone. Woodies have given some stunning musical performances on the contest stage recently. Whilst it would be nice to win a contest, I actually get more satisfaction from the performance now and to hell with the adjudicator who doesn't like our interpretation. It's about improving the band, getting it to play at its very best, not bragging rights.

    Tromguy3, so you object to bands paying out thousands for a contest? Well the largest costs for us when entering a contest are coaches and hotels. For somewhere like Blackpool or the Scottish Open this can easily add up to £5,000.

    4) Sponsored v non sponsored bands - I guess you have to look at it like a football club who is relegated (except we won't get any parachute payments). Clubs always have a huge financial hole after the drop. Going from a sponsored band to no financial support also naturally brings problems. Bands that have had no sponsorship for a long time have no doubt built up an annual routine of fundraising to keep them going. The luxury of sponsorship is that we haven't had to do that. It takes time to build this back up (but we are doing it).

    5) The £3,000 issue - yes, if we don't find £3,000 soon then the doors could close. But we have several events scheduled that we hope will raise that amount - including the huge gala concert in Salisbury Cathedral on September 5th. There are also other income streams being developed that will help stabilise the band.

    6) The purpose of the original Journal article was to publicise our concert and also put out feelers for new sponsors. You'll be glad to know that one "Salisbury businessmen" has already put up some money to help, whilst another has also pledged an amount. Why not alert our local community to our problems to see if anyone can help? Seems daft to me to keep it quiet when someone out there might just be interested in sponsoring us?
  11. fartycat

    fartycat Member

    John an interesting point.

    I've played for Woodfalls since the 80's when we weren't sponsored. The difference between then and now was the band had to put on several large scale concerts a year plus do a lot of carol playing for the month before Christmas, to bring in enough money to survive. Both activities took a lot of time.

    Sponsorship saw the carol playing knocked on the head whilst we also spread our wings concert wise and instead of playing 3 concerts of a tried-and-tested-formula in venues we knew would bring in punters, we started moving around, playing in smaller venues away from Salisbury. We also transformed one of our big concerts so that the majority of the revenue raised from it went to charity rather than the band.

    Whilst this got our name out to a wider community, it was also a financial gamble - some concerts made lots of money, others didn't. But sponsorship gave us the luxury to be able to afford to do this.

    Had we become complacent? Probably.
  12. johnmartin

    johnmartin Active Member

    Thanks for the reply Paul.

    If we could move this discusion away from matters specific to Woodfalls I think there is a good debate to be had here.

    This is the crux of the matter as far as I'm concerned Paul. The lure of sponsorship is that it does take away the need to do all of these bread an butter jobs and it allows a band to develop artistically. I've often said at my own band that if we could find a way to replace £1500 in income from gala day processions then I'd quite happily take it. Unfortunately, these jobs in the pouring rain enable us to do all the other things we want to do, like attend contests, employ a decent conductor etc...

    I think that for most other bands considering outside sponsorship, they should get the best deal that they can but they mustn't forget that they still have to balance the books when the sponsorship goes. I would take the view that the sponsorship money be used for special projects like major concerts and that the daya to day running costs of the band must still be met from the bands own fundraising.
  13. Simon Preshom

    Simon Preshom Member


    Also, why do you need 'funds to attract the best players' if you don't pay them? It's not a question of whether I believe you, I just do not understand why this statement was made if players are not paid.

    I am not deliberately being awkward Paul, just trying to understand the situation.
  14. brasscrest

    brasscrest Active Member

    Note to all:

    This thread has potential to be interesting and informative. Woodfalls is in a situation that many formerly sponsored bands may find themselves in.

    However, personal attacks will not be tolerated on tMP. Please think before you post. I suggest using the "preview post" feature and actually reading what you write before submitting it.

    Thank you in advance for your cooperation.
  15. brasscrest

    brasscrest Active Member

    Thinking in general terms, I can think of several reasons why funds would be needed to attract players, short of direct payments.

    For example, it is possible that the quality of accommodations when traveling might attract (or repel) a player.

    Another example might be the quality or convenience of the rehearsal space - not all bands have permanent bandrooms, I am sure that many bands are in a situation where they are leasing their rehearsal space.
  16. critic

    critic Member

    Well said
  17. tubbytuba

    tubbytuba Member

    Come on Messi,we all bring in pro conductors and advisors at different times and they are from all corners not just down south lol. Good luck to Woodfalls,the old saying dont ask dont get is very true.We all do this in some shape or form.Take my bands trip to Harrogate,we are all out getting financial help to go,
    so surely what they are doing isnt so wrong.With hindsight Woodfalls may have used there money in other ways but they have also done a lot of good in there community!!!
  18. Mesmerist

    Mesmerist Well-Known Member

    Tubby that is not the point though is it. I have been in a sponsored band and they were still careful with budgets and they didn`t have the luxury of their own bandroom. Here we have a band claiming that it is in danger of folding when for years they have enjoyed substantial income. The question is why are they in such danger after 135 years? Bad management? Or are they deserving of our assistance? Can they not sell the flat above the band room?
    If they are really going to fold then perhaps we will help out.

    PS We have also raised £5000 towards Harrogate by ourselves and our pro advisor / conductor only lives 35 miles away and is probably one of the best in the world.
  19. Jan H

    Jan H Moderator Staff Member

    (12 posts with personal attacks and pm-type conversation removed)

    hey people, you all read Robert (Brasscrest)'s request above.
    We'll give you one more chance to turn this into a decent thread, otherwise it will have to be closed.

  20. stevetrom

    stevetrom Well-Known Member

    trying to get this topic more general.

    I can see and understand why a top section band needs a certain amount of funds to maintain their level, you need a good standard of instruments, players, rehearsal facility, musical director, etc and these do come at a price.

    However, if a band does not have the resources (financial or otherwise) to maintain their status why should that mean that they should fold?

    Surely they can cut their cloth to suit their current position and continue, possibly at a slightly lower level. Banding does exist, and can be quite enjoyable, outside the top section.

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