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Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Ayrshire Calling.

Recently a young student in Ayrshire created a short documentary about what we could very loosely call the 'local scene'.
The scene in question is really just a wide ranging amount of people doing things in the same time frame.
There's no specific sound to what is going on.
It's not a movement with a common aim, and it certainly has very little that could be nailed down and promoted as something that would be recognizable as a scene.
The only real common ground is the geographical location.
Apart from that all bets are off as to what you will get.
The reality is that we are simply going through a healthy period of artistic expression, and when people comment on a 'scene' it is really just in an effort to bundle everything going on together.
In this short documentary the angle that people only get the scenes they deserve was put forward, and it closed with a request to support local artists.
All very laudable, and it served as a welcomed catalyst to further discussion.
Much discussion.
As usual everyone has an opinion. Including myself.
Within the content of the documentary it was said that there are issues surrounding a lack of venues and promoters.
Neither ring true to me, but I am happy to accept that this is the case in the locale of the young man who made it.
It is his reality, and who am I to say that he is wrong?
So the main problem that people had about it not representing Ayrshire as a whole is rooted in fact, but by focussing on it those expressing it loudly and strongly are probably giving too much attention to the small potatoes, and missing the big picture message that was being addressed.
So what was the big picture?
Well my understanding of it is that unless there's a solid infrastructure in place to support local artists then we will lose the momentum of the enthusiasm that is being shown at the moment.
In that sense I totally agree.
I can get on board with that.
It's only at this point that myself, and others, then shoot off on tangents and express different issues that we consider to be the main problems.
The documentary maker wants more venues and ethical promoters.
Some claim we need more interesting artists.
Some want more local acts on bills and less touring bands.
Some want touring bands to play and less local acts.
Others don't consider that the towns in Ayrshire have enough people to support an ongoing circuit of bands playing.
Some claim that the low turn out at gigs is down to poor promotion.
There is probably an element of truth in everything that everyone is saying.
Even the conflicting points of who should play as it's all subjective.
I don't consider that anyone is wrong or right.
For myself I think we need a less apathetic attitude to what is going on.
People have strongly disagreed with my assertion that in general people are lazy, and they are well within their rights to do so.
Yet I still think this as I have no evidence to prove otherwise, and plenty to substantiate it..
Yesterday, under a poster promoting Kilmarnocks forthcoming Dirty Weekender festival - an event that will feature over forty bands in two venues across the course of a weekend - a comment was left.
The comment was along the lines of 'Is this in Kilmarnock?'.
It says it's in Kilmarnock, the venues mentioned are in Kilmarnock.
It's had column inches in the national press and STV have even gave it a shout out.
All the info anyone could need is there on the poster, or out there in the wider world, but still someone was struggling to get to grips with what is happening.
Could it be possible that they haven't actually bothered to read it?
That unless someone sits down and explains it all to them personally that the subtle hints of an ad campaign that blatantly provide all the information required will by pass them?
I couldn't honestly say, but I know what I think.
Okay. That's one individual.
I accept that.
However in discussions it was stated that promoters need to accept that maybe a low turn out to a local show might be down to no one actually wanting to see the bands playing, and has nothing to do with laziness.
Of course a promoter would have to take that on board, but equally I think it has to be considered how many people see a poster for an event, read about it in the local newspaper, push a flyer away from them in a bar, and never for one second consider that it might be worthwhile to go online and check out what the bands/artist sound like.
If anyone claims themselves to be a music fan then that's a lazy attitude, and one that does have an impact on the quality and breadth of entertainment that we all get.
To put it bluntly it's hard to take it seriously when it is claimed no one likes what they haven't heard.
Yes. We need good quality venues.
Yes. We need interesting and vibrant acts. (Although I would say we are already rich in that respect)
Yes. We need ethical promoters who will promote and not think that one singular facebook invite page is all that is required to pull a crowd.
Of course we need all these things, and more, but we also need an audience to support what is going on.
We need individuals to make more of an effort.
No one is asking anyone to go to a show and stand through four acts that they loathe, but I am asking that people be a bit more open minded and make more of an effort.
I've lost count of the times I have found a new band that I love purely by throwing caution to the wind and going out for an inexpensive night of live music.
Others could to.
Every artist has to start somewhere and I think that people need to get to grips with that, and at the forefront of their mind consider that the band that they will go and see in the corner of a pub on a wet and windy Friday night could be this generations Rolling Stones taking their first tentative steps into the light.
There are genuinely people I speak to who claim to love music and when I ask them who they have went to see recently they admit that they haven't went to a gig in years.
Usually they add on that it's because it's all rubbish out there now.
That's blatantly untrue.
They have just became disengaged and aren't making the effort to see what is in fact right there under their noses.
The same could be said for many of the younger crowd.
Unless it is laid out on a plate for them then it would appear that they have very little interest in seeking something out.
If Brown Bear and the Bandits were on the cover of Chat and Take a Break talking about their latest diet that allowed them to have a body fit for the beach this summer, then I suspect they could sell out the Grand Hall to perma-tanned extras from the Only way is Onthank.
No one will have bothered listening to them, but they would shell out the cash to see them.
Is that harsh?
Quite possibly, but is there a nugget of truth in it to?
So to come full circle. Have a watch of the documentary and comment on it on youtube or here about what I have said..
I'm not saying that I am 100% correct, and I doubt that the documentary maker is either, but I do consider I have a relevant point to make, and so does he.
Others are more than welcome to make theirs to.


  1. It's a point I've heard you make before, and you reasonably explore other options before going into greater depth on it here. What would you say is a solution? If people are jaded by an overdose of bands, PR and hype, how does telling them they're lazy help?

    One obvious solution is to scale down until you find a workable niche and build from there. Ironically I think this is exactly what I said to you about the Glen Matlock show at the time.

    ('Down' is possibly the wrong word as we've been moving sideways career-wise since our inception in Ayr last year, finding the small crowds rather than trying to make them come to us.)

    It's a good article, but I'd like to see you come up with proposed solutions to the problem.

  2. The proposed solution is really out of my hands.
    All I can really do is highlight what I consider is one of the issues and hope that someone somewhere thinks 'aye fair enough' and dips their toe in to see what is out there.
    You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink as they say.
    Personally I would just love it if people made more of an effort to check out what is going on.
    It's very easy for individuals to claim it is down to a lack of promotion, but then when it is shown that a poorly attended gig was well promoted they then retreat to the stance that the bands couldn't have been up to much if no one wanted to go and see them.
    Then when you point out that they can't say that as they made no effort to confirm if they were crap or not the usual response is often deafening in its silence.
    I don't expect people to go to everything. I don't even want people to go to an event that doesn't suit their tastes.
    What I am tired of is people claiming that there's nothing on as it's blatantly untrue.
    I'm also tired of people claiming that everything is rubbish from a position of ignorance.
    Unless they have actually made the effort to listen to the band then their opinion doesn't really carry as much weight as it would if they had.
    I don't actually think that people are jaded by an overdose of bands, pr and hype either.
    Instead I think they are often unaware of it.
    Maybe telling them they are lazy could jolt them out of their apathy, but I doubt it as I don't think they will be reading this.
    Also while I often have a dig about myriad subjects I do get asked what my solution to them would be.
    It's a fair question. Unfortunately I can only do what I can.
    I write about the bands, punt their names about as much as I can, put on the occasional gig, but in the main I can only express an opinion and hope it provides a spark to action.
    One person bleating on through a blog isn't going to change anything.
    I'm fully aware of that.
    I just hope in a small way that I can act as a catalyst to more discussion and through that there can be some forward momentum.

  3. It might be because I'm more familiar with the Glasgow music scene that I don't encounter any of these complaints (I still consider us at least partially an Ayrshire band, weirdly. We played our first few shows in the Libertine and feature young sr. Gilchrist on guitar.)I.E. there's nothing on, this gig wasn't promoted, I think this band are crap despite not having taken the thirty seconds to check them out on bandcamp, but even in smaller towns surely people's facebooks are FILLED with adverts for shows? This is where I see the PR aspect of things making people jaded and listless until they just give up on live music entirely.

    If someone has even a cursory interest in music, surely such promotion is impossible to avoid? If people would rather make pisspoor excuses after the fact than turn up to a show, then they don't want to come and there is nothing you can do about that.

    I think the reason that I don't really see your issue as a problem is that if the crowd you're trying to attract don't want to attend shows, my first instinct would be to shift focus to people who DO. Try and appeal to them, rather than wasting your time condemning the shiftless apathetics.

    That said, things could be completely different in Ayrshire and I'm just speaking out ignorance. Apologies if so.

  4. There would be an aspect of people scanning over stuff on FB. It is pretty relentless at times, but by the same token it does only take seconds to check some stuff out and people generally don't seem to do that from my perspective.
    That comes down to choice.
    If someone wants to discount what is on because there a great deal of stuff to wade through to find one thing they fancy then that's up to them.
    If they genuinely claim to have an interest in music it does seems counter productive though.
    It's like saying I love women, but there are so many out there I can't be bothered talking to them.
    That there was just too much to consider so I didn't go to anything deal seems a bit washy if they really do like music.
    Now if someone has no interest in music at all then there's no reason for them to attend anything, but a great many people do claim that they love it, yet still don't go to gigs.
    I don't get that.
    As I've said if they don't like what is on then fine, but there are people who do claim that nothing is on and the bands are rubbish.
    Neither is true.
    I take your point about shifting the focus, but who are these people, and why aren't they already attending shows?

    To swell the amounts of people who could attend shows we need to engage with them to an extent.
    Trying to promote gigs using the usual routes doesn't appear to be as consistently effective as most would like.
    So how do we key into the people who are staying at home?
    I'd love to hear a solution to.

  5. There are always people going out somewhere, and it's them we try and reach. I can honestly say that spreading awareness of shows has never been a problem, the problem as I see it is that there are so many different avenues for this that people seem to tune everything out as an incomprehensible miasma of advertising.

    Your audience getting older is obviously an issue as well. Ten years ago I was (mostly) playing to crowds my own age. These days our audience seems to (mostly) comprise of people ten years my junior. It's a little easier for me to adapt than most, I've always had to as my music doesn't sit easily in any genre.

    If people want to sit at home, I'm not going to fight their right to personal choice to further my own artistic career, as there is still more opportunity today for independent musicians than there has EVER been before to carve out a niche audience who'll come back to see you play time and time again. Really though, if people would rather make excuses than come to shows, let them. It's their loss, and I don't see smaller-scale shows to an appreciate crowd as being a bad thing.

    You could worry about venues closing etc but music has always been boom and bust, and the drift from stadium shows to pub venues in the 70s certainly didn't hurt live music.

  6. I honestly think we are coming at this from different angles, and that's fine.
    At no point have I said that people don't have a right to sit at home.
    If that's what they choose to do then that's entirely up to them, but I will stress again that they shouldn't complain about a lack of options or talent out there.
    That's something you appear not to have had experience of, but I can assure you that I have.
    Another thing is that you have mentioned a couple of times about scaling down.
    Many of the gigs in Kilmarnock have taken place in Dirty Martinis that holds about 100.
    It's not a great deal when you consider the population.
    I would think that individually in Ayr, Kilmarnock and Irvine there are enough people to fill a venue that holds 100 on maybe a monthly basis regardless of who is playing.
    Isn't there 100 music fans in each town that are open to sampling an eclectic bills of local talent and the odd touring band?
    Maybe not though.
    Kilmarnock has supposedly a population of 44734.
    100 punters for a gig doesn't seem to much to ask for.