It seems unrealistic to think that there is a vast untapped audience out there, who, if only they heard Tam Lin, The Wife of Ushers Well and Byker Hill, would instantly become folk music converts. Overall audience sizes may fluctuate from year to year but there aren’t going to be order of magnitude changes. And yet the number of young aspiring folk musicians does seem to be expanding exponentially, certainly in comparison to twenty years ago, and I get the impression that many of them see it as a viable-ish career.
Good on them for trying and wanting to play music but simple maths shows that it won’t work. A finite number of pounds and audience members being chased by an expanding pool of musicians can only lead to poorly attended gigs and/or poorly or unpaid musicians, neither of which are desirable. It’s not just the young ones who will suffer either as the ripple effect will hit everybody. Unless someone has a new business model (and I don’t) something has to give.
It’s one of the UK’s great musical anomalies. One the one hand we love American food, films and TV and music. On the other there’s country music, which we think is ridiculous, stereotyping it as Dolly Parton, sequins, stetsons and line dancing. But if you probe a little more deeply you’ll find that the a lot of the people who “don’t like country” do like Springsteen’s Seeger Sessions or love Emmylou Harris or Steve Earle, or regularly play the Eagles Greatest Hits, all of which are of course country of one sort or another. Others are folk fans who love a good ballad or a rapid fire reel, all of which country supplies in abundance. There are as many varieties of “country” as there are folk and as with folk, people can find what suits them.
Often it’s the broad church categorised as “Americana” and for those that have found their way there Maverick is the perfect festival. A beautiful site on a farm park with great food and beer and multiple stages showcasing the best in UK Americana (and the best is very good indeed and can stand toe to toe with anything from across the Atlantic) with a decent sprinkling of ace Americans and Canadians too. I was there last weekend and loved every second. Here’s some pictures to give a flavour, and if you want to see more, here’s lots more. Better still, have a listen to some of the performers. You won’t regret it.