Issue 11 10/99

The FolkWorld Editors' column

The online editorial from the Mollis

The Business Side of Things and Plastic Pipers

Most people think that the folk music scene is always a lovely and friendly scene, and there are even some people who think that folk music needs no business at all saying "folk musicians should not be paid - that just commercialises the music". Quite a strange opinion - in the end, folk musicians have to live from something as well don't they.

Drawing by German artist Annegret Haensel Meanwhile, sometimes the folk business sees the folk actives in hard situations. Enough people will remember the struggles between diverse folk musicians with diverse labels (thinking in particular of one certain English and one certain American label), or the usual stories of dishonst agencies.

As a newer example of the hard side of business, the Irish Folk Festival tour in Germany faced a rejection of their earlier made contracts with the headlining band - 25.000 posters had to reprinted, and a new top act had to be found. "Reason" for the rejection of contracts was a change of the band's management; those suffering from that decision are not only the tour organisers, but of course also the band losing some of their high reputation and missing the possibility to have their first step into the German scene.

In Scotland meanwhile the organiser of a big festival, that happenened last year and became out of various reasons a financial disaster, still struggles with the local government. They had promised to take some of the financial risks, but after the disaster they soon took a distance from the festival. Still today, some of the artists who played at the festival did not receive their wages...

Carlos Nunez 1999; photo by The Mollis But folk music can also make good business, and as soon as it does, the major labels come with their own "folk stars", on a much lower musical level. A process like this can be seen at the moment in the Northern Spanish scene. After the huge success of the superb piper Carlos Nuñez, every major wanted to have their very own pipe star. And, as usual, they did not take those who are the best, but those they could "form" commerically. Often, not the quality of the music is the main objective of these majors, but the upper width of the female piper or the amount of dancefloor elements in the music.
Will these "Plastic Pipers" destroy the quality music scene in Northern Spain? Prabably not, as often the quality can survive as well, although maybe not as successful as the commercial stuff...

Anyway, there are still enough possibilities to experience "the real thing" - both in a "commercial" concert surrounding or from a "commercial" CD (there are some great CDs reviewed once again in this FolkWorld!) and in the "uncommercial" atmosphere of a folk session at home...

Your FolkWorld Editors.

Drawing by Annegret Haensel; more infos on the artist at her homepage
Photo Credit: Carlos Nuñez; photo by The Mollis

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© The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld; Published 10/99

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