Jacey’s Music Business Help Files

It’s not because I know it all – (blimey, I wish I did!) – it’s because I didn’t know anywhere near as much as I do now when I started in this business and I figure if people understand a bit about how things work we’ll all be much better off. So here’s a series of FAQs

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Artists

Here’s a list of all my current artists. You can find a run-down (words, music, video) at my web page.

Vin Garbutt (UK)

Zulu Tradition (South Africa)

Ritchie Parrish Ritchie (Canada)

Cloudstreet (Australia)

Dan McKinnon (Canada)

Union Jill (UK)

Eileen McGann (Canada)

Tania Opland and Mike Freeman (USA/UK)

Al Parrish (Canada)

And Artisan is currently on tour for the second reunion tour which lasts from April to early October 2015. After that there are no further plans, but never say never again.

Artisan

Artisan

Posted in Artisan, Music business, My Music Agency

London Philharmonic Skiffle Orchestra join the agency

I’m delighted to announce that the London Philharmonic Skiffle Orchestra is joining the agency roster. They aren’t skiffle and they’re not an orchestra, but they are philharmonic (look it up) and they are from London, so two out of four is not bad. They are also as funny as all get-out, perfect for village hall gigs, theatres and festivals.

Unique. Musical madness and mayhem. Foot-tapping, high energy acoustic music, with hilarious songs, comic props and cosmic costume changes!

The London Philharmonic Skiffle Orchestra

The London Philharmonic Skiffle Orchestra

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How to Win Friends and Influence People

I know that agents are not well liked in some circles, but why would someone who wants a favour start an email like this?

I’ll start out by stating that I hate agents. So out-of-place in the folk world. Taking a cut for what artists can do for themselves. I take great delight in remembering that I once got Cyril Tawney’s agent sacked by him for trying to charge too much.

Do I know you/? I used to present [radio shows redacted] back in the 80s and early 90s?

Now that is out of the way, would you please convey to… He then goes on to ask me to get one of my acts to appear on his radio show and to perform as a mystery guest at a charity event for no pay and no publicity and then he finishes with:

If I don’t hear via you I will just approach them personally as we all live near [town redacted]

I won’t embarrass the man by saying who he is, though perhaps I should. I will however, say that there is no substitute for common courtesy. And THIS is no substitute for common courtesy.

My response:

Well, [name], what a charmer you are!
‘I hate agents’ is a great opening to an agent you want a favour from.
What were you thinking?
Have you taken a course in how to win friends and influence people?
And boasting about getting Cyril Tawney’s agent sacked? Well, whatever floats your (chicken on a) raft.

I’ll follow on by saying that I’m not so keen (hate would be way too strong a word) on people who categorically state that they hate agents without actually knowing much about what we do for our money. If an artist could do the bookings for themselves, that’s what they would be doing. Many do. I did our own when Artisan was a full time entity for 20 years. (How do you think I learned the business?)

Some can’t.

Either because they don’t have the contacts, or they are pathalogically afraid of rejection and of making cold calls and therefore find hundreds of excuses not to, or they are based outside of the country and don’t know where to start, or they are just too disorganised to look after the paperwork, or they prefer to play the spots off their instrument all day and think the mundane stuff is beneath them, or they are just too damn busy doing gigs to be at home to pick up the phone, or they think that having an agent will give them a step up the ladder.

I remind you that no one forces an artist to seek out an agent. Just FYI I do advise artists that if they CAN do it for themselves then that’s their best option. See my article on why you don’t need an agent on my help-pages.
http://www.jacey-bedford.com/helpfiles/helpfiles.html

Having said all that, I’m forwarding this (complete) to [artist]. [Artist] can decide whther to take you up on your kind offer of working for no pay and not even any advance publicity since [artist] would be appearing without the benefit of anyone knowing they were there.

I look forward to his reply. Though I probably shouldn’t hold my breath.

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Selling Folk

Reblogged from Folk21
Originally posted on September 4, 2014

“Performers should do more promotion,” I hear venue and club bookers cry.
“Venues should do better promotion,” I hear performers grumble.

Some artists think it’s enough to have a Facebook page. (It isn’t.)
Some clubs think it’s enough to put a quarterly advert in their local folk magazine. (It isn’t.)

So whose responsibility is it to sell Folk to the potential audience?

All the artists on my agency have mailing lists, web sites, social media. My agency still supplies print posters and flyers in unlimited quantities (printing paid for by the artists), though it’s surprising how many clubs take the few samples we send them, but completely ignore the bit on the contract which asks them how many more posters and flyers they would like us to send. We get all the radio opportunities that we can to support gigs and tours. (Though folk radio is being squeezed out, which is a whole other issue.) An artist can and should do all of that. It costs almost nothing except effort. Even print costs have come down significantly thanks to online print outfits like print24.com.

Some artists even pay for a publicist – which is not cheap – to get press coverage, especially if there’s a new CD on the horizon. And some will advertise national tours in fRoots, R2 (Rock ‘n Reel). Living Tradition and the like, though, again, not cheap. (And those who are going to pay for such things must inevitably increase what they charge venues because money doesn’t make itself. Most folkies I know are not independently wealthy.)

It’s a performer’s job to raise their own profile. To build a reputation and create a buzz that will attract an audience. Sometimes it’s longevity and the dripping-tap method, sometimes it’s having a promotional machine that catapults them into folk awards territory. With the reduction of folk radio opportunities and the reluctance of festivals to book artists they see as ‘folk club performers’ it becomes increasingly difficult and sucks up a lot of an artist’s time and energy when not actually on the road performing. But it’s all part of the job. Harvey Andrews wrote a song about how ‘We’re all little businesses, now’ and how right he is. It’s not enough to be a great musician or singer. Artists need a plethora of support skills, too. (See my biog, above.) Or they need a manager (which sparks off a completely different discussion about the commercialisation of folk), or a dedicated mum, or a spouse.

It’s not, however, the artist’s job to do the local promotion. How can they when maybe they live a few hundred miles away? They don’t know the local newspapers, they don’t have contacts with the local radio. They probably don’t even know the advertising deadline dates for the local folk magazines. That aspect should be done by the club or venue. Yes artists should react quickly to requests for interviews and CDs, they should provide press releases and good quality photos for the club to send out to the local press (easy enough to do by adding a promotion page to their website). But the local promotion and advertising is the job of the people on the ground. They should take whatever publicity the artist provides and spread it around in the places THEY KNOW will be most effective. How many clubs have a mailing list? (Email or paper.) Those that do generally attract bigger audiences than those that don’t. How many clubs ask for sufficient posters and then go to the trouble to get them put up in libraries, information points and even supermarket notice boards? (I sold 8 tickets straight off Tesco’s notice board in Penistone the last time I had Vin Garbutt playing at Birdsedge. Not to be sniffed at.) There are many things a club or venue can do, from having their own brochure (as posh or as plain as you like) spreading posters and flyers, talking up the upcoming acts to audiences (enthusiasm goes a long way), advertising in local folk magazines, making good cointacts with local newspapers (to run no-cost articles) and local radio stations (not just the folk programme), having their own website (not just a Facebook page though that helps, too), maybe even a twitter feed, and, PLEASE, a dedicated mailing list. Use any and all methods. Leave no stone unturned.

It’s not Us and Them. The whole thing should be a symbiotic relationship. Artist and venue working together for mutual benefit.

Jacey Bedford

Jacey Bedford

Jacey Bedford

Jacey Bedford has worn almost all the hats on the folk song scene that it’s possible to wear – not sequentially or she’d be nearly a hundred! She’s been a performer (twenty years as one-third of Artisan plus reunion tours); a festival booker for eleven years; a concert club organiser for thirty years and a folk booking agent for sixteen years and counting. During that time she’s also had to learn to be an office manager, a database developer, a website writer, a negotiator, a publicist, a radio plugger, a designer for posters and CD covers, a transport and logistics manager, and a Tier 5 (entertainment) immigration sponsor (which requires a government licence, so it must be almost a proper job!) In addition to all that she began the Britfolk artists’ networking group, was a folk development worker for Yorkshire Folk Arts and is now one of the volunteers working on the Folk21 national committee. In her spare time she writes science fiction and fantasy and has a new novel, ‘Empire of Dust’, coming out from DAW in November (already available to pre-order on Amazon – and yes, that’s a plug.)

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Off to the Palace

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Congratulations to Zulu Tradition who have been selected to play at Buckinghgam Palace on Thursday 12th June at a garden party for the British Red Cross. We’ve just heard that instead of the band stand performance they were originally booked to play, they’ll be performing in the marqee for the royal party. Whoo-hoo! They are so looking forward to it.

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Local Radio Folk

The whole folk club scene in Britain desperately misses the excellent BBC local radio programmes whose presenters not only read out the local folk diary, but also showcased the music of the guest artists passing through. RIP folk shows from BBC stations in Sheffield, Humberside, York, Newcastle, Derby/Nottingham, and I’m sure you can add to this list so feel free to in the comments. Plus the earlier loss of folk shows on commercial stations such as Radio Aire, Pennine Radio, Hallam and – again – many more you can name. It’s great that we do have some community stations broadcasting folk (Sheffield, Lincoln etc.) but these are not widely broadcast – though often can be heard via the internet.

Of course there are many good internet-only ‘radio’ shows (such as Mike Harding’s) but though these are great for hearing new and newly released music as well as old favourites, they are not geographically specific and therefore can’t promote a whole regional diary – plus, of course, they are often available via the net long after the original broadcast dates, so diaries are largely irrelevant.

When I was working for Yorkshire Folk Arts I was (professionally) involved in the protest/argument with the Yorkshire cluster of BBC stations when they axed Henry Ayrton’s show which was broadcast over the whole cluster from Humberside (having already amalgamated the Sheffield, Leeds and Humberside shows into one and lost the independent ones from Sheffield and Leeds). Effectively they were axing three shows at once though, of course, their argument was that it was only one show they were closing. After a 1000 signature petition and some face to face meetings with execs the regional deputy controller promised there would be a replacement show by the end of the year (2002 IIRC). That didn’t happen, though eventually the Durbevilles’ show emerged on Radio Leeds (not called a folk show, note). The other Yorkshire cluster stations remain folk-less to this day.

When I first started listening to folk back in the 1980s I could get a local folk show on most days of the week from BBC Sheffield (Bob Hazlewood), BBC Leeds (Bernie Parry), Bradford Pennine Radio (Nigel Schofield), Leeds Radio Aire (Dave Burland), BBC Humberside (Ray Williams and later Henry Ayrton) and Sheffield Hallam (I forget who, sorry). Now I can only get the Durbevilles on Radio Leeds on my radio. (Listening on the computer involves me being in my office, which is usually when I’m working, so not listening to radio as I can’t concentrate on two things at once.)

I do believe that the loss of so many folk shows on the BBC has had a detrimental effect on folk club attendance. Kudos to the excellent regional shows that still exist (Gen Tudor, Johnny Coppin etc.) but a big raspberry to the BBC regional clusters that have axed folk from their schedules. The BBC, funded by licence payers not by commercial sponsorship, has a duty of care to all its constituent listeners, including those who want to hear ‘minority’ music on the radio whether this is folk, jazz, country or ethnic/roots.

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Promoting gigs

This is the gist of what I had to say at the Folk21 East Midlands Discussion Day.

Promoting a gig is a partnership between the venue or folk club and the artist. There are some things that the artist can do to help and some things that are much better done by a local promoter on the ground. It’s unrealistic for an artist to expect the venue/folk club to provide a ready made audience without any help and it’s unrealistic for a venue to expect an artists to bring an audience with them.

If you want a full house it should be a joint effort. Organisers should remember, however, that an artist spends a lot of time on the road, away from home and away from any office facilities that she or he might have. There’s only so much can be done with a dodgy phone signal or Costa Coffee’s wifi connection.

Partnership.
I always think that the arrangement that best promotes partnership between a venue and an artist is to negotiate the fee as a guarantee versus a percentage. The percentage is calculated after expenses and there’s a good explanation of how it works here on my help page at: http://www.jacey-bedford.com/helpfiles/help-percent.html

Basically, the artist has a guaranteed minimum, but it’s not what she/he ultimately wants to make from the night, it’s the minimum that means they are not out of pocket on the trip.  If there’s a good crowd they are going to get more – in some cases considerably more – and that’s going to help pay the grocery bill at the end of the week.

The venue has a guarantee to find and therefore they have to work hard to promote to cover that fee (at least) and hopefully of the artist gets into percentages the venue will also make a clear  profit. But it’s not such a huge guarantee that they risk losing their shirt if (say) it snows or if they clash with the cup final night.

A guarantee versus a percentage shares the responsibility and shares the profit. The ideal is that both the artist and the venue should make a profit.

So on to promo…

An Artist’s Responsibility

  • WEBSITE. Have a website with a URL that reflects the artist’s name
  • MAILING LIST. Maintain an active mailing list – not just adding email addresses to it at every opportunity, but making it interesting for your followers.
  • PRINT. Printing well designed posters and flyers for an agent to distribute to venues in whatever quantities are required.
  • ADVERTISING. Take out national advertising for high-profile tours (fRoots/Living Tradition/Rock & Reel – R2 – etc.)
  • PROFILE. Send out review and radio copies of albums to establish and maintain a visible profile. Seek out promo opportunities in local folkie magazines and websites
  • INTERVIEWS. Seek out opportunities to do radio interviews in conjunction with the venue – which can often be done the week before by telephone in addition to sending a CD. A radio interview a week before the gig is MUCH better than one on the day when people have already made their plans for the evening.
  • SOCIAL MEDIA. Maintain a presence on social media: facebook, twitter, tumblr etc. (though perhaps myspace is over, but if you want to leave no stone unturned, it doesn’t hurt to have a page there, too.) In all cases the object of the social media is to get people to your web page. Yes, have a page on facebook and get as many likes as you can but this is NO SUBSTITUTE FOR A WEB PAGE – please excuse me for shouting.

A Venue/promoter’s Responsibility

  • WEBSITE. Have a website. The same thing applies here as applied to artists. Don’t just have a facebook page or a convenient page on someone else’s site. Have your own dedicated website and keep it up to date. Make sure your contact details are on there and if you want to have your club booking policy displayed, then do so. It saves you being contacted by the kind of artists you’ve specifically said you don’t book, i.e. singer songwriter if you’re strictly trad or the other way round..
  • MAILING LIST. Maintain an active club or venue mailing list. Try and get an email address from everyone who steps through your door. Make it interesting for your followers. Your mailing list will probably overlap with your artist’s but that’s OK. Hit them in a pincer movement.
  • LOCAL ADVERTISING. Take out local advertising in whatever local folkie print magazine covers your area (or more than one if like me you live on the border between two great little magazines). Send them interesting news as well. Angle it to make it interesting – just a paragraph or two will give them something to use.
  • LOCAL PRESS. Get local interest stories into the local newspapers. Build up a rapport with your local rag, send them interesting stuff and they’ll print it.
  • RADIO. Make contact with local radio programmes for incoming artists and pass on contact details. If the artist can’t appear, how about once a quarter – or as often as you can – getting a radio interview yourself and taking a selection of CDs from upcoming artists. Talk about the club/venue with passion. Enthusiasm is catching.
  • PRINT. Use the posters and flyers the artist has sent you. If you run a club you should be putting the flyers out on seats for several shows before the upcoming one. Posters are difficult to find a home for these days, but try your best. A shop or library that won’t take an A5 poster will often put up an A5 flyer instead. If you are going to ask for hundreds of flyers then please use them. Don’t overprint them and then try and give the spares back to the artist on the night. (You don’t know how disspiriting that can be – and it does happen!) Don’t ask for 50 posters and then poster the foyer with all of them. (Windsor Arts Centre I’m looking at you! 498 flyers out of 500 left standing on the counter and 50 poster pated on one wall of the foyer. Are you surprised there were only 32 people in the audience, who’d all come from our mailing list and should have been the icing on the cake?)
  • SOCIAL MEDIA. Use social media: facebook, twitter, tumblr, (But as with the artist, this is no substiture for your own website or mailing list.)
  • WORD OF MOUTH. Employ word of mouth. Talk up the event and get your friends to talk it up as well.

And What Does the Agent do for her Money?

Always remember that it’s the agent’s job to look after the artist’s diary, to find and get the gigs for the artist, to negotiate the contract. In addition the agent will:

  • Send out whatever physical publicity the artist has had printed.
  • An agent should also have a website where a promoter can download images and text for a press release. (This may also be on the artist’s website.)
  • An agent will supply a CD for radio, or will pass the request direct to the artist.
  • An agent will forward all requests for interviews direct to an artist (or their management).

BUT
An agent is not a publicist. An agent’s job does not include sending press releases to local newspapers and websites. An agent does not keep an artist’s mailing list. An agent does not print posters and flyers for an artist (though I will do this for an incoming foreign artist at the artist’s expense because sending posters and flyers from abroad costs more than printing them in the UK).

Phew, did I manage to say all that in a ten minute speech. Good job I printed it here as well.

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Folk21

I was delighted to be invited to speak at the Folk21 East Midlands Discussion Day and Showcases on Sunday 23rd February.  It was a really interesting day with a bunch of people who put on folk clubs and concerts in the area, perform, run radio shows and just generally are interested in the nuts and bolts of the folk scene. An afternoon of discussion and information (and advice) sharing was followed by a slap-up buffet and an evening showcase concert headlined by the wonderful Andy Cutting and featuring my agency artists, Union Jill. who did a lovely energetic set, their voices edgy and harmonic at the same time. Tight as a drum (musically not alcoholically!) Also appearing were the wonderful Caffrey/McGurk who record here at Brian Bedford’s Park Head Studio, and do as good a traditional night in a folk club as you can find anywhere. New to me were:Kirsty Bromley, Jake Wilson, Louise Jordan. All excellent musicians. Kirsty sings unaccompanied, some of her own songs and some trad, Louise has a clear, fluty, almost operatic quality voice and accompanies herself on guitar and Jake has composed a sing cycle about Scott’s ill-fated expedition to the South Pole. Not a laugh a minute, but beautifully sung.

My part of the day was a ten minute segment on how folk clubs and venues can share the responsibility for doing promotion and publicity. More about this in a separate post.

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A profound sadness amidst the celebration of music.

Godfrey Daniels!

by Dave Fry

How does one define Space? It has no boundaries, to begin with.

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We lost our immediate personification of Space when we lost our own Mike Space this week, who passed in his sleep in his new home in the Caribbean.  He was recreating another chapter in his active and creative life with his soul mate Judi Space, off on the island paradise of Vieques.

 

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When Mike and Judi moved up to the Lehigh Valley from Philly, he brought with him his love of folk music, art, good food and general large living, along with his hands-on skills as a mechanic. And it was his love of getting under the hood that made him invaluable as he began his career as a folk-music promoter, sound man, and radio DJ.

Personally, he was the right man for the big job of Artistic Director at Godfrey’s when he…

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