Notes to Artists

To all artists: With sometimes ten or more artists a week knocking on my door, you can bet that I only take on the best… and then only VERY rarely. I won’t say my books are closed (I’ve tried saying it and I still can’t resist the occasional great artist that comes along), however if you’re an artist, especially a new one, please don’t call me until you’ve read my article on Why You Don’t Need an Agent.

If you’ve got more gigs on the books than you can handle and you’re never at home when the phone rings because you’re out gigging, then… sure, call me. If you’ve never toured the UK before or are only just starting out in your career and have no British profile, I’m not likely to take you on. It’s very hard work breaking a new act into the British folk scene and I don’t have time for it right now even if you’re very, very special.

To artists from outside the EU: Yes you do need a Certificate of Sponsorship to come into the UK to perform if you are travelling from outside the EU. Artists from countries that do not require their citizens to have a visa for tourism to the UK can come into the UK to perform for less than three months with only a Certificate of Sponsorship. No further pre-processing is required. But artists from countries whose citizens require a visa for travelling to the UK as a tourist, will need to convert their Certificate of Sponsorship to a full work visa. This is also the case for artists from any country intending to stay in the UK to perform for longer than three months. This conversion process is called ‘Entry Clearance’ and takes approximately four weeks to complete after you’ve got your Certificate of Sponsorship.

If you are from outside the EU and you get your own UK tour together, and you need someone to process your Certificate of Sponsorship, then please feel free to get in touch.

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All About Being a Folk Music Booking Agent in the UK

Jacey at Winnipeg Folk Festival

Jacey – Winnipeg Folk Festival

Before opening the music agency I  toured as one third of vocal trio Artisan from 1985 to 2005 plus the 2010 and 2015 reunion tours; also as one fifth of the Brian Bedford Band through to the summer of 2006. I’ve played thousands of gigs and hundreds of festivals across the UK, Germany, Belgium, the USA, Canada, Australia and even (once) Hong Kong, so I reckon I know the business from both sides.

After the farewell Artisan gig in 2005 I counted the stamps in my passport and realised I’d notched up thirty one North American tours in a decade and decided I must be bonkers! I now sit at home and drive a desk for a living – sending out other performers to do the hard work. Instead of thirty thousand miles a year the Bedford motor now does less than three. Probably just as well since it’s not getting any younger! I can absolutely confirm that folk agents don’t drive around in sleek BMWs – well – this one doesn’t anyway.

I know a thing or two about clubs, festivals and venues. I even ran my own, putting on concerts at Birdsedge Village Hall for thirty years and booking the acts for Birdsedge Village Festival for ten as well as running the occasional bigger gig at the Paramount Cinema in Penistone, Nr Sheffield.

Band on stage

Tanglefoot at Penistone Paramount

I’ve got some fantastic artists on my books from all over the world.
Vin Garbutt, Zulu Tradition, Ritchie Parrish Ritchie, Cloudstreet, Union Jill, Dan McKinnon, Tania Opland and Mike Freeman, Eileen McGann, Artisan, The Salts, Lee Collinson and Al Parrish, and I’m currently talking to another well established artist, but I can’t tell you who that is yet, or I would have to shoot you.

It’s my job as an agent, to match-make artists and events. I’m not looking for ‘gigs at any price’. Making the right connections helps both artists and bookers to get the best deal and build up ongoing relationships. A lot of the people I deal with are friends, or become friends in the course of our business relationship.

Obviously if I never call or email a venue I’m not doing my job properly, so if you’re a booker in the UK, expect to hear from me at least once or twice a year, possibly with a few emails in between. If you want to be added to my mailing list please email me. My email is above in the header. Ditto if you want to be removed from it. I’d appreciate it mightily if you could let me know of any email address changes, of if you hand over the job of booking-contact to someone else.

To all bookers and festival organisers: When I call you or email I want you to know that I will always take no for an answer. In fact, next to yes, no is the second best answer because it enables me to move on and call the next venue or festival. Those maybes and call-me-back-in-a-month answers are killers… unless of course, you really mean it. Unfortunately some bookers are dear sweet people who don’t like to disappoint and who don’t know how to say no. I hope no one ever feels they can’t say no to me. Of course I like it best when you say yes, but to go round full circle… I really am not looking for gigs at any price. It’s got to be the right gig at the right price so that everybody wins.

That’s what my job is about, creating a win-win situation for the venue, the artist and, oh, yes, for me too.

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The Salts and Lee Collinson

I don’t take on new artists very often (hardly ever, in fact) so it’s a measure of how impressive they are that I’ve taken on shantypunk band, The Salts. Check them out at

The Salts

The Salts

And I’ve also added Lee Collinson (solo) to the roster. Lee is front-man of The Salts and enjoyed much success on the folk scene before family life and his day job caused a hiatus. He’s back now and better than ever.

Lee Collinson

Lee Collinson

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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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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.



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.

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

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


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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