On 27 March, the Editors of Shire Folk were invited to contribute to a one-day conference on the future of music magazines. The conference looked particularly at Nightshift: Oxford’s Music Magazine and reflected on the considerable achievements of its Editor, Ronan Munro. Ronan spoke about how the music industry had changed since his magazine first started in 1991, when it was called Curfew. He said most artists can now no longer rely on album sales to make a living and touring was often their main source of income.
He felt this had driven up ticket prices, meaning fewer young people can afford to go to as many gigs as he did as a teenager. Also, larger venues, like the O2 in Oxford, now have far more tribute bands in their schedules, which again are mostly targeted at the older, perhaps wealthier audience.
A few days after the conference I saw Steve Knightley from Show of Hands at Nettlebed Folk Club. Steve made similar observations and said that the best selling folk album of 2017 only sold 6000 copies. Steve said a Show of Hands gig usually had an audience of around 600 and if he or Phil Beer played solo they normally had around 200 attend. He agreed with Ronan in saying that playing live was now the main way to pay the bills.
You may disagree, but I don't think folk music gig and festival ticket prices have increased much more than in line with inflation. However, looking at the many festival and folk club line-ups, it does appear that everyone seems to be touring more. Also, everybody seems to be collaborating even more than they did in the past to form even more bands to play live. You only have to look at the interview with Benji Kirkpatrick on to Features tab of this website to see the amazing number of projects he is involved in.
One thing is for sure, Ronan is correct in saying that the music business has changed dramatically in the last 25 years or so, and it will no doubt change even more in the future.
Shire Folk is a free, A5, bimonthly magazine covering folk, roots and acoustic music. It has been produced for over 40 years on a not-for-profit basis, paid for by advertising revenue. Each issue includes news items, both local and national, artist interviews, festival and gig reviews, as well as reviews of about 30 new CDs.
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Graham Hobbs & Jonathan Roscoe
Co-Editors, Shire Folk
Shire Folk Album of 2017
Trails & Tribulations