Well here we are the middle of spring and I’ve already been to my first festival of the year, Love Folk, a great festival at the start of February and one that I’m glad to say that Fatea has been an active supporter of for three of its four years. It’s a festival with a great atmosphere, a respectful audience that really pay attention the band performing on stage and yet like a lot of indoor, acoustic, yes I’ll even use the word folk, festivals the average age of the audience exceeded the average age of the bands by a good few years.
It’s not just Love Folk many of the indoor festivals at the start and end of the festival season have similar profiles, a few older bands and a good selection of rising younger acts that don’t seem to bring the younger audience with them.
The profile starts changing as you move to the outdoor festivals during the summer, particularly at the festivals that are deemed to be family friendly or simply so big with so many stages that they are effectively a number of different festivals in close formation. Some of those festivals even have special workshops dedicated to younger musicians as well as stages set aside for them to perform.
As a magazine editor, as well as a show host on Blues & Roots I am constantly amazed by the array of young talent that I get exposed to by the releases that come through my front door or inbox, without a doubt there are an increasing number of artists writing and performing with a maturity beyond their years and yet with many of the tools available to them, that previous generations never had, in terms of potential audience reach, it isn’t translating into bums on seats. Yes there are exceptions, Ed Sheeran, Frank Turner but very much the exception that proves the rule.
As, now, a card carrying old foggie I was talking to one of my teenage relatives after getting back from Love Folk I was discussing festivals and the subject came around to Glastonbury, which she’d been to for the first time last year, so I asked her who she went to see, to which the reply was no one, she went to Glastonbury as a rite of passage before going off to university and to be fair since she started at Uni, she’s really started getting into music, well music as a night out, open mics etc and singer-songwriters in cafes. But interestingly not the Union Bar or clubs.
Now I admit until this part of my blog, I’ve rambled a bit, seemingly throwing a number of related, yet disconnected themes out there, let me begin to pull it back together. Are audiences starting to polarise along age lines and dare I say it generational lines. We now have a generation that have effectively been denied access to arts and music in local schools. I don’t think it’s coincidental that a higher percentage of press releases for younger artists include phrases like, first discovered their love of music listening to their parents record/cd collection, curated discovery of music perhaps, but also the chance to listen to complete albums and understand the structures of music and maybe taken to gigs and concerts, seeds laid for future discoveries.
If you came from a non-musical family, school was a place where that hole could be filled, It’s a good few years ago now, but I was exposed to so many different genres before going to secondary school. We listened in groups and talked about it with our friends afterwards. By taking away the opportunity to hear music in school are we not only taking away and limiting the next generation of musicians, but also the next generation of audience, creating vacuums in our venues because it doesn’t occur to people that finding new music is a fun thing to do?