The practice of assigning musicians to venues

The practice of assigning musicians to venues

What are the pros and cons of this practice? Any strong opinions? Is it generally a TradFest thing? Apologies if this bone has already been gnawed to death.

Re: The practice of assigning musicians to venues

The bone has been "gnawed" quite a bit but there’s still room for discussion.

I suppose if a pub wishes to have a regular guaranteed session it makes sense to pay a couple of anchor (wo)men to ensure that something happens and to encourage and facilitate other players. Sometimes, however, such players regard it as their "gig" or night and can be very domineering. Fair enough and I don’t suppose others need to attend if they don’t like it. In most good sessions though, it is a bit more subtle and the booked players just keep things going gently.
Mind you, at the other extreme, I’ve also witnessed the "paid musicians" sitting back doing nothing and just letting the other players get on with it although they’ll still accept the money at the end of the night!

As for folk festival scenarios, I’m less keen on "led" or paid sessions and I think it’s best for musicians and singers to find their own space. It gets particularly bad with "mixed sessions" where the assigned musician/singers try to over organise the proceedings.
I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be some arrangement to encourage beginners or for special instrument specific or song sessions but these should be the exception rather than the rule and confined to certain suitable "spaces". The majority of sessions at a festival should be allowed to flourish or die on their own. Just my opinion.

Re: The practice of assigning musicians to venues

What exactly is the practice of assigning musicians to venues? I honestly don’t know what it is.
Thank you.

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Re: The practice of assigning musicians to venues

I think Christmas Eve is probably referring to what happens at many festivals etc as opposed to the regular pub session scene. I might be wrong though.

Re: The practice of assigning musicians to venues

@AB At certain festivals the practice is to pay musicians to lead sessions at particular venues at specified times.

Re: The practice of assigning musicians to venues

Thank you, Mr Jay.

Re: The practice of assigning musicians to venues

Thank you, Christmas Eve. Not something I know anything about. I’m guessing it depends on the town, the size of the festival and which venues are paying to lead sessions. I’ll sit back & wait for more experienced responses.

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Re: The practice of assigning musicians to venues

I guess it’s totally up to the organisers of a venue, but I have never come across it. If I did I wouldn’t participate.

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Re: The practice of assigning musicians to venues

I would gladly attend a session on the basis of the character of the session and it’s music. If there are paid anchors I don’t have a problem with that in itself.

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Re: The practice of assigning musicians to venues

I’m referring to this practice as a feature of festivals in particular. For ‘venue’ read ‘pub’.
I was prompted to start this discussion after hearing a friend mention that a rather famous musician, drafted for the purpose, looked bored to death in his station as he churned out tunes during the recent Tuam TradFest.
And besides, I’ve often wondered about this business in a general sort of way.

Re: The practice of assigning musicians to venues

It seems to work OK if it’s an individual musician they put in, but when they put a whole band in it tends to become a band in a pub, not a session.

Re: The practice of assigning musicians to venues

I used to attend these at the California Traditional Music Society festivals. They were grand and the best way to handle sessions that are large. The anchors know how to manage the group in a positive way and command the kind of respect that keeps the potentially unruly in line. Not good for pub sessions, although some may be just fine. I just don’t fancy the idea.

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Re: The practice of boring musicians in pub venues?

Which is it, CE? Festivals in particular or "this business in general" or all of the above. You’re not just churning this out for the sake of churning something out; are you?

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Re: The practice of assigning musicians to venues

No, AB.
Festivals in particular.
Just wondering.
Not preoccupied.

Re: The practice of assigning musicians to venues

Christmas Eve, I appreciate your response. Sorry to put you on the spot.

Again, I’m not familiar with the situation you are asking about and unfortunately cannot answer the question with any real world experience. Which is why I am interested in reading responses from those here who have been in these assigned sessions; as host, guests &/or paid session leaders.

Ben

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Re: The practice of assigning musicians to venues

I have been that ‘assigned musician’ at various festivals over the years - the money’s not brilliant [about the same as the average pub gig] I’ve seen it as my job to just keep the session running smoothly, jump in if it
seems to be losing momentum, encourage some of the quieter players to start a set ………….Its not a role I particularly enjoy but as a semi-pro musician of many years I take most gigs that are offered and I will do the job to the best of my ability, also its reassuring to be regarded as sufficiently competent to be offered the job in the first place. I ‘ve attended sessions run by other musicians at various festivals and I’m glad to say I’ve never witnessed that ‘taking the p—- ’ attitude quoted by JJ above, though not to say it doesn’t happen!

Re: The practice of assigning musicians to venues

One of the festivals I go to often has one or 2 people (usually unpaid volunteers!) go in to make sure a session gets started: they are in the role of "session facilitator" rather than "session leader", much as Christy has described above. If it is running itself without any intervention, then fine. When, in the past, we have had whole groups go in, we have asked them to play acoustically, and make sure everyone gets a shot, and not let it be "a band in a pub" as Mark M has mentioned.
One year we decided not to have any session hosts and just let the sessions evolve on their own, having advertised which pubs were available for sessions and at what times: what actually happened was that people came into the pub, saw that no-one was playing or singing and went away again: no-one wanted to be first to start, it seemed! Meanwhile several people who had just come to listen were saying "What’s happened to all the music?" So another festival committee member and I just did a song each: that kick-started it: within minutes we had a full-blown session going.
The other thing about festival sessions is that you often get a different cross-section of people coming from those at our regular monthly sessions, so it helps to have someone there to welcome any newcomers and make them feel included.

Re: The practice of assigning musicians to venues

I’ve been the paid session-runner before, and also had a few "session" gigs at festivals that were more like a band gig than a true session, amplified and everything (at the request of the bar). Not a ton of money in it, but it pays for the costs of going to the festival, and you’re always assured a good seat at the table!

You have to think about it from the pub’s perspective. For you or I it might feel less spontaneous and fun to have someone calling the shots. But we can always move on to another pub if we don’t like what’s going on in this one. For the pub, they’re losing customers if they don’t have music that’s up to snuff, or worse yet, no music at all. A couple people taking the lead and ensuring that the session runs smoothly can make a big difference.

Re: The practice of assigning musicians to venues

I’ve been at festivals where there are a couple "name" players sitting there playing in the middle of some chairs arranged around them, sometimes leading a session, sometimes with some listeners.

I assume such duty is part of their overall deal with the festival (along with concerts and workshops).

Re: The practice of assigning musicians to venues

You’re right, I think.

In many cases, festivals are obliged to organise workshops and other educational aspects etc to be granted funding. I’m not sure how pub sessions fit into this but there might be some sort of "community aspect" involved in the deal. Also, some pubs and local businesses may help to sponsor the festival….. I’ve seen sessions arranged within local cafes, delicatessans, even local butcher shops.