The Sound of Silence

The Sound of Silence

The other day I was in a bar at a festival and there were a few good going tunes. After a period of time, the musicians stopped for a breather and a blether as they(we) often do. Nothing wrong with that as it’s a social occasion too.
However, after a few minutes, the bar man cranked up some extremely loud and "thumpy" background music.

I notice this happens a lot in bars which supposedly "welcome" musicians and sessions which causes me to wonder about the mentality and thinking of the staff/management in these situations. While it may be a message that "playtime is over" for the musicians or just a lack of thought, it certainly sends out a signal which makes players feel their efforts aren’t being appreciated. Personally, I’m inclined to give staff the benefit of the doubt and they probably don’t realise that sometimes people can appreciate breaks for conversation and a bit of silence. To be fair on the chap, he did turn the music off when the musicians wanted to start up again.

Any thoughts on this?

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It is a proper nuisance, absolutely. From the bar staff’s point of view, they just want sonic wallpaper and don’t see any difference between Alanis Morrisette and us lot. They’re very good about turning it off when we start up but when we stop you can literally start counting down until it kicks in.

I have in the past offered to put together a CD or flash drive with something a bit more in keeping but have more than once had replies along the lines of "it’s OK - we can just switch our normal music back on".

Other than trying to have a serious conversation about it with management - which feels a bit demanding to me - I’m not sure what to do about it. I can live with it but I agree I don’t enjoy it one bit.

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"Less talking more rocking," to use the parlance of our times.

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A topic that exercises me more than is good for my blood pressure …

I mean, it’s o.k. if the management play stuff that I personally may not like, but which they’ve deliberately chosen because they think it suits the ambience or their customers’ tastes, but a great deal of what gets played over the house PA is simply mindless. If you were to ask the staff what’s coming over the speakers, or why it’s being played, or who they think is listening to it, you’re likely to get a blank/hostile stare. It’s the assumption that some sort of pumped-out noise (even a radio programme with phone-ins and adverts, or a disco CD that keeps skipping) is preferable to the hum of conversation.

In the pub where I play at least I know where the speaker cut-off is, and when we’re ready to start I can flick the switch: there has not been a single occasion over the past few years when this has not been greeted by nods of relief by the pub customers in the room.

I guess the sad fact is that, for most people, music holds no great significance so it doesn’t matter what it is or whether it’s there or not. It us would-be muzos who regard unconsidered sound as noise pollution. Maybe a mass movement is needed to object to it, or some negotiation by CAMRA and EFDSS with the LVA (pub landlords’ association in the UK).

Or direct action - always carry wire clippers in your fiddle case…

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Similarly, I play in a ceilidh band and we are very wary of playing for events that also have a disco. DJs abhor a vacuum and often can’t wait to get us off and get onto what they think is the serious part of the night..

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There’s no hope. Seriously. The choice is to just live with it or to never set foot in those places. Sorry.

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I think you lot need an attitude adjustment. You are not paid entertainment and you need the pub more than they need you. Get over yourselves. If you don’t want pop or rock to fill the intervals, don’t have intervals. Have a word with The proprietor if you think that might help. Otherwise, realise that there probably are not many there because of you. Your expectations need to know you are lucky to have a venue.

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Wow. I’ve only experienced that when playing gigs, where they put on the house music in-between sets, which seems totally normal to me. I’ve never experienced that in the middle of a session. That would drive me crazy.

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@Johnny Jay: You certainly have my sympathy on this one.

Here in England (and presumably it’s the same in Scotland) it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find a pub, a resturant, a department store - or even a bank or a charity shop that doesn’t think it’s a good idea to inflict mindless "background" music on its customers. I hate it! 🙁

Ever seen that TV programme - Room 101? If they ever invite to to be a guest on that programme (admittedly, extremely likely) that would be my No. 1 submission - "background" music.

In any case, playing someone else’s recorded music in a public place is a breach of copyright unless a licence has been obtained from the PRS (or equivalent organisation) and a royalty paid.

https://www.prsformusic.com/what-we-do/licensing-music/do-i-need-a-licence

A pound to a penny that most small establishments (such as pubs) don’t bother to get one.

You might try asking your barman if he has a PRS licence … 😉

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"A pound to a penny that most small establishments (such as pubs) don’t bother to get one." I would certainly take that bet.

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Asking if your barman is licensed sounds like a surefire way to get kicked out and banned.

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Plus, that PRS licence covers both the jukebox and us lot equally. If we were rude enough to get the electricalmusicboxes ejected, we would be right behind them.

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Had a meal out in a local hostelry last week: they apologised for the fact that their "sound system was down": we cheered! I have hearing problems and "background music" can be the death of any conversation for me, so just cut it out!

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"I guess the sad fact is that, for most people, music holds no great significance so it doesn’t matter what it is or whether it’s there or not"

The crux of the matter in a nut shell. Ailin "get over yourself" and try to understand that, more often, culture today is that which surrounds as us a result of marketing, economic selection and lazy, formulaic, event hosting rather than as a product of what we are encouraged or allowed to participate in as full members. But then as an American you are probably quite used to not really having much of a culture anyway.

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Arthur Figgis: "Asking if your barman is licensed sounds like a surefire way to get kicked out and banned."

If he did so (and didn’t have a licence) he would be taking the risk that you might report him to the PRS.

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Calum: "Plus, that PRS licence covers both the jukebox and us lot equally. If we were rude enough to get the electricalmusicboxes ejected, we would be right behind them".

Not so!

Providing that you are playing only trad music, a PRS licence is not needed.

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Thanks for all the responses so far and I’m pleased to see that we are all broadly in agreement with, perhaps, the exception of Ailin who is also entitled to his opinion.

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"Providing that you are playing only trad music, a PRS licence is not needed."

We’ve had some quite lengthy discussions re this before and while this may be technically true, the onus would inevitably be on the management and us to to prove that we were only playing traditional music in its strictest sense… We’ll not start another "What is Trad Music?" but most of the music we play does have known composers and is in copyright. Even some of the very old tunes by unknown or forgotten composers have been recorded and published as "new settings" which are now copyrighted. So, we would have to avoid playing "So and so’s" version or setting of a tune too, I suppose.

Of course, musicians at the session would be entitled to play their own tunes and, in a previous thread, there were anecdotal reports of musicians making up their own names for the tunes played that night and claiming ownership. The assumption being that the management and PRS etc people wouldn’t know the difference. 😉

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Ailin is entitled to his opinion, and I don’t often disagree with him, but I would question the validity of the statement “you need the pub more than the pub needs you”. Every situation is different for sure, but if our session took place in a venue that thought they were doing us a favor by letting us provide two+ hours of live music in exchange for fifty bucks’ worth of beer, I’d consider seeking another venue. Establishments that view such arrangements as mutually beneficial do exist in my city and, I’d be willing to bet, in yours too.

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@tdrury - I hear you and don’t dispute your point, but consider: the pub does not live or die by whether they host a session, whereas sessions can die without a suitable venue. That does not mean the pub thinks it is doing the session a favor, but it is going to operate in what it thinks is it’s best interest. If the OP has an issue, take it up with the landlord, but don’t get an attitude about it, is what I am suggesting.

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"If the OP has an issue, take it up with the landlord, but don’t get an attitude about it, is what I am suggesting."

"An attitude"?
I was only hoping for an interesting discussion and maybe glean some of the experiences and opinions of members here.

This wasn’t my regular pub and only one I visit every few months at the most. It wouldn’t be my place to "take it up with the landlord". Besides, I also stated that this situation happens in many pubs which host sessions. So, this isn’t unique. The purpose of this thread wasn’t to start a diatribe re this particular bar but to discuss such matters in general.

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> Providing that you are playing only trad music, a PRS licence is not needed.

I shall bite. Can you provide a programme of traditional music suitable for a 2-3 hour session, of tunes that are reasonably well known to session players of a reasonable standard?

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I wasn’t going to respond to this but after some festering I changed my mind.

Alan I get the point that we need venues more than they need us. Reality check here: I’ve never been anywhere on nights when we weren’t playing to find a vast wasteland of empty seats an dire faces. How do they survive without, how does anybody? That doesn’t mean we should be begging for places to play, we do have something to offer. It does mean that the proprietor’s needs supersede ours.

Now to the issue. Steve, I fully understand the way"marketeering" diminishes everything it touches. I recall a time where every flat surface didn’t need a marketing message, not every moment needed a sound track, value wasn’t measured by profit. Happy to meet you someday over a pint or a dram and talk about the way the world seems to move to the lowest common denominator. That said, this is hardly the forum for taking cheap shots at the culture of others. American has a culture, a rich one, perhaps not yours, but a way of life worthy of respect. Yeah I know that the boorish behavior of some Americans makes it hard to see at the moment, but America is hardly alone there. PM me if you like, disagree with me (many do) in any forum, but I’ve never found a time when poor manners improved a situation. An off moment, maybe a joke? I think you’re better than that.

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"I also stated that this situation happens in many pubs which host sessions." - I have only ever come across this once in nearly 50 years of playing in sessions all over Scotland. We took it up with the barman, who told us it was management - ie , the brewery’s - policy to have music in the background all the time, so if we stopped playing for a significant period of time, the "canned" music went on. It was up to the musicians to keep playing, or the muzak went on.
Their house, their rules - still applies, if you don’t like it, go somewhere else.

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Gotta agree with Ailin on this. They’re just trying to keep the punters in the bar is all!!! You may be playing for fun but they are running a business and people will start leaving if there is no music. Simple as that, people leave they lose business and they don’t want that to happen so they prevent it from happening by putting something on the radio. If a bar has no music it seems dead, the vast majority of people out for a drink don’t care if that’s top 40 on a stereo or live trad, they don’t know the difference and they don’t care. If you want to play for people who are interested in your music book a real show in a real venue, charge a door price, and promote the shit out of it to people who are interested in that type of thing otherwise don’t expect the people out for a drink in a bar to know the difference between reels and jigs, pub songs, or top 40 cause chances are they don’t know and don’t care and they probably never will!

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How I hate having a session when there is wallpaper music still running in the background. Hotels are the worst, When requested to turn it off the answer is "I don’t know how" or we can’t turn it off because it would turn off in the other bars. The other is the big screen TVs, all over the place and there you are sitting underneath the screen playing your heart out while everybody is watching the football or the golf or whatever, as for the Fleadh Cheoil. You travel miles to get to it. Spend a fortune to get there, only to be forced to watch an All Ireland semi final football or hurling match all of Sunday afternoon in a crowded pub without playing one tune. It’s usually peeing down so you can even have a session outside in the street. Why do I bother…..

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Steve, I agree with Ross here. That shot at America was cheap and uncalled for, even if I do hate the behavior of some of our leaders. Cut that out.

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Johnny Jay—Sorry if I left the impression you had an attitude. You were just asking for feedback and some of what you got was what I was addressing. My advice is for all—have a word with someone in charge or just go with it. I would say, however, that background music or tv is grounds for complaint if it is on while you are playing. Either the session is welcome or it’s not

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I get really tired of hearing how, as an American I either ‘lack’ culture, am a boorish tourist, or labeled poorly because we have a moron for President (that descriptor is mine). It doesn’t happen all the time, but I’ve been a member of this site for long enough to have a sense of the undercurrent attitude by some about Americans. That’s fine, everyone is entitled to their opinion (regardless of how ignorant it may be). But it sure makes me look at Ireland with different eyes and reconsider my desires to ever visit.

Ross and Daniel, thank you for calling Steve out.

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Let’s not be hard on Steve. Were he sitting across the table in session I probably would have taken the comment as good natured slagging.

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It’s called "dead air" ladies and gentlemen, and here in the US sports bars it’s either that or the TVs. In the space of a year we had a nice session. We were welcomed by the manager, a woman who talked us up during the week and made our Wed night sessions a kind of party. We were on the menu, too, as in "Live Irish music every Wednesday."

A year and five managers later we finally gave up, after the bartender found ways to inch up the music - he’s the one who explained that "We can’t have any dead air" to me. And the last manager inched up the TV sound as well.
Now they have trivia on Weds.

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"in the US sports bars" - Are there any other kind? Seriously - I can’t remember the last time I was in a drinking establishment that was not full of giant TV screens showing sports ……

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Why is ‘dead air’ even a thing in a bar?
My experience is that people raise their voices to be heard over the canned music (which you generally experience as a muffled thumping), and as the evening goes on, you end up shouting at your table mates. There are good pubs with great beer that I just can’t go to because I can’t hear what my companions are shouting at me. I go out to talk and have a beverage, not to listen to muzak.
Okay, end of rant.
But do people stop drinking if there is no sound track?

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I agree with my namesake above! I prefer a quiet drink in a quiet pub, or trad music only. Of course most pub goers don’t feel the same way. :(

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A dry sense of humour and a certain world weariness don’t always translate through the keyboard and I’ll not apologise for that. (Nor will I either for using an UK English dictionary)

As Kenny says, "their house, their rules". Personally I feel that although there is no arguing with this, the fact that so many pubs are shutting in the UK, the breweries and publicans are in a complete tailspin and have very little clue what to do about it.

They have been through the huge 80’s/90’s expansion period where every last inch of space was turned to "vertical drinking" places, owned and operated ultimately by investment funds and pension companies. The decline of this was masked by the intrusion of the Premier League and Sky sports. Suddenly those huge floor spaces were perfect for allowing the punters a 360 view of the widescreens and projections.

With the smoking ban and a good few years for the novelty of pub sport to wear off they are declining again and I say a plague on all of them myself. I hate modern pub chains with a passion, they are universally rubbish. The beer is crap, the food is muck and the atmosphere swings between despair and violence randomly. The piped music is an affront on all levels, from the moron who the commissioning committee at the record company chose to perform, to the cynical writer who churns the muck out, via the trendy, bearded tits in pointed shoes and tight trousers who film the promo videos. It is all complete and utter trash. There is no merit and no value in any of it at all. It is masturbatory fantasy for teenagers, tweenagers and opium for the masses.

There is a sense these days that exists across just about every public space that the great unwashed need to be spoon fed a diet of piped entertainment at all times. No doubt for fear their tiny little minds might lead them off somewhere else if for a moment they were to realise the internal monologue, trying desperately to get noticed above the hubbub, may indeed have a little merit and actually represent an idea they have had themselves and not one that a clever/not so clever advertising company had induced. Let’s make no distinction between advertising and pop music videos and venue playlists and revenue streams because from the board rooms there is none.

There are so few truly good pubs left. They are almost always freehouses or small brewery chains. They have character and a way of providing a genuinely welcoming space for the people using them. The big chains are always trying to copy the winning characteristics and always they fail. They will always do so because the bottom line is never just a sum.

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“Do people stop drinking if there is no sound track?” At least one big UK pub chain doesn’t have music (or TV I think) and seems to do OK. I guess it doesn’t have sessions either.

Modern styled pubs are not what I like, but my ideal pub probably doesn’t exist any more.

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Spoons just need a bookies and a dole office at the back to offer the complete service to their punters.

A clever company model based on property investment and selling barrel ends as guest beers. The food is trash but cheap and the beer good enough and cheap too. The atmosphere is generally comparable to the moon, except at weekend when everyone goes to get loaded before hitting the town. Then it is just plain competitive and nasty, a bit like rutting season in 4 walls. Financially great for Mr. Spoons but hardly the best of British for all his UK alone, out of the EU rhetoric.

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Consider the world a hundred and twenty years ago. There was no audio recordings and no radio. Music had to be heard live with actual musicians playing.
If there was a wedding or birthday and you wanted music for dancing or wotteffah one had to employ musicians, a piano and sax, a ceili band, a string quartet.
If you were a Beethoven fan, you would have to go to a concert hall to hear the Ninth, you may have only heard it once or twice in your lifetime. You couldn’t go home and slap on the Karajan version!
Music was a rare and valuable commodity.
If people were walking through town and heard tunes in a pub, they would come in to hear it because unless you could play a tune or two at home you’d never hear it. It was sublimely special.
Enter 20th century tech! Records, radio, musak, background, ‘phones, adverts, digital devices bleeping in shops, office and public transport and jingle-ing. You get music (or music-like noise) all the time whether you want it or not. It’s unavoidable, it’s ubiquitous, it’s mainly synthetic and shight.
Real music has been completely devalued. Respect for players has evaporated. Music is free, no cost, without responsibility, worthless!
Even in a’quiet’ bar here a session is occuring, you still get idiots sitting right next to you interupting everyone by totally ignoring (or even worse, not noticing it’s actual real live music!) shouting their inane plebian nonsense at each other. They don’t hear music anymore, for them, even if it is the most rocking or beautiful stuff, it’s just a generic constant background hum and they unapologetically yell over it as if it was an advert break in the middle of a sporty tv thing in some horrid bar.
To a large degree the arrival of discoteques in the 60’s started this disrespectful attitude. Playing records became as lucrative and, in the public eye, as full of talent and celebrity as musicians. Almost completly eclipsed them (us)!
So all this pointless, insulting, high volume, bass heavy musak pumped out is just a symptom of massive disrespect and general devaluing of real music.
I dream that the electricity will run out one day!

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Calum "I shall bite. Can you provide a programme of traditional music suitable for a 2-3 hour session, of tunes that are reasonably well known to session players of a reasonable standard?"

A fair question - so I’ll bite back and provide a fair answer!

At all the sessions that I attend we would have no problem at all with playing strictly traditional material for 2-3 hours at a reasonable standard.

Having said that, could we provide an advance list of what we were going to play? Of course we couldn’t! If we could, it would be a gig - not a session.

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I would have to agree with probably 90% of Yhall’s post above but there is an upside to technology -through recordings and Youtube we can connect with the geniuses of the past - Liam O Flynn for instance, though he left us last week has left a legacy of music that will always be with us [at least til the electric runs out!]
Its Impossible to speculate how our music scene would be today without technology - if it means putting up with muzak in bars and every other public space I’ll just grit my teeth and wear earplugs.

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Learning tunes from recordings is wrong. One has to learn by the osmosis of playing and hearing tunes over and over again with other musicians at a live session of some sort. Recordings only capture a poor impression of being in the room and experiencing the tunes.

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"Learning tunes from recordings is wrong."

Learning tunes from recordings is just one more way of building repertoire and developing style - and one that is more accessible now than it ever has been. Make the most of it, just be aware of its limitations.

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Learning tunes from recordings is certainly not wrong.

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The question should not be "can you provide a programme of traditional music?" but "can you provide a programme of out-of-copyright music?". They are not the same thing.

It can be very difficult to know whether or not a tune is in or out of copyright. Often the information on a record is wrong. Musicians frequently don’t know where a tune they play originated, especially where it is one they picked up by osmosis in a session, and where they think they know they may be wrong. To complicate things further, it is possible for there to be copyright on an arrangement while the melody itself is not copyright.

Even if you were to come up with a copyright-free programme, what sort of session is it that sticks rigidly to a programme? How could you prevent someone from starting to play a tune which turned out to be in copyright?

In principle, where you can show that you will be performing only out-of-copyright or self-penned material you don’t need a PRS licence. I believe the PRS take some persuading of this (although I believe some venues have been successful). However it is the venue which is responsible for getting the licence, and in many cases they don’t have the knowledge or inclinati0n to argue.

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Not only is "Learning tunes from recordings" not "wrong", for the majority of people on the planet wishing to learn Irish music, it’s the only option available. A little more thought required before making sweeping pronouncements like that.

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thanks Kenny - learning from recordings is just one option, I’ve learnt most of my repertoire from sessions and live music events over the past 50 years- but its good to have recordings as a ‘back-up’ if the memory banks fail. Yhall I wasn’t trying to provoke an argument, just pointing out that for all the shite aspects of technology and god knows theres enough, there’s a positive side too. I rest my case.

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> At all the sessions that I attend we would have no problem at all with playing strictly traditional material for 2-3 hours at a reasonable standard.

So, provide a typical example.

I am asking not for the purposes of being a nuisance, but because I think it’s very unlikely that any such programme will actually succeed in consisting entirely of copyright free music - which was the point that Howard quite rightly picked up.

Yes, there *is* plenty of out-of-copyright material out there - but much of it is not, and many of us have no idea which is which, and we use the convenient fiction of "tradition" to not have to do anything about it. Moreover, limiting ourselves to strictly out-of-copyright material would be surprisingly limiting.

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In my part of the planet, at least the part available to me within an 8 hour drive, live exposure to tunes is very limited and even then seems to consist largely of the same tunes played over and over for the last decade. If I want new tunes they have to be from occasional new blood or travel. "Osmosis" is just not a viable tune learning method. So, most of the time recordings are the only option. It’s not hard to find good solo or small group recordings with tune renditions that don’t have the heavy handed "show band" influence. Still I don’t learn tunes, whether I like them or not, unless my first exposure is live, knee to knee or across the table. Learning from recordings has it’s limits. So does learning live. Knowing the limitations and listening with what I call a practiced ear is the (IMHO) the effective way to learn. Oh and understanding (hearing in your head) the way this music sounds, it’s lift and ornamentation, makes learning from score possible (boy do I expect some flack from that). Ever see two players come to blows over the "right" way to play a tune? I have.

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This is an interesting thread to read. Johnny Jay, I empathize with you for that situation. We had a session in a pub years ago that would do the same thing. And it sucks. (And we stopped playing there because of it).

But silence really is a killer for a bar. I owned bars, restaurants, and nightclubs for many years and if there’s one thing I learned, it is that the bar business is a tough business. There is a lot of competition, and a lot of your success can depend on whether you’re the trendy place to be. And the difference between success and failure can depend on little things, like how much money you get from each customer. If you can coax 10% more out of each customer on average, it can mean the difference between barely surviving as a business and thriving. So there are a lot of ways that bars and restaurants work to gain a bit more out of each customer, and having music playing is one of them. (https://www.digitalmusicnews.com/2017/11/14/loud-music-drinking/ and https://www.spring.org.uk/2008/09/why-loud-music-in-bars-increases.php are interesting reads) Having TVs on is another way to keep people in their seats.

Unfortunately, the underlying theme I feel from this thread is one of disrespect - in all directions. Yes, when a pub hosting a session turns on music during a break in the session, it is disrespectful to the session (even though the bar doing what they feel like they need to do to keep business steady). But there’s a lot of garbage being spewed out in this thread. The bar staff are idiots and don’t care what music is playing… The punters are all idiots and act like sheep… The punters are the great unwashed with tiny little minds… Americans don’t have any culture…

Listen, these are all people living their lives the best they can. Do they all care about trad music the way that we do? No, not at all. But neither should they! If you’re playing a session in a space that doesn’t accommodate the session well, then maybe it’s not because they’re all idiots, maybe it’s you that’s the idiot for trying to have a session in a space that isn’t right for it.

The thing I always tell people is that if you think you have the key to running a successful establishment, then do it! Go open a pub - and see how long it takes you to figure out what works for your crowd and what doesn’t, when it’s your ass (or wallet) on the line!

To end this post on a more positive note - things closer to the "ideal session" CAN be found. One of the places that I anchor a session at does not put music on when we take a break, and didn’t even have a TV for a long time (they put one in again recently, but don’t generally have it on when we’re playing). And the punters come there in general to hear us (and pack the place to the gills every week). Sometimes they can be loud, but they’ll almost always quiet down when we have a song. It’s a symbiotic relationship between the session and the establishment, and I hope it never ends!

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Thanks Rev, a lot of interesting points there.

This thread has created a can of worms it seems but I’ve enjoyed all the comments. It reminds me of the old days here. 🙂

"But silence really is a killer for a bar."

Again this depends and silence can always be filled by conversation. I agree, however, that all bars are competing against each and need to have something special to attract people. My favourite local pub has no music and although there is a TV it’s usually turned down. People still dominoes and board games in the snug area. The main attraction though is that it is an award winning real ale pub and people come from all over.

There is also a lounge bar which is usually only open at weekends with a juke box for those who like such things. The beer isn’t as good but you can take the good stuff through from the bar but they sell trendier drinks here. Gin is very popular in Scotland these days but I’m not keen on that.
During the week(Sun to Thurs) different groups meet in the lounge for various purposes. We have a "tune" once a month but there is also a poetry/Open Mic night, various meetings and so on.
Everything is OK and homely and the real money is made at the bar next door.

However, as others have commented, good old fashioned pubs are few and far between these days.

Re: The Sound of Silence - O’Neill’s 1001 Gems Challenge!

Calum: "Moreover, limiting ourselves to strictly out-of-copyright material would be surprisingly limiting."

There are lots of trad tunebooks more that are more 70 years old - so you could play anything from those without infringing copyright.

For the sake of argument, let’s just pick ONE of these: O’Neill’s 1001 Gems.

I calculate that it takes about five minutes to play a set of three 32-bar tunes, (given three iterations of each tune). So O’Neill’s alone has enough material for about 333 sets.

333 x 5 minutes = 1665 minutes = 27 3/4 hours.

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> There are lots of trad tunebooks more that are more 70 years old - so you could play anything from those without infringing copyright.

This is completely wrong, so thank you for proving my point.

Copyright subsists for 70 years after the death of the *author*, not the publication date of the book. If any tune in O’Neills was written by a named author who survived until (counts on fingers) 1948 - not impossible for a book published in 1907 - then it’s out.

(Final parenthetical point: do you really play all 1001? Really?)

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Re: The Sound of Silence

"Again this depends and silence can always be filled by conversation."

It’s true that I prefer conversation to background music (especially loud background music). But from the bar owner’s perspective, it just feels like a drop in energy level when the music stops. There might be people there who are alone and nursing a drink. And if the silence makes them uncomfortable and leave they might lose the revenue of a couple more drinks. At the same time, they might lose people who can’t stand the diddley… So it’s a difficult game.

And to be honest, I think that in most cases, it’s not that much thought that goes into it. They’re used to having background music in the bar, if the session stops, they just recognize it as a lull in the excitement and automatically flip on music to compensate, without really thinking about the musicians (or the punters, for that matter)

I’m not just defending the bar staff on this. Just trying to add some perspective. It really helps if the establishment is on the same page as the session, and they’re not always thinking or paying attention to the needs of the session. I was also just pointing out that people like to consider themselves smarter and more socially well-adjusted than the rest of the world, and that’s an easy way to think, because it often seems like other people are more influenced by trendiness and pop culture, follow the crowd, or do stupid things. But chances are they’re as educated and socially aware as you are, so posturing about how the world is full of mindless lemmings (and evil corporations) just doesn’t come off all that well, when in reality, we’re the ones who are more the outcasts - playing (and obsessing about) music that isn’t particularly popular anywhere in the world - even in Ireland (except for the small percentage of the population that does like it… oh… and the tourists…)

Re: The Sound of Silence

Have a recurring fantasy about a bar with an acoustic open stage that is literally always open…never not a singer/songwriter, poet, playwright, instrumental ensemble or theater group on stage doing something. No amplifiers allowed, just a house P.A. system and a half dozen mics if needed. All performances recorded from the board…performers can get their bits on a thumb drive for the cost of the drive, and at the end of each month there would be a Best Of (Name Of Bar Here) (Month Here) CD for sale at the bar. The rest of the place is an art gallery — no beer signs or mirrors, just painting, drawings, sketches, mixed media, sculpture, etc. No juke boxes, canned music, satellite radio, or TVs.

Re: The Sound of Silence

Had a St Patrick’s Day gig last year that started up with the canned music when we dared to take a breather. We packed up and left them to it, and turned down their request to play this year.

Re: The Sound of Silence

Reverend, who’s posturing? Mostly I was stating fact. Like it or not.

Re: The Sound of Silence

" If you’re playing a session in a space that doesn’t accommodate the session well, then maybe it’s not because they’re all idiots, maybe it’s you that’s the idiot for trying to have a session in a space that isn’t right for it."

This is something I can agree with you on though. It’s fact too that trad music, folk, sessions, etc., are niche genre in a world that has changed way beyond the origins of the forms. There are very few of us who genuinely represent a tiny tooth in the gear of the wheels that are tradition, mostly we are enthusiasts who have bought into an artform and attempt participation with or own musical input. This is most definitely not mainstream, outside of the likes of talent show wannabes, beatbox and the perennial loner with a guitar in their bedroom, there is no mainstream when it comes to learning and playing an instrument.

What exists though is a huge disconnect between consumers and performers of modern arts, in almost all forms. There is no culture of musical performance so people, inherently attracted and moved by music, respond to what is there. What is there is mostly cynically marketed bull and background noise. Not offering space, time or opportunity for the art to be genuinely appreciated, just providing a filler. Mud in your dry wall.

I find sessions very frustrating many times, simply because there doesn’t seem to be an appreciation of the fact that public performance needs to be engaging and entertaining. I’m not saying sessions have to be shows and I’m not saying that they all have to feature red hot players ripping it up. When we take an instrument out of the box in public we are making a statement of intent. The big boys cottoned on to that way back. They make a shed load of cash by doing it. The mindless background noise is a symptom not the problem.

Re: The Sound of Silence

"Enter 20th century tech! Records, radio, musak, background, ‘phones, adverts, digital devices bleeping in shops, office and public transport and jingle-ing. You get music (or music-like noise) all the time whether
you want it or not. It’s unavoidable, it’s ubiquitous, it’s mainly synthetic and shight."

There is a tendency for ubiquitous sound in most urban environments by the 21st century. It’s almost
self-perpetuating. I realise no one is competing for a spot in the sound sphere, though on some days
it is impossible to avoid automatically generated sound.

All the more reason to seek out musical settings with people and conversation for the sake of keeping
up with friends lifes and possibly meeting new acquaintances. Fortunately for me this describes
our most recent session this past Thursday.

Cheers, Johnny, I appreciate your posts.

Reverend, you know I always want to read post about members’ experience and various/alternate perspectives. You’re contributing both here. Although you said something about "in reality"
or something like that. That bit; I’m just thinking what the…? The Mustard (my personal perspective)
has never been a place to come for my daily dose of reality; & hope it nevers rises to that level.
There have been moments of clarity, I’ll give a few of you that. But it’s the banter, stories and
the love of all this… whatever it is; music, obsession, people, tunes.

That’s my story. Sorry if it put anyone to sleep.

;)

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Re: The Sound of Silence

@Calum: If I recall correctly, O’Neill’s doesn’t carry any authorship attributions. The tunes were already effectively in the public domain when O’Neill collected them. That being the case, we only need concern ourselves with the date of the publication of the book and O’Neill’s date of death (1936). So, in the EU, we could play any tune in that book (exactly as written, if we wanted to) in a public place without concerning ourselves about copyright.

And no, I didn’t claim to be able to play every tune in O’Neill’s. You deliberately twisted my words in order to stir up trouble. Here’s what I actually said: "For the sake of argument, let’s just pick ONE of these: O’Neill’s 1001 Gems".

Finally, (as I inferred earlier in this thread), I would guess that most small establishments (such as pubs) don’t bother about getting a PRS licence - even if they do play recorded copyrighted music.

Ever go to a garage to collect your car following a repair and there’s a radio playing? Ever walk past a house where builders are working with their radio turned up full volume? A PRS licence is needed in both cases, but do you really think they have one? I don’t think so.

Re: The Sound of Silence

> O’Neill’s doesn’t carry any authorship attributions.

Doesn’t matter. The fact that O’Neill may have ignored copyright law doesn’t give you the right to. Yes, I think it’s unlikely at this stage that there are any tunes in there which have a copyright owner collecting royalties - but neither would it surprise me. And my point is simple: you don’t know. It is very hard to play a night’s worth of music without playing copyrighted tunes, and I doubt any of us are.

> I would guess that most small establishments (such as pubs) don’t bother about getting a PRS licence

Less than you think. PRS make a lot of money through finding such places and getting them to a buy a licence, or failing that suing them. It happens all the time.

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Re: The Sound of Silence

Honestly if a pub Turns on music whenever the music hits a lull and people start talking, I’d say you’ve got two options. Either don’t talk in the pub or don’t play in the pub. Personally I’d opt for both and just avoid the place altogether.

Re: The Sound of Silence

"Ever go to a garage to collect your car following a repair and there’s a radio playing? Ever walk past a house where builders are working with their radio turned up full volume? A PRS licence is needed in both cases, but do you really think they have one? I don’t think so."

You’d be amazed I feel by just how many actually do. The PRS is very active is extorting its members "dues".

Re: The Sound of Silence

If a venue prefers a playlist (with some Irish pub rock’n’roll) to a (darn good) live session, I can live with that.

Re: The Sound of Silence

Well well well…..its been a long time coming and this topic sure stirred it up.
A pub that needs constant background noise is not the place I would like to play in or visit.
Move on….leave them to it I say.
One of my pet hates is the break in the flow of the session when someone starts to regale the group of musicians with their life story between tunes or songs.
It takes a hard neck to start playing over him or her but…..yea…..you,re right.
Guilty.
Talk to the hand….the band aint listening.