The Rural Scene

Hi All,

This is my first post! Great site with so many ideas, very inspiring. I’m very interested in anyone’s current/past experience of setting up gigs/concerts/open mics/improv etc et al., specifically in a rural area.

I’m based in rural West Wales and have run a few shows and a symposium (quasi academic), and want to keep it all going-so, sustainability and the practical know how is what I am hoping to find out about.

At the moment it’s a lavish hobby, great fun- after the self-induced stress of an event has passed! When I started I hoped I’d make/find a network, but way things are going it’s looking like it’s becoming more of a concert series where I try and get someone I am ‘into’ to come and play.

So, issues like payment (for a PA), travel and subsistence (for those coming from far afield to perform), as well as practicalities of actually coming here (think ‘back of beyond’) all become issues, with the potential for low/no audiences. Thus far local involvement is thin on the ground.

There isn’t a question really, bar-what is your experience, any tips, shot in the arm-advice, specifically for such activities in a rural context.

If anyone is interested to play in Wild West Wales let me know! Any ex pats with some hiraeth?

This is what I’ve been doing:

[https://dafyddroberts.wordpress.com/]

Would be very interested to hear from you, wherever your rural is.

I am also interested to develop a ‘funded project’ around issues of sound artists/improv in the rural (EU countries and others).

All the best

Dafydd

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I see you’ve had Richard Craig on–excellent! He’s a close friend. If you see him with any frequency tell him I said hello. I’m sure he’d get a kick out of the small-worldiness of it

Hello! yes, Richard played and I met him just recently, a very enjoyable meeting and great performance too.

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I’m further up North here in the Furness area of Cumbria.

Haven’t put anything on and I’m not going to - I’m way too over committed time wise already.

However I do have ambitions of playing live and would love to get involved in things - seems too sparse for any kind of local scene sadly though…

I totally feel you.
I live in a mostly rural area in northern Italy (between Bolzano and Trento). The region is not very densely populated (due to the mountains) and the closest big cities are all at at least 2-3 hours from here. Which isn’t a lot, but enough to prevent people from coming here just for a concert (except for big names). We do have a couple of interesting festivals, and we get to see some quite cool acts (recently saw William Basinski, just to drop a name), but of course for the local bands/musicians making experimental sounds it’s not that easy.
Bolzano and Trento are small cities, from certain points of view closer to being big rural villages more than actual cities (which reflects on the cultural life), still there is a surprising and surprisingly active local musical community. Some experiences I can share with you, which might be interesting:
Lagrind Noire is a local label, specialized in more experimental sounds. They only publish small local acts. In 2013 I collaborated with them to create a compilation that would showcase the local scene.
This one:

The compilation did work ok, we made a bunch of concerts with some of the involved bands and most of them had enough audience to call them a success. Usually concerts of experimental local bands do not attract more than 25 people round here.
I think the good thing about making such a compilation is that you foster a sense of community and help people to know each other. It also can have an influence on the identity.
Interestingly the tour dates that worked best where the ones out in the country. The ones in the city didn’t work as much.

In 2013 and 2014 I was invited with kvsu to play at Sinstruct, a festival which took place in summer, up in the mountains in a slightly inaccessible location.

The festival combined various genres of not so mainstream music, art installations, good food and workshops and they had a large camping space.
The organizers were mostly from Munich and they had a bus service who would take people from Germany to the festival and back. The two editions they made, were always sold out (or at least the amount of people made it looks like a “sold out”). Unfortunately the local administration changed after the elections and the new one didn’t give them the permission to use the location anymore, which killed the festival. It’s really sad.
I think Sinstruct is a great example for what you can do if you have a cool location, a solid team and a good plan to make it all work.
I think it’s important to use the rural setting to your advantage.

For a couple of years I helped out with organizing the analogica festival. In the last years, the festival would take place in 3 locations: Bolzano, Meran (a tiny city in the North, with about 40k people) and Auer/Ora, which is just a medium-size village in the South). Events we organized in Bolzano usually worked ok, but anything we organized outside was only sparsely attended.
If you have to rely only on the local people it’s not going to work, so you need to make things big enough so it attracts people from a larger area. To do that you probably need more funds, but mostly I think you need to endure and carry on.

Since several years I work for a local festival called Transart, which includes music, theatre, art and cinema. They started over 10 years ago, with little money and handful of acts, but they were very good at finding private sponsors and they kept doing it despite everything.
Now it’s a really well attended festival and many of the events they organized are sold out.
Some of the events are happening in really hard-to-access locations, up in the mountains or at the far end of some valley. People are sometimes driving 2 hours just to go and see a gig, or a performance.
Sometimes it’s well known acts (eg. Blixa Bargeld, Laurie Anderson) but often it’s people nobody has ever heard about. But people go see them because they know the festival and trust it.

I got a bit carried away… but hopefully this can be inspiring to you!

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Hi and welcome!

Also, I think what you’re doing is awesome!

An acquaintance of mine is starting to organise shows out in rural parts of my state, and some of the larger music organisations are doing some outreach work too. I think for experimental work - small audiences and intimate shows where performers are essentially playing for the love are the norm, not the exception. On the other hand, I guess it allows for more freedom in terms of setting [show on top of a mountain? show under a bridge at night? why not]. Sometimes people combine shows with workshops where people can learn the basics, and that also helps break down the mystique surrounding experimental music while drawing the community in. Let’s face it - a lot of experimental is really abstract and obscure to most people.

Another friend of mine runs lots of little workshops all over the place - it’s amazing how fascinated people are when they realise they can make all sorts of weirdly wonderful music with just a contact microphone.

Lastly - I’d love to play in Wales. I’ve always wanted to visit the place. I’m heading to Scotland around June next year so maybe I can swing by :wink:

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I get that, one of the reasons I wanted to do something was because I wasn’t being very creative/active and I thought that, a. I always wanted to do something live and I approached my half century thought I had better or shut up about it and b. thought some osmosis may happen and I’d become more creative/active. But “too sparse” could well be a factor here, why I am particularly interested in other rural experiences, I’ll keep on for a spell. Apart from anything else I have heard some great music and met some nice people, many who have been kind enough or curious enough to trek out here. there is a thing in Cumbria, Full of Noises?

all the best

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Hey Thanks!

You spotted that I needed a little shot in the arm, gratefully received. I agree that a small and interested community is just fine and for ‘this’ sort of music is more realistic. I still hope to meet more ‘local’ music or sound based people. Having said that, I am really happy to have the several folk who have come along, a few times, and shall keep it going for a while.

Playing in less traditional places is something I would like to explore, or develop for 2019. And if you’re in or planning to come to Wales, drop me a line, I’ll check out your bandcamp

all the best

Hi @papernoise

I am going to briefly say “Thanks”! I really appreciate your reply which I want to dip into properly before replying-but I am grateful for it, your enthusiasm and experience is useful for me right now

All best for now

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i keep missing full of noises stuff - I do need to try and at least see/support something.

I saw Volcano the Bear here a few years ago! that was pretty cool for around here.

I think you are right trying to put something on - I’m just overcommitted with work & other projects TBH - I really should try and do less not more :slight_smile:

Hey,
Yes doing less is astute.
All the best

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So I’m not sure exactly how rural you are, but I can sort of identify living in a small city in New York State, in the United States.

As far as the events themselves, I do a take what you can get philosophy. If you have big expectations, those can be broken and can hurt your feelings. If you just take what you can get and love what you have, everything feels a lot better.

Practically what that means for me: I have an ongoing electronic music series called Alternative Electronic Music. I’ve done ten shows in the series so far. We do it in a small venue, which once everyone sets up all their gear can fit about forty people. I basically will put on a show for anyone who is willing to come to Utica to play. I figure if someone is putting themselves out there enough to ask or to play out anywhere, it will probably be good enough that someone will enjoy it. So far I’ve been pretty lucky.

I don’t make any obligations as far as payout. It seems to be to be generally accepted that if someone is driving somewhere to play one show, and play some kind of experimental or otherwise electronic music, 1) they aren’t expecting to make much or any money 2) the $20-$50 dollars I could guarantee them won’t make or break them. They’re doing it because they love it and are comfortable enough financially that they can do it. We always give the artists a nice 11x17 poster my partner designs for the show, and that I hope that is a special for the artists as it is for us.

That said, we actually have a pretty nice community of people interested in electronic music, and I’ve been happy to send the traveling artists away with more than $150 the last couple shows. We have a monthly meetup called White Noise Workshop where people can showcase their music and then there is an improvised jam, and that community helps a lot getting people out to my shows.

I invested in a PA system, and that made a big difference. I was borrowing one for a while and it’s just a headache. So if you’re getting serious I’d consider it. I have RCF Art 312-A speakers I would recommend highly. It also takes a financial burden off you (as far as renting each time, which I believe is expensive).

Reading your post though it sounds like you may be “truly” rural (I don’t know how else to put that ha ha). If there really isn’t any interest, maybe you could start organizing something in a place nearby with a some more people? Either that or really investing time and energy into promotion could be helpful. There is a place sort of near me called The Barn, which is really in the middle of nowhere, but has very successful shows a couple times a month. They somehow have built up the interest and get the word out, and have turned it into a success. Granted, they are usually getting bands there, but hey it’s something to think about.

As an aside, I believe the issue faced by both of us is an interesting consequence of the internet. We can be exposed to things that are happening in different places around the world, and we are very interested in them, but we may not realistically have the community to support these things vibrantly in the areas we happen to live in. As far as I can tell, in the past you would have had to go to a place with a vibrant community to learn about this (or any) style of music at all. And then it’s obvious the difference: this does not happen where I’m from. The flip side if of course that you can expose people to music they wouldn’t be exposed to otherwise. Recently my parents sat through a set of truly experimental electronic music. They would have never done that unless I had brought these people to our city.

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Hey Dafydd! great to hear from you here on Lines. I live down in Gowerton near Swansea, so not that far! If the music scene in Ceredigion is anything like it is here, I can imagine your frustration. I’m in the fortunate position to be asked to play in Cardiff / Bristol / London with enough frequency to keep myself busy, but when I’ve played in Swansea it’s been to 3 friends and the cat.

I guess my only advice would be to keep things manageable and affordable. A lot of promoters invest a lot of cash and time in events and can then lose out on both, taking a double hit. Keeping things cheaper as they grow is a huge thing for sustainability. For example, every few months I “rent” a free room at Swansea Uni to do an ambient gig, promote it online spending zero, and take my own speakers from home to keep it free. Sometimes only 4 or 5 people have turned up, but it’s been free, so I’ve never ended up out of pocket.

Anyhow, you’re probably only a couple of hours away from me, so keep me in the loop, is there a twitter or insta I could follow to see your upcoming events?

What a fantastic idea!

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Hey @Simeon

Yes, you’re close enough, I have had a few Swansea-ites travel up here. I think increasingly that I understand that 3 friends and a cat is fine, or at least not outrageous bad fortune, and if I can allay myself of financial issuues I probably maintain that ‘doing it’ is still worthwhile. To give up now would be silly. I think if I was close to Bristol (Swansea even) and or London, or any larger city I’d probably be quite happy to trek to a gig and then ‘settle’ back into my rural idyll.

@Andrew_Sblendorio you raise so many astute points. And I recognise (in myself) that there’s a tension between looking to make a space where anyone that wants to have a go can, which I am not entirely committed to, and developing a performance platform for many including others that I’d like to see perform here. Hence, in March I wangled to get a project funded for Toshimaru Nakamura to play and I continue to seek fund able projects to make more of that calibre of international/national performers, but you’re right too-I shall take a measured approach.

Absolutely agree with you about the internet,I see so much and have the impression that it’s all happening everywhere else and could/should be happening here (in a way that I recognise and have some role in). For years I ignored ideas of live performance and a local scene, this is a recent interest. There could be an approach, in fact it is the one I took with funding for Nakamura, in bringing such experimenters to a new audience. May come back to this, it is an issue for me. The town where I base activity in has a population of less than 18,000 (a high student population which I haven’t found a way to engage with-some of this could be me!)

Re the PA, thanks for the suggestion. I can see that being a good approach, possibly not for me yet, I don’t feel I have sufficient knowledge about how to run that, and when I am doing all the other front of house, performing and stuff to have to be responsible for the sound as well would send me further insane. But I can see this as something in the future and would aid the sustainability. At the moment I can tolerate the ‘loss’ of getting in my friendly PA, as they set it up and are responsible: and it sounds good too. But yep, in the longer run, I need to consider that. I bought a mixer desk the other year to use with powered monitors at a ‘workshop’ I did, which was fine for a very small room. May try that again. But it is true, @Simeon finding a low cost solution in the university could still be an option, I may try that-or a smaller set-up to see how that goes. I think I have tended to build things up, due to ignorance, and what I have found useful here, in all your replies, and generally in the boards is the wisdom. __

I do really love the performers I have been able to put on, it’s really great to hear and meet them and make new connections, the “take what you can get philosophy” is great especially paired with “love what you have”.

@Simeon and anyone you can find me on twitter as Euterpesequence and that’s a good way to stay in touch, especially if you fancy playing some time!

I’m in London so don’t have anything to contribute to the rural scene discussion, but would be interested in play in the wild west! :slight_smile:

@philmaguire hi, well if Wild West Wales is your cup of tea then…I am just preparing the call document for my quasi academic symposium/concert to be held in National Library Wales next March. i’ve been following your posts here-so maybe you would want to come! I think Ive seen you on video with Phil Durrant (he was on my wishlist too)? But so much is about budget-getting to these here parts!

Hello, thanks again for your reply. I will check out the Art speaker you mentioned. At the moment as I mentioned i hire in a PA which does sound good but is too big and adds time to set-up and takedown, it ‘s a bit of a bind.

So this is a pretty noob question. Would i get by in my concerts with using a single PA active speaker, such as the Art? The venues I will continue to use are small theatres with max audience of 100. The acts tend to be laptop and or electronic devices.

As theyre small and intimate venues my guess is that a single good quality PA active may be ok? I started to look at the Art and then QSC k series, plus the Mackie Thump.

If anyone can advise about PA that would be ace. Originallly I thought if just using my homestudio monitors -budget KrK, or hiring some better studio monitors.

Thanks again

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That’s an interesting question…at first I would say go with two. You definitly won’t be lacking, and if stereo sound is important to a performer you would have the right setup. Also someone may ask to turn one speaker towards them as a monitor.

Otherwise I would say you probably could get away with just one (assuming we’re talking about the speakers I recommended and know myself). I let a dance workshop borrow my speakers and they used only one in each room, and they seemed to be fine with that. In my limited experience dancers expect the music to be pretty loud.