Shire Folk is a free, A5, bimonthly magazine covering folk, roots and acoustic music in and around the South Midlands. It has been produced for around 25 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.
From our base in Oxford, we distribute 1800–2000 copies through an intricate network of folk clubs, record shops, libraries, music venues, pubs, morris dancing teams, festivals and individuals. Click here to see a list of places that receive bulk copies of Shire Folk. We think you can safely assume that well over 4000 people read each issue.
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Graham Hobbs & Jonathan Roscoe
Co-Editors, Shire Folk
In my last Editorial I gave some thought to the types of venue we all love watching folk music in, be it the folk club, village hall, church or purpose-built theatre.
I really don’t mind where I watch my folk music as long as the venue is full or at least appears full. To me, and I would have thought for the artist, there is nothing worse than being in a venue that is a quarter full. The folk clubs often have an advantage here in that by moving the stage, altering the seating or clever positioning of tables they can make the club look full. This leads to a better atmosphere and usually a better gig. The theatres have problems in this regard as there is no disguising that there only thirty people spread around in a venue designed to hold two hundred and fifty.
Rather sadly, I am an obsessive counter of seats (don’t worry, I do get teased about it!), so I do know the capacity of every local venue. I sometimes think, looking at who is on where, that the artist will not even half fill that particular venue and I am usually correct.
Booking the right act for the right place is an art form in itself, but why do people sometimes get it so wrong? Is it the promoter’s fault? They can tend to ‘big up’ the act, putting them into venues they won’t fill. Or book two gigs in the same area in a short space of time, which immediately splits the potential audience. Is it the organiser, who doesn’t really know the local folk music scene? Maybe it’s poor marketing, or ticket prices or simply audience apathy. I often hear people say ‘I didn’t know they were on, I would have gone if I had known’, so to my mind marketing is key. I can hear you thinking he is going suggest putting an advert in Shire Folk, but that is only one avenue and I do think more could be done with the many forms of social media … but that is for another Editorial.
Photo Ian Wallman