Kevin Buckle: There’s more to funding music than ticking boxes

Young musicians need to show gumption if they are going to make it. Picture: Getty
Young musicians need to show gumption if they are going to make it. Picture: Getty
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Creative Scotland gets its fair share of criticism and rightly so, but a lot of the box ticking and methodology behind their thinking is because for a large part they are handing out lottery money and need to tick their own boxes to show that the money has been handed out fairly.

What this means to musicians is that creativity comes in a poor third to being well organised and cynical. It also helps to be young. The younger the better! Nobody would argue with giving young people a good grounding in music, but things are skewed way too heavily in their favour.

Heralds play a fanfare for the opening of the 1958 Edinburgh Festival at the Ross Bandstand

Heralds play a fanfare for the opening of the 1958 Edinburgh Festival at the Ross Bandstand

Technology has to a large extent meant that youngsters want things now and preferably for free. Dedicating large amounts of lottery money to making things as easy as possible is not helping them. If a band hasn’t got the gumption to get a few local gigs then they probably aren’t going to make it.

I’m all for giving them all the information they need and seeing how they get on, but there is a drawback with that. It doesn’t cost much money!

Seriously I have spoken many times to folk involved with helping young people and they agree that giving them the resources to help themselves is more than sensible, but what would they do with all that lottery money?

Online is how youngsters get their information and yes you would need somebody to keep facts updated and answer any questions, but it wouldn’t take the numbers currently dedicated to the cause.

There's still time for classical music fans to pick up a bargain before McAlister Matheson finally closes

There's still time for classical music fans to pick up a bargain before McAlister Matheson finally closes

A further flaw is that once an artist has been backed by funding the inclination is to keep going with them, giving them more funding and more importantly prestigious chances to perform at events either controlled or influenced by those with an investment in seeing their protégées succeed.

Even worse is the number of times after bands finally give up that some new reincarnation is then given money too.

Lottery funding has been available for some time now and while there have been successful artists who have received funding here and there in their careers, there has been nobody who has come through the system that has had any major success.

In London of course going to ‘music school’ has a very different outcome for many and obvious reasons.

There are two very clear reasons why young people are basically not good enough. One is that most start off sounding like the artists they like and that is absolutely fine, but those bands need time to develop their own style, not to be given money.

Also their experiences are limited and again bland lyrics will be replaced with more insightful ones with age.

Unfortunately what this means is that a singer/songwriter or band in their late twenties with a decade of life experiences behind them will be at a big disadvantage to an 18-year-old who just ticks all the right boxes singing about all the right issues.

It does seem as if funding methods have changed very little in the last 20 years or so and yet the music industry has changed beyond recognition.We used to sign a form bands gave us saying we would sell their album in the shop because that was one of the boxes they had to tick.

That box may no longer exist but it is clear that there needs to be a rethink at the very start of the process when the lottery money is handed out so that the boxes organisations tick and then make those that receive the money tick are relevant to today and not some model that didn’t even work perfectly in the nineties.

Bandstand can hit right note

Good news hopefully that the Ross Bandstand is to be the subject of an international design competition so that it can be replaced. Architects are being asked to design a replacement Pavilion for the Bandstand, a visitor centre to include a café and improvements to the surrounding landscape.

I say hopefully because of course it has all the potential for the various parties who have an interest to disagree on all the usual topics of design, size, etc leading to a compromise building that takes a lot longer to be ready than was expected. Stakeholders is the word I’ve learnt from my brief forays into other planning matters and it seems to be a rule that whatever is being built there must be some conflict between these stakeholders.

The plans do, I admit, seem to have bigger ambitions than I imagined especially for the scale of concerts that might be there but it does look like it intends to cater for gigs of different sizes and that of course will be something that will become clearer once a winning design is picked.

Let’s just hope for once this all goes smoothly as it has the potential to be a real asset. You can follow the progress of the project at https://www.rdtrust.org/ and on twitter @TheRDtrust.

Farewell symphony for our last classical record shop

It really is the end of an era as the last classical record shop in Scotland has announced it will close. McAlister Matheson which opened in 1991 will finally close its doors on Saturday, March 4 at 5.15pm when Anne McAlister retires. Understandably, even though classical sales have not been affected as badly as others by online retailers as customers still looked for a personal service, she was unable to find anybody to continue the business after her retirement.

A week never went by at Avalanche that we didn’t direct somebody to the shop and the staff were well known for their knowledge and helpfulness. Meanwhile there is still time for customers to pop in to say goodbye and pick up a bargain in their extended January sale.