The Folkroom Manifesto

Folkroom Records has always seen itself as something more than just a label, or a fortnightly gig. We want to move beyond being the sort of community that lives just to serve itself – we know we can be better than that and we believe that folk, as a genre, should be also. In 2012, in the spirit of being a better community we drew up our first Folkroom manifesto. Three years later, to mark the 5th anniversary of Folkroom, we revised it into the statement of intent below. It stands in support of what we believe to be the best way to exist as musicians, producers, artists and, simply, people working together on a day to day basis. We invite you to join us, and to call us out on something if you think we’re breaking our own rules. The Folkroom Manifesto consists of the following four aims and beliefs:

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1. We will always support those who want to live their lives creatively, be it through musical, visual, written or any other interpretation of the arts. Our gigs were born from a wish to support the under-appreciated acts of the London folk scene, and our label was born as a logical extension of that. At Folkroom Records, we’ll always be about the best in folk music, and helping our acts get the best out of their talents.

This ethos should also extend to those acts who we don’t work with – there are two people who run the label currently and, as you might expect, we share between us very disparate musical tastes. Ben is becoming something of a guru on traditional folk dances, but also has a healthy sideline in electronic music. Stephen owns two B*Witched albums, and listens to them with worrying regularity. Tastes differ greatly from person to person. But we appreciate that tastes are meant to be unique, and we understand that just because we don’t like someone’s music it does not necessarily carry that nobody else will.

As such, we will support anyone who makes music, regardless of our personal tastes. We might not work with them, but we will not put them down. We will not speak with anything but constructive criticism. We might make the occasional joke about Nickelback but hey, nobody’s perfect.

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2. We won’t be music snobs. Snobbery has in recent years become a part of our popular culture. Looking down on people for their tastes is commonplace. In some areas of London, it’s practically a lifestyle. We’ve all experienced the negative sides of the industry, and we’ve all seen how folk music – the most communal of all genres – is often torn apart by ill-advised ‘ideals’. We will always do our best to stand separate from this. When traditional folk looks down on modern folk, we’ll remind them that ours is a genre that tells of a given place at a given time. That folk needs to change and develop in order to effectively capture the sound and feel of the world as it is. When people sneer at pop-folk acts we will remind them that the bands like Mumford & Sons have acted as  popular ambassadors to folk, becoming a gateway into the genre for people who would never previously have explored such sounds. When people scoff at the ukelele, we’ll smash one over their heads and say “HOW DID THAT SOUND?” Why? Because we aren’t going to partake in snobbery, and we’re not going to let you partake in snobbery either.

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3. Everyone is equal in folk music. Frankly, everyone should be equal everywhere else, too. But we can only do so much. Still, we understand that folk music is perhaps the most widespread of all musical genres. It has been played over hundreds of years by hundreds of peoples from hundreds of different countries. It’s a genre that has always been of the people, and that means it needs to represent everyone. As such, we’ll continue to strive to create an environment that supports all musicians. We’re proud to have a gender balance on our bills that remains unparalleled among most other promoters, but we know we’ve a long way to go in supporting and including more BAME (black, asian and minority ethnicity) artists. We’re working on that, and will continue to do so.

But we also expect our performers, collaborators and our audiences – to hold themselves up to this as well. Folkroom is a safe space for everyone, regardless of their gender, skin colour or sexual preferences. If anyone ever experiences something at Folkroom that detracts from this experience, we’ll be there to listen, and to improve.

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4. We at Folkroom don’t refer to ourselves as a ‘company’ if we can help it. We want to be a community of people – whether they be musicians, writers, artists or simply fans of the music we make. As such, we will always strive to be accessible. Our fortnightly Folkroom gigs will remain free for anyone to come and watch – folk shouldn’t hide from its supporters. Our Anthology albums will also act as another, audible, manifesto that we will release for free from time to time so that we can share with the world the music that we are representing.

In exchange though, we will ask you to support us as best you can. Our EPs and albums are always the result of months of hard work on the part of the artists and the label, and we’re always excited when someone buys one. Not just because you get to hear great music, but also because it means we can have an extra slice of toast for breakfast. In accordance with our promise of supporting artists, our acts always receive a much bigger slice of the financial action than they would at any major label – but as with all businesses, they only get the money if you actually buy their music. If you hear a song by one of our acts, please do buy their releases. If someone blows you away at a gig, go tell them. Maybe they’ll have an EP of their own for you to buy. At the very least, you’ll have the opportunity to encourage someone in their art, and maybe even push them that step closer to recording something you’ll be able to buy at a future gig.

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These four points by no means represent all that we stand for at Folkroom Records. We also stand for cider, ill-advised facial hair and a fundamental change in the English working week that makes it illegal for any job to start before 11am. But these four things form the core of our beliefs as a community. Our gigs, our label and everything else we do should be defined by our open, supportive and non-judgemental approach to music, and the people who make it. We hope you’ll join us.

Stephen & Ben

Comments
One Response to “The Folkroom Manifesto”
  1. Great manifesto. I really admire what you’re doing for music. I tried to do something similar in psychological research a few years ago, but the siren songs of mainstream academia proved irresistible to most members of the crew. The ship is still afloat, but becalmed in horse latitudes with a skeleton crew. I might write a song about that. But then music is of course much more fun, and more engaging, than what passes for psychological research these days. Though music and psychology cannot really be separated. Hope you can keep the industry vampires at bay when they come knocking at your door. When anyone has a hit, and a healthy income stream, the vampires always turn up. People like Ray Davies and Marty Balin (two of my favourite songwriters) have illuminating tales to tell about that.

    Keep the faith and mind the garlic,

    Richard

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