I don’t know how I feel about it, but I certainly feel something. Is folk music only for old people? The headline poses a question, almost in a click bait style, and I can’t get the contents within out of my head. SO without further adieu, here are some rambling thoughts I’ve been having about the post NFF Triple J Hack Blog Post.
The first paragraph presents us with some statistics about the festival. “In 2017, just one out of ten attendees was aged between 18 and 29, with a further 12 per cent under the age of 18.” Then we get a comparison to Bluesfest, which “Only faired slightly better” with a little less than 20 percent of attendees fitting in this age bracket, and finally a comparison to Woodford, which has 30 percent of attendees in this age bracket. The article then rambles for a bit about the festivals vibe and "what even is folk music anyway?" It’s not positive, but it’s not negative either. It’s decidedly neutral.
There are three major things I briefly want to address in regards to “young people at folk festivals (specifically young people at the NFF) ”.
1) It’s an expensive experience or time costly experience. If you don’t want to shell out hundreds for a ticket with camping, you’ve got to work 20 hours across the festival, not the mention the price of travel, food and possibly an impulse purchase from the instrument makers. (I mean, heaps of other festivals are also expensive, but their also kind of relaxing holiday fun times which leads me to my second point)
2) It’s not a relaxing holiday. I knew a significant amount of people at the festival, and anecdotally, pretty much all of them were busy. Like properly real life sort of busy rehearsing, and performing and busking and working and seeing things and attending workshops and having 4 hour long jams. It’s not a “paradise holiday escape” like other mainstream festivals can be.
3)Folk music doesn’t get the same mainstream support as other music. When was the last time you heard the crazy lively tunes of Trouble in the Kitchen on triple J? Or seen a review of bleeding gums murphey pride of place on The Music? For folk music to reach a younger audience it needs to have more mainstream support.
The final thought I’ve been having overall about the article is why does the perceived success of a festival rest on how many 18 - 29 year olds attend? Also, why is folk worth less as a genre if the majority of listeners aren’t young?
The NFF has been going for over 50 years! I can’t think of another festival that’s survived this long, let alone one that has the same patron loyalty (I met people who have attended every year for 30 - 40 years).
So is folk music only for old people? Quite frankly, I don’t care. The age bracket of the people who play/listen to folk and attend folk festivals does not affect how much I, as an 18 - 29 year old love the music and the culture. Never has, never will.
*These photos were not taken at the festival. They were taken before a video shoot on a rainy dark afternoon. YAY context!