I've been contemplating the benefits of the internet.
In the past week, I've had such a wide variety of offers. There was the sad story of a lady in Africa who had lost her husband in a plane crash and is, for some reason, unable to access his funds totalling over $10 million. Fortunately, a member of the banking staff has intervened and has approached me (obviously my reputation for financial stability and probity covers several continents) to ask me to become her sponsor in accessing the funds. For this service, which merely requires that I offer them my own bank account details - clearly they need this to ship the monies to me - they are offering a bewildering 20%. I've struggled with this. It's a lot of money for performing such a simple service and it's at the expense of a grieving widow. This really doesn't sit well with me. What sort of lowlife would exploit this situation?
I'll offer to do it for 10%.
Also, of course, my show reaches my listeners all over the world by using the internet. Broadcast times and places are detailed on my Home page. These are some of the clear advantages of subscribing to the world-wide web. On the other hand...
I use Facebook to give information to my listeners about upcoming shows and to point them at my uploaded shows. For many years, I used my show identity "Blues Show Bob" as the name of the page. Without issue. Until one morning when I was refused access to my own page until I changed the name to "Bob Williams". On questioning the reasons behind this, I received a generic message telling me nothing. When I told them that their message had told me nothing, they went a stage further and didn't respond.
Every week I post a show to Mixcloud. This automatically publishes to my Facebook page. I then inform those parties who I assume will have an interest by copying the link to a number of specialist Blues groups. I've done this now for a couple of years and I've been told by people in the Bluesic industry that my information path is second to none globally. Last week, when I had posted to half a dozen of the twenty or so groups I regularly post to, I received a message telling me I was 'blocked' from posting to groups for five days. No explanation was offered. There was nothing unusual in what I was posting. It was a replica of that posted for years - just an updated link to the current show. I questioned the reasoning. That was ten days ago. I've been unblocked for over a week now but still have received no explanation. The irony, to my little head, is that Facebook's very raison d'etre is as a communications company. I'm beginning to think it should be renamed Facelessbook.
Another facet of the internet is You Tube where we can see our favourite musicians perform their songs. Surely this truly is the magic of the internet. Well, isn't it?
I'm not so sure.
I was privileged to host the third annual Abertillery Blues & Rock Weekend last weekend. There was a fine mix of Blues and Blues/Rock musicians - five bands playing over a ten hour period. A lively and friendly atmosphere. A great line-up comprising Blacktop Deluxe, Red Butler, The Stumble, Danny Bryant (interview coming on Blues Exclusive #69) and Stan Webb's Chickenshack. All respected musicians and at an affordable price. One would have, perhaps, expected a full house. Sadly, it wasn't. There are undoubtedly many factors to play but I'm beginning to wonder whether people would now prefer to stay home and watch recordings of musicians rather than actually leaving home to watch a Live show. It's become a trend in recent years - Live gigs just aren't as well attended as they were 10 or 15 years back. Many clubs have closed. Okay, a general tightening up of families' budgets must contribute but it seems that many find it easier to watch their favourite bands on their computers and TVs in preference to going to watch them perform in the flesh. Frankly, there is no comparison in terms of the experiences.
Here's my warning: The videos you watch are recordings of Live performances. Without support, Live performances will become history. The well of recordings will run dry because the source will have been cut off. There will be no performers who feel able to tour because the rewards are no longer there to stay on the road.
That is, largely, thanks to the internet.
As I do every week at the tail end of the Blues Exclusive, I urge you all to stop being 'virtual' Bluesic fans. Get out to a gig or buy a CD or DVD of your favourite performers. The only way to guarantee a future for the music we love is to ensure that the artists can sustain their own livelihoods.
I don't want to sound too negative but, having been an active participant in the Bluesic community for a decade and a half, I am genuinely concerned. However, let's finish on a positive note. Using the internet:
The 12th Tenby Blues Festival takes place from November 10 - 12. I'll be MC-ing the free Blues Trail around the beautiful seaside town. Details of all ticketed performances together with a brief history of each performer are available at firstname.lastname@example.org
I'd love to see you bucking the trend by being there.