[Dixielandjazz] Re: Declining Audiences for OKOM

Stephen Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Sun Dec 14 23:40:34 PST 2003

> Bill Gunter wrote: (polite snip)
> As concerned musicians and fans we are going to have to come up with new and
> innovative ways of keeping our music alive! I'm sure the events of 9-11 had
> an effect on travel to British Columbia last April but that is only a small
> part of the problem. The main problem is that our audiences are growing old
> and dying.

Yes, as most everybody knows, ever since I joined the list, I've been preaching the gospel
of selling this music to the kids, much to the dismay of some of the "old farts" on the

Many of us seem to have absolutely no sense of humor, but rather all sorts of self
righteous clap trap about "Dixieland" as originally intended by the originators of the
list, or what "Dixieland" is, or what "OKOM" is etc., etc., etc. Each is a singular opinion
and we are entitled to our own. However, the fact remains that what Bill says above is all
to true. The audience for the music we all so dearly love is dying.

Dixieland is already "preserved". On records, in small jazz clubs around the world, in
museums and lots of other places. There is no need for us to further preserve it.

However there is a crying need to get this music to the kids. And to do that the bands have
to play where the kids are. Only then, will those youth bands that we sponsor have a place
to play when they grow up. Only if we make Dixieland, OKOM, or what ever the hell you wish
to call it, PROFITABLE for musicians, will we have the best musicians playing it.

If that means a more energetic form, or some more modern chords, or a little different
structure than George Lewis or ODJB or Bix style then so be it. Better that than than slow
death of live performances, by lesser and lesser bands, for lesser and lesser amounts of

For 30 years, OKOM festivals have been a "cheap" way for fans to hear the music and gather
with friends at the same time. But, recently they've driven band earnings downward, while
the fan base slowly died off. They have been run like private clubs and they served their
purpose well. Sadly, their heyday and relevance is fast declining. No point for us to live
in denial about it. It is the standard life cycle of all endeavors. Great while it lasted,
kudos to those who made them work, BUT now they are just about gone.

We need a change of venue. And we need to at least double the present ticket prices at
those festivals which will find  a way to survive. Probably triple them. Yeah, I'm still
steamed at the guy who wrote a letter to the American Rag complaining that because they
gave the bands more time between sets, he only saw 20 hours of music for his $75, as
opposed to 24 hours the year before. Hard to feel sorry for that kind of fan. Some of the
festivals at which we play, charge $35 to see us for 2 hours so we figure he got a real

So put your "outside the box" thinking cap on. Quit carping that this is a "Dixieland" list
in the strict sense. Quit carping that those gay or gray songs were not OKOM. Just about
every song written between 1920 and 1960 is OKOM in the broad sense.

Think instead of how to get this music to the kids. What is it that brought you to it? What
can we do to bring the next generation to it? 9/11, the war in Iraq, all may have had a
depressant effect, but then, maybe that's just a convenient excuse. Barbone Street had it's
best year ever in 2002, the year after 9/11. While 2003 is not quite as good it is close.
Why the slight decline? Because at 70 years old, we are starting to pick and choose. We are
not so eager to please everyone and run around like when we were kids accepting every gig,
doubles, triples etc. Bad enough we had 4 gigs in the last 3 days.

Biggest problems with OKOM? Don't look now, but it is us, the present audience. We are so
set in our ways we don't see the forest for the trees. How many times must names like Jon
Erik Kellso, Randy Reinhart, Dan Barrett, Ed Polcer, Joel Helleny, Joe Ascione, Frank
Vignola, Kenny Davern, Ken Peplowski, Tom Saunders, Ed Metz etc., etc., etc. be thrown at
us before we realize that these guys are far superior to most of the OKOM musicians we talk
about on the list from the past? How many of them were appearing in Victoria? Or?

Why, for example, is Kellso in Europe right now, instead of playing in the USA?  Could it
be that's why there is a market for OKOM in Europe and not here. It seems they listen (and
pay for it) to our best musicians and we don't. How many reading this have Kellso on CD?
How many even know of him?

Steve Barbone

PS. As some of you know, Barbone Street makes it's living by playing mostly for young
people so please don 't tell me it can't be done. And please don't moan about our style.,
or what it is you think we play unless, like Bill Gunter, you've seen or heard us in
action. If I sound a little testy, forgive me. I am passionate about expanding the audience
for this music. I do it my way and would be happy to have others do it their way, but DO

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