Supporting scene activity

photos of people on a packed dancefloor under a banner saying 'cream' and the exterior of a club 'with The Magnet' on the window and an A-frame advertising upcoming events

Cream (left image) © Mark McNulty and
The Magnet (right image) © the Institute of Popular Music

Music scenes almost always require support both to develop and to keep going. This support can take many forms, some of them financial. It can also involve a wide range of people, institutions and organisations

In Britain, local scenes based around amateur music-making are directly or indirectly supported by various institutions. This may include:

  • families and schools, which can provide, amongst other things, opportunities for music learning
  • religious institutions such as the church, which tends to have its own choirs and often provides space for the music rehearsals and performances of other groups
  • various societies and clubs, including youth clubs, sports clubs and political clubs, which either have their own in-house music groups or book musicians to perform at their events (Finnegan, 1989).

Scenes are also directly supported by specialist music institutions, including music shops and record labels, bars and clubs and so on. In Liverpool, for example, we can see examples of music's place in a wide variety of clubs: from the marches of the Orange Order with their flutes and lambeg drums, to Walton Music Club with its mixture of folk and country, and the Magnet located in the basement of 45 Hardman Street. The Magnet used to be known as The Sink, a music club that supported the 'mod' scene of the mid-1960s and hosted live performances of mostly US soul and rhythm and blues but with jazz and ska also featuring. The membership card was a rubber sink plug.

Meanwhile funding and sponsorship for music scenes may come from various other sources, whether in the form of public or government support, funding from the private sector or charity sponsorship. The Picket, for example, is a music performance venue that has played a central role in Liverpool's alternative rock scenes since the early 1980s with the help of local government subsidies and grant income from the European Union, as well as private sponsorship from well-known rock musicians.

Similarly, Nigeria's juju scene has depended on different kinds of patronage. Juju is a style of popular music that combines 'deep' Yoruba praise singing and drumming, guitar techniques from soul music, Latin American dance rhythms, church hymns and country and western melodies, pedal steel guitar licks and Indian film music themes (Waterman, 1990: 2). Juju bands are hired by Yoruba merchants and businessmen to perform at private events. During these performances the musicians sing and drum the praises of their host and receive donations of cash in return. Juju bands also benefit from the patronage of Yoruba politicians and are hired by political parties to perform at political outdoor rallies and fund-raising events. The musicians compose songs supporting the political candidates and the groups that patronise them, as well as songs attacking their patrons' enemies (Waterman, 1990: 87-89).