The Tradition will be Televised

 Content company Inner Ear started music web TV channel TRADtv to provide a platform for Scottish, Irish, Celtic and Gaelic traditional folk music and culture. While there is some excellent coverage on the likes of BBC Alba and in shows like Transatlantic Sessions, there was no dedicated channel for the scene.

Inner Ear specialises in live streaming and programme production. It’s worked closely with the National Piping Centre since 2012 when it started streaming Piping Live! and the Glenfiddich Piping Championship (and this year the Glenfiddich Fiddle Championship too) for the first time. Since 2013 Inner Ear has been streaming the World Pipe Band Championships, which in 2016 was watched by 180,000 unique viewers!

Inspired by piping streams online audiences’ enthusiasm, the Inner Ear team, lead by director Dougal Perman, started TRADtv to share some of Scotland’s most exciting traditional folk music with an international fanbase.

 “We’d been mulling the idea over for a few months but needed something to get us started,” explains Dougal. “Roddy MacLeod at the National Piping Centre approached us about the potential for live streaming the Donald MacLeod Memorial Piping Competition.”

Dougal worked out a way to make that happen, with help from Amanda Millen (of XpoNorth) who commissioned Inner Ear to run a live streaming workshop in Stornoway. Even with minimal promotion, the competition stream reached over 2,000 people and was warmly received by everyone involved. “When we saw the reaction from the audience, both in the room and online, we knew we were on to something”, say Benny Robb, Inner Ear’s communications manager and TRADtv co-producer.

 The channel began with a DIY ethic. As sound engineer Kurt was driving the crew to Lewis, he, Benny and Dougal came up with the name TRADtv and Dougal registered the domain name and built the website in the back of the van.

 Since then the TRADtv team have filmed sessions, concerts and interviews with a wide variety of artists. Highlights so far include continued coverage of The Worlds and the Glenfiddich competitions. The channel also got involved with Showcase Scotland Expo project The Visit and filmed an excellent series performances (which it’s doing again this year). Concert films include projects by The Big Music Society featuring Murray Henderson, Joy Dunlop’s Las and The Shee’s 10th anniversary concert, featuring special guests including Karine Polwart. As well as going to concerts they film intimate Live Room Sessions too. And they even did a session with RURA in Dougal’s flat.

But how does TRADtv make money? There’s no public funding behind it. So far Inner Ear has funded most of its costs but as the audience increases (so far 60,000 on YouTube and 300,000 on Livestream) so does the potential for brand partnerships. The channel is also being commissioned by music projects and earning money through joint ventures.

Stirling Highland Games commissioned TRADtv, through Inner Ear, to live stream its 2016 event. The Tannahill Weavers worked with the channel to film their Piping Live! special in 2015, and make a promotional DVD. Lead by Benny, the TRADtv team provided social media support for Treacherous Orchestra’s 2015 winter tour and Knockengorroch World Ceilidh 2016. And contemporary pipe band Tryst have commissioned promotional features previewing their Celtic Connections 2017 performances.

 If TRADtv create the content themselves then they own the recordings. Sometimes the artist, or organisation, pays all the costs and owns the content outright. But some negotiate a discounted rate, with the balance carried by Inner Ear (on behalf of TRADtv) and they share ownership of the content. Dougal and Benny hope that this flexible approach enables multiple revenue models and enhances growth potential.

Feeling optimistic about 2017, the TRADtv team are looking forward to Celtic Connections and Showcase Scotland, planning coverage of The Visit and considering other festivals and showcases they can work with. Dougal has an idea for a cookery and music live streamed programme for Burns Night too, which is so ambitious it might just work.

Contact Dougal at Inner Ear if you want to learn more. And keep an eye on and to find out what’s next for the traditional music media revolution.