Apparently sea shanties are the new viral rage; leverage it?

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Apparently sea shanties are the new viral rage; leverage it?

Post by TapTheForwardAssist »

Hey all, I mostly hang out in very related forums on Reddit (I'm a mod at r/concertina and r/WelshBagpipes and all), but signed up here to get deeper technical expertise from this established community.

I've been running around lately trying to figure ways to capitalize on the current viral rage for sea shanties, in terms of luring more people into listening to or even singing/playing traditional music. I am absolutely not kidding, shanties are all the rage in 2021 after one young Scottish man went viral on TikTok for his short clip singing an old New Zealand whaling shanty.

Time magazine article on the fad: https://time.com/5929245/sea-shanty-tiktok-2021/

There are a zillion remixes online now, but this is one of the more popular ones showing how people around the world have mixed themselves into the original viral clip. Just the remix alone (to say nothing of the original) has gotten 2 million views in just over a week: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UgsurPg9Ckw

No pressure, but if anyone enjoys encouraging the kids of today to consider trad, this could be a fine time for some outreach. I'm writing an article for r/seashanties on Reddit about how kids can take up trad instruments if they want to play sailor songs. Yes, I know a true shanty is acapella, but clearly some people like instrumental backing, so I'm just rolling with it while being honest that instrumental shanties are a folky thing vice pure history.

If folks want to get in on this, we could brainstorm up some ways to make hay while the sun shines. Clearly much of this is a fad, but we can put the earworm in while we can. And even if 99% drift away in a matter of weeks, they've had some positive exposure to trad music, and the 1% who get deep into it and stick around will be valuable additions to the folk community. I have a few ideas on ways to leverage it and will post below, but I'm open to hearing other suggestions and can maybe incorporate them into the encouragement I'm giving new trad aficionados on Reddit and other platforms.
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Re: Apparently sea shanties are the new viral rage; leverage

Post by whistlecollector »

Thanks for that! That was a truly wonderful treat! And who would have guessed? 2021, the Year of the Sea Shanty!

I am nowhere near skilled enough to participate in anything like that, but that was a pleasure to watch & listen to. Like the Youtube orchestras and other socially isolated musical gatherings.
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Re: Apparently sea shanties are the new viral rage; leverage

Post by fatmac »

I used to like hearing Shanties on the TV back in the late 50s early 60s.....

(Thanks for this info; have signed up to your reddit.) :)
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Re: Apparently sea shanties are the new viral rage; leverage

Post by pancelticpiper »

I love well-done acapella shanties but I have zero interest in adding instruments, and remixes.

So like most other fads I'll let this one pass me by, though I do appreciate your motivations.
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Re: Apparently sea shanties are the new viral rage; leverage

Post by Mr.Gumby »

A clarity of vision of what's 'folk' and what's 'trad', what you're trying to promote and where whistles/flutes fit into all of this, before hopping on the bandwagon, would probably benefit the effort.
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Re: Apparently sea shanties are the new viral rage; leverage

Post by ytliek »

The Griswold Inn in Essex, CT has a long time history with sea shanties. The Covid pandemic shut everything down.

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_ ... a+shanties
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Re: Apparently sea shanties are the new viral rage; leverage

Post by bigsciota »

To be honest, I think that everyone talking about sea shanties is really missing the point of the phenomenon that we're seeing. First off, it's not "sea shanties" plural, it's really "sea shanty" in a singular sense. It's "The Wellerman" that has captured peoples' attention, not really any other sea shanty. I have yet to see any videos of "Haul Away Joe," or "Rio Grande," or "Haul On the Bowline," or even that ubiquitous pseudo-shanty "Barrett's Privateers." It's all centred around one shanty, and the various layers added by TikTok users as they participate in the meme.

And that's really what this is, a variation on participatory music-making that has collided with social media meme culture. It's a single thing that gets re-purposed and re-mixed and re-appropriated by thousands of people all at once, all of whom bring their own little twist and add onto what others have done before. It's a very cool phenomenon, but it's only tenuously related to the sea shanty itself. People are joining in because it's fun to participate in music-making be a part of a community endeavor, not necessarily because they've suddenly gotten really sea shanties. Yes, sea shanties are generally pretty well-suited to participatory music-making because of their singalong nature, simple melodies that take harmony well, and ethos of everyone coming together in one collective effort. Yes, many people will go on to listen to other sea shanties on Spotify and YouTube. But again, the fact that other shanties have not really followed in anywhere near the same popularity suggests it's something other than the shanty music that keeps it going.

Lil Nas X had a lot of success recently with "Old Town Road," which he remixed and remixed and remixed with guest artists for a whole summer, keeping his song at the top of the charts. In that case, he was the one doing the remixing, but this latest iteration is just an outgrowth of that basic idea. It's also got a lot in common with meme songs like "Gangnam Style," "Call Me Maybe," and the "Harlem Shake," where countless people made videos of themselves dancing along to the songs. It was a different kind of participation, but the idea is very similar: variations on a theme, each new video gets added to and referenced and integrated into the whole body.

To be clear, I think that this is a cool phenomenon and one that definitely has upside for trad musicians. The Irish trad session is one of the most prominent kinds of participatory music-making out there, and the sense of community you get from participating in a session is very similar to the sense of community that the TikTokers are getting from their "Wellerman" singing. But I think it's important to realize that it's the act of participatory music-making itself, rather than the music, that is the draw.

This is true in trad as well, BTW; plenty of people are much more into the session atmosphere than the music itself. This unfortunately sometimes results in things like 5 bodhran or guitar players showing up at once, all of whom thought that their instrument would be their ticket into a session without having to learn much. But it also means that people drawn in by the participatory nature of the music end up getting sucked into the music itself, which is great. Rather than assuming everyone's into sea shanties, maybe the thing to do is promote participatory music-making in general, and get more people into sessions (once we can have them again!), before slowly indoctrinating them into the Church of Trad.
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Re: Apparently sea shanties are the new viral rage; leverage

Post by Loren »

When a production of “Oceandance” happens and sells out years of shows worldwide, then I’ll be convinced Sea Shanties are all the rage.

In the mean time, I believe bigsciota nailed it.
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Re: Apparently sea shanties are the new viral rage; leverage

Post by RoberTunes »

The situation: COVID lockdowns, followed by pubs and restaurants opening up at 25% to 50% seating capacity for quite some time, before concerts in big venues are allowed to restart. In that situation, imagine customers missing the big noise of a great weekend session band, they have their beers and start singing little songs to liven up the place, with their friends and just general socializing. Sports team songs, traditional singalong tunes, whatever, but if it's the kind of thing casual visitors to a pub can join in on and have fun, expect some people to take the opportunity. Little riffy tunes like the formatted shanty, can be picked up by anyone, on the spot, so could be great fun. Song writers and music writers of all kinds would be well tipped off to visit such places (no matter how small or improvised!) and come up with inspired new music, because the weirdness of 2020/2021 may not be repeated for quite a while, and major Renaissances in the arts and culture usually rise rapidly out of times of pandemics. These are times of precious inspiration and opportunities! I'm tellin ya!
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Re: Apparently sea shanties are the new viral rage; leverage

Post by pancelticpiper »

bigsciota wrote: it's not "sea shanties" plural, it's "The Wellerman" that has captured peoples' attention...social media meme culture...a thing gets re-purposed and re-mixed and re-appropriated...
Like this?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c4Xjx6LRmSk
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Re: Apparently sea shanties are the new viral rage; leverage

Post by bigsciota »

pancelticpiper wrote:
bigsciota wrote: it's not "sea shanties" plural, it's "The Wellerman" that has captured peoples' attention...social media meme culture...a thing gets re-purposed and re-mixed and re-appropriated...
Like this?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c4Xjx6LRmSk
Haha, I'm not sure there's a better example out there at the moment! That one video encapsulates just about everything about social media/meme culture right now.
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Re: Apparently sea shanties are the new viral rage; leverage

Post by benhall.1 »

bigsciota wrote:it's not "sea shanties" plural, it's really "sea shanty" in a singular sense. It's "The Wellerman" that has captured peoples' attention
Yes, indeed. And it isn't even a shanty. It has been described as "a whaling song with a shanty rhythm". It isn't a sea shanty in the proper sense, as the others you mention are (apart from "Barrett's Privateers" of course).
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Re: Apparently sea shanties are the new viral rage; leverage

Post by TapTheForwardAssist »

Some really good points here, but I think the overall thrust of the fad will work out in the favor of the trad community.

Like "Gangam Style" went hugely viral, in 2012 becoming the first YouTube video ever to hit 1 billion views. Sure it was over-played, and some people were tired of it after a while, but in the balance it brought huge attention to Korean pop music, and overall got more people into the genre for the long-term.

Similarly, even if a lot of new "sea shanty" ethusiasts are just listening to remixes of the sole song "Wellerman", that's still a ton of people listening to a trad song. And even if some number only like that one song, or get tired of that song and decide they hate folk music, in the balance that's still tons of people who exit the fad thinking "hey, some of this folk stuff is kinda cool!" and might be more disposed to listen to more in the future. And some small segment of the millions and millions of people who played Wellerman on loop in January 2021 are going to go down the rabbit hole and start listening to more folk. I wouldn't be surprised if in 2050 some folkie with ten albums out is telling journalists "yeah, it all started when I was 13 and procrastinating on my junior high classes over Zoom during the Covid lockdown, and my friend texted me a link to Wellerman, and I got hooked and been playing trad ever since."

It's a fad, a lot of attention is going to one or a handful of songs, it is not academically or musicologically rigorous stuff, but overall and in the balance I think this is a positive thing for the folk community, and for those who enjoy trying to capitalize on these things, this can be a fun way to increase our usual outreach to leverage a sudden (albeit largely temporary) surge in public interest.
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Re: Apparently sea shanties are the new viral rage; leverage

Post by Flexismart »

Here's something for 'the kids':
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-rpAnEM-t8

This guy has several really interesting YT vids.
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Re: Apparently sea shanties are the new viral rage; leverage

Post by Nanohedron »

Flexismart wrote:Here's something for 'the kids':
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-rpAnEM-t8
Some rather unfortunate gesturing on the singer's part... :o

That's probably going to generate a whole new set of memes on its own. Poor guy...
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