INNOVATION is proving to be a double-edged sword for those working in the field of traditional music.

While streaming sites allow music to be heard and discovered more easily – and more cheaply – than ever before, the downside for many artists is that they are unable to make a living purely on sales alone.

And while many younger artists – unable to recall a time when physical sales could finance musicians – believe streaming sites help get their music to a wider audience given the minimal financial outlay required, there is a real fear that the album itself as an artform could suffer as bands find themselves unable to afford the studio time required to record and produce new music.

READ MORE: Public invited to pick winners of Scottish Trad Music Awards

It is a quandary that Martin Hadden, owner of Birnam CD, found himself mulling over last week, on the eve of National Album Day.

Hadden, once the bassist with seventies folk behemoths, Silly Wizard believes that while this is an exciting time for Scottish traditional music, the financial future for many artists remains opaque.

“I do worry about the future because people tend to listen to music in such short chunks nowadays,” says Hadden. “People now are often just listening to individual tracks rather than a whole entity that’s been put together.

“I worry that we’re starting to lose that concept of the album as a big piece of work.

“When I was with Silly Wizard we would spend a lot of time putting the thing together, working out the final order – how it would work best, the key changes. Trying to offer some light and shade to make an album a thing in itself that you could sit and listen to in its entirety.

READ MORE: Folk singer Iona Fyfe releases first album Away From My Window

“We used to spend a lot of time doing that. And I’m sure lots of people still do but I’m not sure with the way music is going if that is going to remain a common trend in the long term.”

Hadden, however, is not one for sitting back and worrying. Birnam have been involved with the Trad Awards since their inception and remain sponsors of the Album of the Year Award. Birnam also have involvement in a staggering 18 of the 25 albums on the shortlist. It is something he clearly feels strongly about.

“I think the first year, Simon [Thoumire of Hands up for Trad, which runs the awards] had the Album of the Year presented quite early during the event,” recalls Hadden. “Then the following year he decided it should be at the end as it should be one of the main things at the awards.

“It’s such a big thing, to put together an album. It’s something people do only every two or three years and artists have to put a lot of thought and effort into an album.

“We’ve thoroughly enjoyed our relationship with Hands up for Trad and the Trad Awards. It’s like our Christmas party!”

READ MORE: Exciting new addition to galaxy of Scottish trad music stars

Hadden is in his fourth decade in the music industry and he has seen it all. How, though, did he get started?

“There was a slight overlap from Silly Wizard splitting,” says Hadden. “I started Birnam in 1986 and Silly Wizard split in 1988. We knew we were winding it down so I was looking at ways to continue in the music scene without necessarily being on the road all the time.

“It was Dougie MacLean that actually suggested doing this. It was real-time cassette duplication that we were doing at first so I set it up with the money I had from an American tour. And then boosted it again with the last Wizard tour in 1988.

“We moved into CDs in the mid-90s and it’s just gone on from there.”

BIRNAM now provide more than just CD pressing. They can offer bands and artists a full-service with promotion and other packages.

“We have graphic designers here. We do PR for bands to help get bands publicity that they wouldn’t otherwise know how to get.

“We’ve evolved largely as a result of being asked by folk. So people might ask for 1000 CDs and then maybe ask ‘How do I then get them on the radio or into shops?’, so we reacted to that.

“We like to think of ourselves as almost being like a record label but without taking any of the rights. We do a lot of what a record label would do but the artists keep all their rights totally. And we don’t do it on a long-term, stifling contract.

“I have a great love of Scottish music, and a great love of Scotland I have a great belief in the talent of our musicians, and the younger ones especially. Any experience I can offer people I’m happy to do. I’d hate to see young musicians making bad decisions because we made a few in our time!”

It may sound simple but what Birnam and others offer allows artists a degree of freedom that they might otherwise struggle to find. And that allows them to continue to innovate and, ultimately, flourish. Something Hadden is familiar with from his Silly Wizard days.

“I played bass guitar in Silly Wizard and we’d use synthesisers and at the time people were choking on their beer! There was a lot of resistance with people telling is you couldn’t have electronic instruments in folk bands.

“Of course we were young and stubborn and battered on with what we were doing anyway.

“I think it’s great nowadays that there’s a lot more acceptance. Bands like Niteworks and Inyal and people like that, I love the stuff their doing and they’re getting way out there. Niteworks had that great thing at Hogmanay in Edinburgh and it’s great to see bands getting those sort of opportunities.

“I remember one year with Silly Wizard we were on the Hogmanay Show and it was seen as a big experiment - putting a band on that didn’t wear kilts! It’s changed days now, far better days, I think.”

So for Hadden, the future may not be as bleak as it seems at first glance. As can be seen from the longlist for the Trad Awards’ Album of the Year. A field that Hadden believes is as strong as he can recall.

“I think this is definitely one of the strongest years,” admits Hadden. “I have no idea what name is going to be in that envelope when I open it on December 1. I wouldn’t like to hazard a guess at all.

“There’s a couple of younger duos like Josie Duncan and Pablo Lafuente, and Jamie MacDonald and Christian Gamauf with debut albums and I think it’s very exciting to think what these musicians will produce in the future as these are already great albums.

So, despite the financial fears, does Hadden feel the future remains bright for Scottish folk music?

“Oh absolutely. I think the problem for younger musicians nowadays is that there’s so many of them which is driving up the standards of course. There are some breathtaking musicians around just now in this country. It gladdens my heart to hear them and see them.”

Hopefully, that innovation and talent which abounds can be properly harnessed so that the financial future can match that of the musical one.