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Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.

Rick Fielding 22 May 01 - 11:52 AM
UB Ed 22 May 01 - 01:28 PM
Stevangelist 22 May 01 - 01:31 PM
jeffp 22 May 01 - 01:42 PM
GUEST,Phil Cooper 22 May 01 - 02:29 PM
Clinton Hammond 22 May 01 - 02:34 PM
katlaughing 22 May 01 - 02:54 PM
jcdevildog 22 May 01 - 03:04 PM
Jim Dixon 22 May 01 - 03:20 PM
InOBU 22 May 01 - 03:22 PM
Mooh 22 May 01 - 03:31 PM
Rick Fielding 22 May 01 - 04:11 PM
DebC 22 May 01 - 04:58 PM
GUEST,Phil Cooper 22 May 01 - 05:13 PM
Jim Krause 22 May 01 - 05:23 PM
ollaimh 22 May 01 - 05:39 PM
InOBU 22 May 01 - 07:09 PM
GUEST,Phil Cooper 22 May 01 - 10:24 PM
InOBU 22 May 01 - 10:36 PM
Rick Fielding 23 May 01 - 12:01 PM
Mooh 23 May 01 - 12:43 PM
Jim Dixon 23 May 01 - 01:37 PM
Fortunato 23 May 01 - 02:41 PM
Marion 23 May 01 - 02:50 PM
Midchuck 23 May 01 - 03:13 PM
GUEST,djh 23 May 01 - 04:02 PM
GUEST,Phil Cooper 23 May 01 - 04:07 PM
M.Ted 23 May 01 - 04:39 PM
Rick Fielding 23 May 01 - 04:56 PM
GUEST,Phil Cooper 23 May 01 - 05:58 PM
Jim Dixon 23 May 01 - 06:01 PM
Seamus Kennedy 24 May 01 - 02:13 AM
Fortunato 24 May 01 - 09:48 AM
hesperis 24 May 01 - 10:14 AM
Rick Fielding 24 May 01 - 11:15 AM
Jim Krause 24 May 01 - 01:50 PM
GUEST,Phil Cooper 24 May 01 - 02:02 PM
Fortunato 24 May 01 - 02:43 PM
Erica Smith 24 May 01 - 02:55 PM
InOBU 24 May 01 - 04:15 PM
GUEST,erica@home 24 May 01 - 09:52 PM
InOBU 24 May 01 - 10:15 PM
richardw 24 May 01 - 10:19 PM
Fortunato 25 May 01 - 09:21 AM
DebC 25 May 01 - 09:47 AM
richardw 25 May 01 - 11:00 AM
GUEST,Rana 25 May 01 - 11:10 AM
richardw 25 May 01 - 11:19 AM
Rick Fielding 25 May 01 - 11:28 AM
Fortunato 25 May 01 - 11:39 AM
Erica Smith 25 May 01 - 03:11 PM
Erica Smith 25 May 01 - 03:52 PM
GUEST,Phil Cooper 29 May 01 - 03:49 PM
Rick Fielding 30 May 01 - 12:57 AM
InOBU 30 May 01 - 10:49 AM
Erica Smith 30 May 01 - 11:50 AM
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Subject: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 22 May 01 - 11:52 AM

I've noticed over the last couple of weeks that this has come up in some other threads and I thought I'd throw in my two cents worth. As per usual I'll remind folks that these are simply MY experiences, and may be the opposite of how things operate in YOUR area.

When I first started applying for folk clubs and festivals the criterion was simple: If you were good, ie: sang on key, played interestingly, and your music fit the organization's format, you had a pretty fair chance of getting the gig.(or getting your recording played on a radio show that programmed folk music)

There certainly was competition, but you might be up against three or four other artists doing something similar. If you didn't hear back from the club or festival, you could pretty well figure out that they simply didn't think you were good enough (yet) and it was back to the drawing board.

The situation today is SO different that it's almost impossible to sum it up in a couple of paragraphs...but I'll try.

First of all, there are so many CATAGORIES (of "folk") these days that it's hard for many artists to know (unless they've done their homework) whether their CD will even be listened to, or just flung into a "listen in future" box (or even the garbage!)where chances are, it will languish forever.

If a club's (or Festival, or Record company) history has been to feature traditionally based music, they simply will not have the time to listen to artists who's approach is more mainstream singer/songwriter style. The competition is now as fierce as in the rock world...and indeed many singer/songwriters are aiming for a pop audience anyway. One local Folk Club in Toronto receives more than a HUNDRED submissions a month. There are literally THOUSANDS of rootsy artists competing for a few dozen gigs.

My suggestion is that if you're doing "celtic style" music make sure that you don't waste expensive promo copies on clubs, radio shows, or record companies that don't have an interest in that kind of music. Research HAS to be part of promotion these days, or you're just wasting your time.

If you play Bluegrass or Old-time oriented music, forget the singer-songwriter venues. If you're a singer-songwriter don't waste time and money trying to interest a traditional organisation. I know someone who was a tad hurt because a Traditional Record company didn't acknowledge receipt of a CD of their work. Why would they? Half an hour on the internet would have revealed that the company has NEVER featured the kind of music the artist sent.

One of the things I've noticed is that these days MANY people in a folk audience already KNOW the performer personally. This can be the result of having met them before or being the recipient of gig announcements that have come DIRECTLY from the performer. The personal touch can work wonders for getting folks out to the gig. You'd be hugely surprised how many NAME artists keep mailing lists, and let potential CD buyers, radio programmers, and audience folk know about what's going on in their lives. It really helps people feel connected...and (in my opinion) that's what "Folk" music is all about. I mean it may be the ONLY thing that separates us from the POP world these days.

If you are looking for a booking in your home town, remember that your submission is almost certainly going to go before a committee, and if you've already established a relationship with that venue (and it's volunteers) you're going to get more notice than someone who hasn't. Sorry, but it's human nature.

If you've come out to it's Open Stage, or volunteered to take tickets, or even just come down to listen to others, you become a known (and supportive) commodity, and hence when the committee is listening to (probably many) gig submissions they'll know that you've become part of the extended family, and in folk music that counts big.

One other interesting phenomenom that applies directly to Mudcat, is that I and a couple of others here who host radio shows have received submissions from members. Sometimes the CDs or tapes don't make any mention of the person's "Mudcat handle", so after a while (sometimes it's three or four weeks before I get the time to listen to them) we forget that it came from a Mudcat friend, and they don't get a personal acknowledgement. I got something last week from Chuck hemrick, but when I tried to PM him, his name wouldn't come up...guess he has a new handle, and since I'm not here as much as before I don't know what it is. (Thanks Chuck, if you read this)

Bottom line is, that while the competition for gigs etc. is now as fierce as in the pop world, the folks who take the time to really get to know who they're applying to, are gonna have more luck and more success.

I'd love to hear other's suggestions on how to get bookings, or anything else related. Thanks.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: UB Ed
Date: 22 May 01 - 01:28 PM

Rick, on the money regarding "knowing people" and the value of networking as well as "Targeting" your venues to increase your liklikhood of success.

We have the pleasure of being a "hobby" band. Regardless, the advice above is sound. We play weekly at a local pub, hit several of the local festivles and a couple wedding receptions per year.

We play "Irish American Pub Music" (Now that's wide open!). We will not play at an event where the sponsor has not seen us before. It's just too risky.

We have also started segregating our fees into with or without sound/lights (provided by venue). Our next step will be to qoute a price for without sound/lights with an emergency adder should sound and/or lights suddenly be needed after all!


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: Stevangelist
Date: 22 May 01 - 01:31 PM

I definitely concur... having done a lot of traveling for gigs of all kinds, I must agree that getting a foot in the door via a personal relationship with the owners/managers/patrons of a folk club is VERY important. Once they are used to seeing your face (and you've had weeks or months to buddy up to the 'regulars'), you are more likely to be treated as one of the 'in crowd'.

Of course, not sucking at your particular craft doesn't hurt, either.

May The Road Rise To Meet You,

Stevangelist


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: jeffp
Date: 22 May 01 - 01:42 PM

Wonderful advice, Rick! Thanks for posting it. BTW, I think Chuck was using TAR_HEEL or something like that last time he posted here. I haven't seen anything from him in a while, though.

jeffp


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: GUEST,Phil Cooper
Date: 22 May 01 - 02:29 PM

Good thread. I've noticed in the twenty odd years that I've booked Margaret and myself, or Margaret, Kate, and myself is that things are changing in the folk world. Even a few years ago, we could get a contemporary venue to at least listen and consider us for their concert season. I would bend over backwards to let them know that we were used to presenting traditionally oriented music to people used to contemporary and having it go over. Now they are not so open, even in the house concert field. My significant other is a singer/songwriter and she runs into the opposite effect sometimes (she also has to deal with the fact that there are a lot more singer/songwriters these days). She's taken to becoming a unitarian circuit rider, incorporating music in the services she organizes and then seeing if the church will promote a community concert the night before. That works. Margaret and I sometimes have tried finding a venue and promoting the show ourselves. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. A friend of mine who is a booking agent claims that the folk world seems to be imploding right now. It sure seems that way at the Folk Alliance conferences. On the other hand, people who like what we do, like it alot and we can't really worry too much about the one's who don't.


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 22 May 01 - 02:34 PM

Good one, Ricker!

These are the threads that keep me at Mudcat!

;-)


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: katlaughing
Date: 22 May 01 - 02:54 PM

Excellent, Rick. Juts like when a writer goes looking for a publisher, one has to know thier market, i.e. readers.

BTW, Chuck Hemrick is now SANDYTOES.


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: jcdevildog
Date: 22 May 01 - 03:04 PM

It's always surprising to me how narrow many people's musical interests are. I belong to a local folk society, and we try to address a mix of traditional, bluegrass, oldtime, contemporary and ethnic folk music; but a large proportion of our membership only comes out to hear bluegrass and oldtime. We used to do more with blues music, but the blues fans split off and formed their own group which presents only blues. I find that many people not only have a strong preference for a single genre, they actually dislike/have contempt for anything outside that genre. I don't get it, but then I'm an Aries (short attention span).

I assume the venues are trying to maximize their attendance/revenue by booking only acts of whatever type is currently drawing the biggest crowds. This is a good short-term strategy, but lousy in the long run, because tastes change and most people tend to get sick of hearing the same thing over and over (why I don't listen to alleged-country radio anymore), so audiences will eventually drift to a new venue playing the new "flavor of the month". Folk has seldom been a mass-market style, and you can't keep a venue going if you can't put butts in seats. But for performers, the more the venue adheres to one format, the less chance of anyone even a little different getting a chance to play. Quel dilemma!


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 22 May 01 - 03:20 PM

This may be a good place to tell a story.

It concerns a certain local folk group, which I won't name, partly because I don't want to embarrass anyone, and partly because I got this information third hand, and can't verify it, but I think it rings true.

Many years ago, back in the early days of "A Prairie Home Companion," when it was only a locally known show here in St. Paul, this group had an understanding with the show's producer that they could be on the show any time they liked. This amateur group mostly performed for the fun of it, not for money. Every few months, the group would work up some new material, and when they thought they were ready, their unofficial leader would call the PHC producer, who would book them a date, no questions asked.

In the meantime, PHC was getting more popular, was being carried by more stations, and started booking more nationally known acts. And, more important, it had a bigger budget, hired some new staff, and evidently adopted some new standards and procedures. One day the leader of this group called the PHC and said, "We're ready to perform again," and the staff person who answered the phone said, "Great! Send us an demo tape."

Trouble is, the group didn't HAVE a demo tape. When the leader reported back to the group, some members took it in stride and said, "OK, let's make a demo tape." Some others were offended and said, "They've got a lot of nerve asking for a demo tape! They know what we sound like. Let them listen to one of their own damn tapes!"

For one reason or another -- I suspect it was mainly to keep peace within the group -- they never got around to making the tape, and the group never appeared on PHC again. A great opportunity was missed, for want of a horseshoe nail, so to speak.

I have seen similar things happen, though not so drastic, in other bands. I have seen bands pass up certain kinds of gigs because . . .
one member complained that it didn't pay enough, or
one member complained that it was too far to drive, or
one member didn't like playing in smoky bars, or
one member had a conflict with his/her day job, or
one member didn't want to pitch in for new sound equipment, or
one member didn't want to pitch in for postage to mail out a newsletter, or
one member didn't like the terms that were offered by a certain record producer . . . and so on.

And I have seen bands go into decline and perhaps even break up because they keep having the same kinds of problems over and over, and the problems are all centered around the business end of the business. Most of these problems have nothing to do with making music. These problems happen to people who are capable of making great music together.

In short, I see a lot of opportunities being missed because the group makes all its decisions by consensus, which means one member can veto anything the other members want to do. And some people -- some very good musicians, even -- just don't have the stomach for the competitiveness that's involved in playing music for profit.

I don't know any general solution to these problems.


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: InOBU
Date: 22 May 01 - 03:22 PM

Rick:
I read your post with great interest, and it is a great help and guide. The only thing I would add, is that if you are starting out (the first 30 years of your carreer) get famous before looking for work.
Cheers, Larry


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: Mooh
Date: 22 May 01 - 03:31 PM

Rick.

Good work! You're a great public service around here, you know.

A tactic which has worked with a couple of bands is for the related groups to refer one another. I played a duo gig with a singer/songwriter who subsequently got the same venue as a solo and with her full band. Similar thing happened with the Neil Young tribute. We did a duo before we did the full band at the same venue. The Celtoidish (I mean mostly celtic) band I'm in has brought gigs to its individual members who have their own acts, and vice versa. I will also recommend, unsolicited, bands to employers just because I think they might be a good fit. I would hope that sometimes I would get the same consideration from other musicians.

I have the privelege of playing a local coffeehouseish gig more regularly because I hire out as a mercenary musician. I try not to sound too much the same each time because I wouldn't want to saturate the venue, or get too typecast, even though a certain typecast (acoustic multi-instrumentalist I guess) is what gets me gigs. Nonetheless, it seems that my other projects then bask in some reflected glory by being a credible reference. I also attend as a paying audience member as many shows as possible in this venue to show my support for, and belief in, the venue.

Peace. Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 22 May 01 - 04:11 PM

CHEERS FOR LARRY "INOBU" OTTWAY!!

You got it in one buddy. Make sure you're a BIG STAR FIRST, before goin after your first gig. You won't have to deal with:

Nepotism

Cronyism

dis-interested sound persons

Ten thousand people (of various skill levels) ahead of you looking for the same gig.

NEVER getting your phone calls returned

Being asked for a demo tape, cause the folks you've been dealing with for years are suddenly not there anymore, and the new ones (usually 20 year olds) don't know you from a hole in the ground! PLUS "they" have their own friends who've just jumped the queue by several spots.

Yes it is silly having to do things like:

Define WHAT KIND OF FOLK MUSIC YOU PLAY in such narrow ways.

Do opening acts for more "connected" folks with one quarter your skill level.

Be nice to power hungry assholes who've gone from "unpoular nerdy teenagers" to "Media VIPs", booking agents and Festival directors. Yes there are some great people in the biz, but power attracts the "power hungry" so watch out!

Spend much more than you make in order to eventually make about as much as you spend.

It's totally silly but it 100% human. So whadafuckarewegonnado?

Rick


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: DebC
Date: 22 May 01 - 04:58 PM

My thoughts exactly, Rick. You hit the wart right on the frog, my friend. I always love the one where I am asked what kind of songs I write and I always respond "Bad ones"

Still wanting to come up to Toronto....

Debra Cowan


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: GUEST,Phil Cooper
Date: 22 May 01 - 05:13 PM

The bluegrass band, Special Consensus, from the Chicago area has been together a long time. They pointed out that 90% of the places they played when they first started out were now defunct, as were the people booking them. They had to constantly work at making new contacts. Margaret and I have also run into places where we have played many times suddenly being run by someone who doesn't know us. I don't think they have an obligation to have us, just because we played there before, but it'd be nice if they paid a bit of attention to the past of their venue.


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: Jim Krause
Date: 22 May 01 - 05:23 PM

Rick, in your post, you talked about some one who submitted a recording and omitted his Mud Cat handle. This is one very good reason why I switched to using my real name. Less to remember.
Jim

PS Thanks for the advice. I think I have some improtant allies in the Songwriter's Circle.
JK


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: ollaimh
Date: 22 May 01 - 05:39 PM

my experience is that folk festivals and folk clubs are usually great people to deal with and can pay well, so don't slag the folk scenes. (if the power hungry book folk they have a surprize coming: or did you hear the one about the newfoundland rock muscian who switched to folk? why? for the money).the people may be busy and over worked so make it easy for them and follow a tape with a phone call and get on a personal basis.it helps if you have played for a festival or club they know and you can point that out .folk gigs can have uneven sound but that's sort of life eh? ay least it's not a rocker mixing you to sound like jimi hendrix.

regular clubs are a different story and depend mostly on the individual owner. i don't like smoke so i don't do these any more anyway, not that i wouldn't if they offered enough money.

now this is easy for me to say as i can make a living busking if i want to. i play several instruments and can be cutesy--good for busking. gothic looks are not so good. busking with dog and drum is hopeless.

and you do get a lot of little gigs busking. from old folks homes to private parties to theme stores--if you are the theme they want, and they can pay well with less hassle than most other gigs. like no sound system, just aucoustic music, so there's no set up just show up.

i DON"T take gigs from drunks while busking even if they flash da money. i did it a few times when i was younger and it always turned out to be a major scene.like you come along with your celtic harp and the drunks start screaming because you don't know any beatles songs.


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: InOBU
Date: 22 May 01 - 07:09 PM

I gave it some thought, Rick, and my last suggestion was just silly. What ya gotta do is get in a time machine and go back to the days when folk clubs would give a break to talented buskers (bums) like me and Dylan, BEFORE they got discovered by the record companies, who for the most part discovered them in the clubs. Now the clubs "discover" the ones who are picked up by record companies. Think there is much hope for a guy who writes songs about Amadou Diallo under that system? Not bloody likely!
Cheers Larry


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: GUEST,Phil Cooper
Date: 22 May 01 - 10:24 PM

Some of the talk of club and festival booking policies reminds me of Cleavon Little in Blazing Saddles talking about his family's emigration west,not being allowed in the regular wagon train. "They wouldn't let us circle our wagon with theirs, so we made our own." Maybe that's something that needs to be done in the folk world. I've attempted to not divide the trad vs contemporary argument for the last few years to whoever would listen and the gap seems to be widening. I thought there was room for all types of music, am I wrong?


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: InOBU
Date: 22 May 01 - 10:36 PM

No Phil, your not wrong at all! We have our own circle to play in, unfortunately it doen't have a roof, or is down in a train tunnel and gets really cold and wet! Cheers old man, Larry


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 23 May 01 - 12:01 PM

Phil, I think that a few years ago, bands and solos could be booked or not on the basis of whether they were "good" or "bad". With so many more people making their own music today there are many many "good" performers. Nowhere near all of them can be hired, so "categories" start taking presidence. Not sure if anything can be done about that.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: Mooh
Date: 23 May 01 - 12:43 PM

I like the idea of clubs, festivals, and concert venues which will feature acts which fall outside the usual "box". I know that marketing, or the marketers, dictate the type of act based on the projected income and "cool factor". What bothers me is when the tastes of the marketers alone dictate the type of act which is hired, with no regard for taking risks (and properly promoting them), or satisfying the tastes of others.

(It makes my skin crawl somewhat to refer to music in terms of product and marketing and such, but it IS a business, even if I'm no businessman.)

I've seen more than one considerably worthy group play to an undersized audience because of poor or disinterested marketing. Sometimes they get paid just the same, but in this day of stageside cd sales and word of mouth referrals and promotion, it still hurts.

Peace. Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 23 May 01 - 01:37 PM

Rick, you asked for suggestions, so here are mine.

First, (Do I need to say this?) don't assume that if you make great music, the world will beat a path to your door. It won't happen. Likewise, don't assume that if you haven't YET had much success at promoting yourself, that it means people don't like your music.

Recognize that getting gigs is a job in itself, requiring hard work, and requiring a talent which is quite different from the talent for making music, and with its own difficulties and frustrations. Furthermore, the person who does it is worthy of respect, gratitude, and possibly extra money. (Too often, a band consists of one person who works hard to get gigs, for no extra pay, and several others who just bitch about the gigs they get. If you're one of those who bitch, knock it off.)

If you don't have the talent or inclination to do this kind of work yourself, consider hiring a manager.

Don't bother sending tapes to radio stations. They won't play them on the air. They want CD's. Tapes are useful (and cheaper) for sending to people who are considering hiring you for a wedding or concert venue.

Do consider compiling a mailing list and periodically mailing out a performance schedule. You may be surprised at the number of loyal fans who will follow you from venue to venue. Venue owners are favorably impressed when you bring along a ready-made audience.

If you're just starting out with mailing, you might ask other musicians, festivals, or venues if you can use their mailing list - but only if their style of music is very close to yours.

Try to make your schedule fit on a postcard. 4.25 by 5.5 inches is a good size because it meets the legal definition of a postcard AND you can print four copies on a standard 8.5 x 11-inch sheet. Be sure the paper is at least .007 inches thick, and thicker is better. At 20 cents per card, postage is a bargain. (Sending schedules by e-mail MIGHT be a good idea, but I haven't tried it.)

Mail your schedule out AT LEAST quarterly. Also, pass these cards out at your gigs. Be sure the cards tell how to contact you.

Keep in mind that SOMEDAY you will have to drop some people from your mailing list. Keep a record of when and why each person was added to your list. After a couple of years, start telling people that they will have to let you know if they want to STAY on your list, otherwise you will have to drop them.

Do get acquainted with other musicians in your area who play the same type of music and are likely to play in the same venues. Swap CD's with them (if you have one). Add them to your mailing list, and ask to be put on theirs. If nothing else, it will remind them that you exist. Once in awhile you may get a referral from them. Return the favor when you can. You will get farther by thinking of them as friends than as competition.

My impression is that putting up posters is NOT an effective way to attract an audience. It's way too time-consuming, and it's not targeted enough to the minority of people who like folk music. It might work in a small compact community like a college campus where people are always looking for entertainment, but I wouldn't bother with it otherwise.

When you accept a gig, do inquire about how the venue advertises itself. Don't assume that their customary methods are adequate. You may want to do your own advertising in addition to theirs. Or you may be able to negotiate with them and get them to pay for additional advertising.

Pay close attention to the arts calendars that appear in your local newspapers, to learn about new venues.

Consider schools, nursing homes, company picnics, trade shows, and conventions. These places often hire musicians to appear at their private functions, and don't advertise to the public, so you need to inquire. These functions are usually in the daytime, so if they fit your schedule, it's a niche you can exploit.


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: Fortunato
Date: 23 May 01 - 02:41 PM

Lots of good advice. Thanks, Rick, et al.

Here in DC the competition is fierce. As a result, I see venues requiring a CD (and not a tape) in promo packages.

Is that the case out there where you guys are, or is a Demo Tape still acceptable to most venues?

Regards, Chance


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: Marion
Date: 23 May 01 - 02:50 PM

Question - if you are sending a demo to some venue in the hope of getting a gig, you're also supposed to send a written description of your act/history too, right? Is it good, bad, or indifferent to send a photo?

Marion


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: Midchuck
Date: 23 May 01 - 03:13 PM

All the suggestions in Jim Dixon's post above are good, but there's one factual error.

The cheapest I've found tape cassettes, on sale at Ames, comes to about 50 cents a unit.

I've seen recordable CDs as cheap as $10 (after rebates) for a spindle of 50, and 29.95 is not unusual.

We're still selling our CDs for more than we are our cassettes, but I'm not sure it makes sense any longer.

Peter.


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: GUEST,djh
Date: 23 May 01 - 04:02 PM

If you play the blues, you can always try to pass yourself of as Elmore James. It worked for a half dozen imposters back in the day. Incredible, it must have really bugged Elmore. It also worked for Sonny Boy Williamson the 2nd, who many people thought highly of. I never cared much for his stuff and I don't approve of that kind of hackneyed trickery.


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: GUEST,Phil Cooper
Date: 23 May 01 - 04:07 PM

Rick & Mooh, thanks for your points. I've stuck with being the booking person for the group because of people who really like what we do. I also dislike referring to music as "product." I also agree that categories are going to be here for awhile. The best advice I offer people who ask me is to persevere at venues where there seems to be a chance of your getting hired and not bothering with places where you are not. Hard to tell sometimes. Case in point, Margaret and I got hired at Owen Sound in 1991, but that was after at least six years of being turned down. I talked to the then director every year by phone. He was always up front about how things would not work out this year, but try next. Never discouraged us from sending stuff. Finally, we put out a recording that even I thought reflected what we did very well and that was the year he hired us. Had he ever said, no way in hell that you're ever playing here, I never would have stuck at it for so long. Other festivals seem harder to reach. Not everyone is as upfront as Mr. Glenn was. The Winfield Festival in Walnut Valley Kansas also came about through the same method. One year the rejection letter came with hand written note from the director. Then, a personal rejection, then a phone call asking about availability. Some years it's our turn to get the good gigs, some year's it's someone else's turn. Envy will eat you alive if you let it.


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: M.Ted
Date: 23 May 01 - 04:39 PM

Marion,

It is important to have the best looking and most professional package that you can--photo, clippings, bio, and CD (it can cheaper to make CD's than tapes anyway, and much easier to tuck them in with promotional materials) I once sat down with a booker for a club who showed two promotional kits, and told me that he had hired completely on the basis of the fact that one group had better looking stuff than the other--it happens more often than you can imagine!

Jim spelled it out pretty clearly, above--the one thing that I will add, actually expands on Larry's comment, which no one should take as a joke--make yourself famous, or at least pretty well known, before you start looking for those jobs--it helps a lot if people know who you are and what you do--

Have you ever wondered how people who seem to have little to offer as musicians and entertainers seem to "make it"? It is because they have managed to figure out how to get attention--and that, more than anything else, is what fills the seats--Just like everything else musical, it takes planning, effort, and committment, but in this case it is in creating relationships, the same kind you create with bookers and other musicians--with the press and in learning what they need, and how they need it--


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 23 May 01 - 04:56 PM

Keerist, I HATE the word "PRODUCT" as well! Look, I think I've always been a bit of an anomaly in this business. Becoming professional had NOTHING to do with my love/obsession with folk, blues, country, bluegrass and jazz music, it was simply the only way I could figure to earn a living. Academically I had certainly burned all my bridges, and as an artist/cartoonist I was probably too undisciplined. I'd have been rude right back to assholes, had I been a cabby, waiter, or shop keeper, and I had too much of my parents' "Protestant Work Ethic" to let myself be supported by a girlfriend. Being payed for what I constantly did for free was a lifesaver.

Consequently I've always had difficulty with the "biz" part. I've sent out a million promo packages and done a slew of albums, but mainly cause you have to, to get gigs...and hence, payed, but I'd be very happy to play on a park bench and keep on teaching (which I DO love). I guess the real unexpected bonus for me is meeting SO many nice and interesting people through folk music. I count myself very blessed in that area. For me, it's the music and the folks...period. Fortunately Heather deals with the agents. Ha Ha!

Rick


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: GUEST,Phil Cooper
Date: 23 May 01 - 05:58 PM

I've never wanted to perform or listen to anything but folk music. No one is going to be as interested in shagging gigs for me, as I am, which is why I do that. I would agree good promo is important. I would not agree that you need to go hog wild on it. I was on a concert committee for over 18 years (some of it as chairperson, some as a regular member). When we got the packets and folders in a pile of stuff to consider for a season's worth of concerts, I wound up reading some of the biographical and informative stuff aloud to the committee. The reviews and other stuff got ignored and tossed out. If the promo seemed to be guilty of adjective abuse, it got read in a dramatic fashion. The recording got more attention, though seldom did whole songs get played at meetings, sometimes clips of several, but not for long. When I was chairman, I tried to listen to the whole demo recording of everything that came in before the meeting. I suspect that few other folks do that, though I might be wrong on that count.


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 23 May 01 - 06:01 PM

Midchuck: My statement that tapes were cheaper than CD's was based on the assumption that you were having the CD's mass-produced, with graphics and everything, by a company that does that kind of thing. I didn't consider making them yourself on your home PC. I don't know anyone who does that.

Also, when you order from a manufacturer, the cost per item varies considerably with the quantity. Last time I checked, tape cassettes were considerably cheaper than CD's in small quantities - up to a thousand or so - but in larger quantities, I think the cost per item falls off more rapidly for CD's than for tapes. I guess you'd have to get some current price quotes to know for sure.


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: Seamus Kennedy
Date: 24 May 01 - 02:13 AM

Rick, you probably won't agree with this, but it has worked for me. After 27 years of promoting myself and my music/act, I got an agent. I did all the things she does myself..sitting on the phone for hours haggling with bookers, sending out a 6,000 piece mailing list 3 times a year with spot mailings to assorted markets, mailing promo kits, travelling 60,000 miles or so per year, recording, promoting and selling my albums/8-tracks/cassettes/CDs, learning, rehearsing and recording new material, etc., until I got really tired of it all. So I got an agent who has worked wonders for my career. She handles all the promotional and booking stuff, and I handle the performing end of it. She has gotten me bigger fees, larger festivals and gigs, and has earned every cent of her commission, plus she has freed up time for me to be a more creative performer. She also reps Tanglefoot (from your record label), Clandestine (the hottest little Celtic band from Houston, did you see the article on them in Dirty Linen?), Sue Trainor, Hot Soup and Debbie Smith, and I'll bet all the other acts would say the same thing I did. All the best.

Seamus


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: Fortunato
Date: 24 May 01 - 09:48 AM

To Guest, Phil Cooper.

Phil what do you mean when you say: "A friend of mine who is a booking agent claims that the folk world seems to be imploding right now. It sure seems that way at the Folk Alliance conferences."

Curious, Chance Shiver


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: hesperis
Date: 24 May 01 - 10:14 AM

Rick - "Be nice to power hungry assholes who've gone from "unpoular nerdy teenagers" to "Media VIPs", booking agents and Festival directors."

Okay. I really want to know how to do that!? I can take the prize for "unpopular nerdy teenager"... Now, how do I make the transition to the rest of the description?

Semi-serious...

Just continue doing what I love, I guess?


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 24 May 01 - 11:15 AM

Hesperis, when you look in the encyclopaedia under "Unpopular Nerdy Teenagers", MY picture comes up!! Some seek revenge against the world by becoming powerful bullies (computer hackers, Music industry VIPS, mudcat flamers, serial killers etc.) but I always preferred being self-sufficient (even if it means you're broke a lot of the time!) and only dealing with the jerks and bureaucrats when ABSOLUTELY neccessary.

Jeezus, I hope new Catters know that my writing style is "tongue in cheek"...I'm only serious half the time!

Rick

By the way Seamus, I DON'T disagree with you. Getting a GOOD agent, who knows what they're doing, understands your music, and has civil relations with the folks who hire you is like finding manna from heaven. I used to have a wonderful agent named Vita Linder who was all of the above. Sometimes she got savaged by the sharks, but her clients LOVED her.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: Jim Krause
Date: 24 May 01 - 01:50 PM

I am beginning to switch from cassette demo tapes to CDs. I'm fortunate in having just enough knowlege of PhotoShop to be able to design my own jewel case cards, plus a brand spanking new computer equipped with a CD burner.

As far as sales go, I have two recordings out; the first one was issued as a cassette, the second as a CD. The tapes aren't selling at all. Almost no one wants tapes. I found that out again last week end when the band played a festival near home. They bought CDs, not our tape.

I like the idea of making yourself famous in a certain geographical area. I think that is a good strategy, especially if you live in or close to a major metropolitan area.

The other angle I'm exploring is marketing myself both as a singer/songwriter, and a performer of traditional folk music. At the moment, I'm not sure whether or not it is a good idea. Might I be spreading myself too thin? On the other hand, versatility may mean more opportunity.
Jim


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: GUEST,Phil Cooper
Date: 24 May 01 - 02:02 PM

Dear Fortunato,

By imploding market, I meant my friend was referring to more and more performers trying to play fewer and fewer places. At the folk alliance international conference you see a lot of performers mobbing a few presenters. When I was in college as an english major I remember a professor telling us that more people wrote poetry than actually read it. I sometimes think that's true for folk, in darker moments. But usually I don't. I would wish the booking process were not so competitive, but I'm also aware that this is a voluntary profession. My apologies for signing on as a guest, I subscribed in April and got bounced out for some reason or other in mid-May. When trying to re-subscribe I was told my name was already in use. Time being a finite commodity, I haven't pushed much further than that.


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: Fortunato
Date: 24 May 01 - 02:43 PM

Hello, Phi, thanks for the answer. With reference to the implosion, here in DC/MD/VA my impression is that there is a upward trend in the number of venues. I see more house concert sites, more coffee houses, more concerts than in some previous years, though fewer Old time/clogger venues, perhaps.
All of the above descriptions of focused, sometimes incestual programming are accurate, however. With a few notable exceptions,the Kennedys, Lisa Mosciatello, for example, lots of good local musicians have to leave town to get booked unless they find a regular gig. But DC has always been like that. cheers, chance


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: Erica Smith
Date: 24 May 01 - 02:55 PM

re: the folk implosion :)

i second the comment on the folk alliance conferences -- and the regionals are just as bad. not only is it performers mobbing presenters, but the air is seething with some kind of something -- is it competitiveness? at NE folk alliance, i felt like i was hangin' with a bunch of first year law students.

i've been gigging just over a year, with a lot of success within the city (NY). but stepping outside this enclave is so brutal. there's such a tension between love/exhuberance of the music itself, and then the bogheadedness of trying to find something good in this very weird and sharky "folk" environment.

overall the implosion is reflected not only how musicians socialize these days, but the general quality of what's in circulation. weird . . . i hang with a bunch of city songwriters who are so good, it's ridiculous. i sing backup for a band that is like what lennon/mccartney woulda been doing had the beatles never been signed. they just churn out these amazing melodic folk-rock songs one after the other. And this coming from a nerd-traddie backup singer. they could be huge as an acoustic duo, but they're not, because they know what the folk-world "hustle" is like. i don't blame them, and i look to it myself [for my own "carreeah"] with trepidation/terror.

so i'll be playing next friday at midnight at the finest club on avenue a, with a bunch of the finest songwriters this city has to offer in any and all genres, many of whom are my friends, and i'm going to give them all a rose since it's my first friday night gig & it's taken me a year and a half to get one. the place will be packed, and we're all going to kick ass, hug, and then go home. maybe it really doesn't get any better than that? especially since i'll be singing willie o' winsbury . . .

i'd take that over 1000 folk alliances


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: InOBU
Date: 24 May 01 - 04:15 PM

Ave A? Is that at the Sidewalk? Let us know and a few of us NY catters may go! Cheers, break a leg (he said for good luck not baddness), Larry


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: GUEST,erica@home
Date: 24 May 01 - 09:52 PM

yup, that'll be sidewalk (6th & A), next friday, june 1, at midnight. how brave of you 'catters to prowl at midnight . . . but then again, cats *are* nocturnal. be prepared: i wantonly (but respectfully) rearrange trad to suit my whims; mix it up with my own songs; and then dress up all sassy just for fun. if i break a leg, it's because i will have fallen in my 2 1/2" heels. who needs to go to folk alliance, i'm having so much fun here at home.

if you do come out, be sure to introduce yourself . . . i'll be the one strumming a guitar with ice on her knee.

erica


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: InOBU
Date: 24 May 01 - 10:15 PM

Sure thing Erica, and if yer band is local, here on St. Marks Place, and is looking to record, we can talk about our recording Co-op here. Cheers, Larry. PS I will try to brig my wife along, more heads the more Learch or what ever his name is ... will smile on you. What is his name again? We did Friday at the Sidewalk last year, it is actualy a nice gig. We did alright money wise as well. All the best from Larry and the whole band.


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: richardw
Date: 24 May 01 - 10:19 PM

Just a couple of comments on Rick's excellent thread.

We just returned from a three week tour. 22 gigs in the 24 days. Most good, a couple of iffy ones.

But on tapes vs cassettes. We had both, and expected sales of 10-1 for CDs. Wrong. We sold about 2-1 in favor of CDs. Tapes were still important. We put that down to our average audinece being boomers or older who either wanted tapes for their vehicles or did not have CD players.

Today we got a cheque for $25 US. It came from a gig in Oregon that says they had miscounted the door and found they still owed us. Impressive eh?

Someone else mentioned having the emcee mention CDs and etc for sale. That really helps. We found that it often doubled the sales when the emcee encouraged buying.

When donations are the rule a suggested/expected donation amount should be the rule. Otherwise it will be around $1.00 per person.

Demos? Some venues are now asking for live demos of the full show, with all the mistakes (if there are any) tuning, patter etc.

We alos post tour tales when we return, based on the example of Tanglefoot in Canada. Folks seem to like it.

Richard Wright http://goldrushbc.com


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: Fortunato
Date: 25 May 01 - 09:21 AM

Hello Rick,

Where were you touring and what kind of music are you playing? I'm impressed by the forwarding of the extra money, but I must say that the Folklore Society Of Greater Washington would be equally honest, and maybe as math-challenged.

On the venues that request demos of full show:

1) One set? 2) Recorded live? 3) Just audio or are you talking video?

Regards, Chance Shiver


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: DebC
Date: 25 May 01 - 09:47 AM

Wow. What a great thread!

I have been a full-timer for almost four years now. I wear all the hats, booking agent, publicist, manager, artist, etc. I am based in the Boston area, yet I have trouble getting a gig in my own back yard. I do live in an area that is very heavily singer/songwriter oriented which is something that I am not. I find that many presenters here will book who they want and won't venture outside of their venue to look for new acts, which is a shame. Thus the line-ups for most of the Coffeehouses here are made up of the same artists (most of whom I would NOT pay to see).

As for Folk Alliance, I agree with my good friend, Erica. It's really a farce and I cannot stand all the schmoozing and ass-kissing. I go to Folk Alliance because I do get a few positives out of it every year, but I also go with no expectations. The best times I have had at FA id the jamming in the lobby with other musicians. That is worth the price alone.

I am learning how to target solicitations for gigs as well. I try to research a venue by looking at their website and seeing who they hire. If it looks like a plethora of Ellis Pauls and John Gorkas, I may ask about an opening spot or not bother at all. If I see that they hire people like Steve Gillette & Cindy Mangsen or my buddy, Rick Fielding, I feel like I may have a chance.

This is a crazy business, but I can's ever see going back to being a "normal" person with the 9-5. I tried that, and it didn't work.

Cheers, Debra


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: richardw
Date: 25 May 01 - 11:00 AM

Chance Silver;

I think your question were directed toward me not Rick Fielding.

We were touring down the west coast. BC, WA, OR and CA then back. What do we play? Well, er, sort of folk. Bascially we know define it as songs and stories from Bunchgrass ocuntry.One of our CDs is reclaimed music from the BC goldrush period, but we also do some cowboy poetry (depending on the audience) stories and contemporary music about or from Bunchgrass country. We found some of the audiences were a little older and the best was an Elder hostel group.(55 and older). Hope that helps. See our trip notes o our website for more information.

I should have explained re the demo tapes. We have two regular CDs so they are not asking for a demo in the sense of a few songs recorded in a studio. One venue for house concerts told me they wanted to know "exactly what the audience was going to get." Fair enoough. Another asked for a live demo with tunings etc. So we have just made a couple of live recordings of shows for this type of request. However, I have not heard it yet so am reserving judgement on whether it will be snet out. Sometimes you just have to be there, and we don't do the same thing twice, usually, sort of.

Richard


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: GUEST,Rana
Date: 25 May 01 - 11:10 AM

No ones mentioned hassles one can get on cross border gigs. Luckily, in Toronto, we have a great person at Human Resources / Foreign Worker employment who has really helped us on numerous gigs, especially for those from the UK. Leave plenty of time for permits etc. The office here has had to provide validation for the High Commission in the UK - though this is not always requested, apparently it should be and it crops up at the wrong times.

Rana


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: richardw
Date: 25 May 01 - 11:19 AM

I for got to mention why the $25 seemed important.

We try to work with what the organizer normally does. For us its more important to perform every night on tour. So on a couple of occasions we agreed to perform for meals, rooms and donations. (Beats a motel and meals in US $$).

At one we found as we were driving down the road that neither of us had picked what we knew were scanty donations. (I thought you did!) So, we e-mailed the organizer the next day to check. He said they were so minimal he was embarrassed to give us half. (We were expecting all the donations.) So, instead of giving us the whole door he kept the whole door. Life on the road. The difference is the one we will go back to the latter we won't.

Richard


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 25 May 01 - 11:28 AM

Ya know, sometimes the intermediaries can get overlooked. I really want to tell folks that Mudcatter Rana and his co-hort Steve Pritchard in Toronto have made some potentially problem-filled situations pass by more smoothly than they might. They're both long-time music folks, who've put a lot of travelling performers at ease in their dealings with The Tranzac Club. Good folks to chat with as well. Steve is (like me) a Bluegrass sponge/nerd, and Rana? Well, he some kind of scientist (he's kind enough not to embarass me with quantum anythings) but being a Limey he'll talk about anything passionately.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: Fortunato
Date: 25 May 01 - 11:39 AM

Thanks, RichardW. Chance Silver? Great name but mine is Shiver. (Shy/ver).

I've never been to a Folk Alliance, maybe I'd heard of them. Can someone describe them, that is, purpose, locations, etc?

regards, Chance


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: Erica Smith
Date: 25 May 01 - 03:11 PM

hi,

Folk Alliance is this big Folk Conference held annually at the U.S./Canada national and regoinal levels . . . presumably for networking. I was at NE regional, where the Philly Folk Society people were hosting (I get the impression that people wanting to play the Philly Folk Fest basically get an "in" there). As you can glean from my previous post, my impressions were very negative (aside from finally getting to meet Deb!). I really didn't know what to expect -- I had a applied for showcases but not gotten any. I realize now I really shouldn't have bothered applying for them, because only the well-known acts got them. The acts were so well-known, in fact, I wonder why they weren't just booked by a booking committee . . . but then again, I did have to send in a check with my showcase application . . . and then more checks to register, try for a less formal showcase (which I still didn't get), and join the Society . . . ach, my head hurts.

All would have been redeemed if there had been any FUN to be had. i finally ended up showcasing with another org I'm kinda affiliated with -- hmmmm -- our hosts closed the door in my friend's face when we stopped by their room to check in, didn't allow another of my friends to bring her amp ino the room (she plays an instrument requiring one) and then withdrew her own, smaller keyboard amp which she had said my friend could borrow instead . . . another walked out of her own "in-the-round" showcase before her co-showcasers were done. Ewwwwwwww.

There were booths for record labels and producers, and a few artists hoping to promote themselves. For the most part, if i wanted to give a demo to anyone, they were like "throw it on the stack over there" . . .

not a huge amount of jamming going on . . . at one point roy book binder was jamming in the lobby with a few kids, quite lovely, and small clusters of others were playing together too -- until this woman decided she was going to TAKE OVER the whole lobby with a LOUD and BAD impromptu performance . . .

at that point my friends and i went for a drive around the Scenic Moonlit Poconos and listened to Nick Drake, humbly asking his ghost for advice. Then we came back and smoked pot in the hotel parking lot, went back inside & jammed a little more, & started openly making fun of everybody we didn't like.

any positive experiences out there?

E

ps. larry, the guy's name is Lach ("Latch").


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: Erica Smith
Date: 25 May 01 - 03:52 PM

and pps., if you're wondering what Nick's ghost advised us to do, he said to go back home to our bedrooms, turn off the lights, and never leave, or speak to anyone. i was so depressed when i came home, i pretty much did just that for a few days!


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: GUEST,Phil Cooper
Date: 29 May 01 - 03:49 PM

Been gone a few days and thought I'd see where the thread was going. I've gone to the folk alliance ever couple years just to let people know we're still alive. It's a good chance to see old friends and catch up on news. But I go these days not expecting to get any work. I've gotten more gigs from other performers we've met there, then from venue presenters. I prefer the midwestern conference. There are no formal showcases, jamming is encouraged (there is a showcase where every one who comes can perform a song for their peers). The old international conferences had more jamming before every available space and time was taken up with showcases. I agree that it is easier to get gigs out of town rather than in your own back yard. For one thing you are coming from somewhere and have a definite time frame in mind when approaching a place. Locally, you can also suffer from every booker who ever saw you perform a bad open mike set and figured you never got better...


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 30 May 01 - 12:57 AM

How true Phil. Also if you've lived in one place for a long time the novelty factor has long ago worn off. Gotta do a bit of out of town work to let 'em know you're still alive. I find the Folk Alliance is best for sayin' "hello" to old friends.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: InOBU
Date: 30 May 01 - 10:49 AM

LATCH! That's right, Learch is the other guy, the piano player! Latch, I'll have to remember that... Well, Friday is almost here, Mudcatters... there should be a rumble of engines geting ready to come to New York for the show...
Larry
Latch... hmmmmm


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Subject: RE: Booking Folk Gigs. Some suggestions.
From: Erica Smith
Date: 30 May 01 - 11:50 AM

. . . and then of course, there's always Lurch, the butler from "The Addams Family." Not to be confused with any of the above.

i apologize if my rant on Folk Alliance seemed overwhelmingly negative. It was just that I didn't have any old friends there . . . and [with a few wonderful exceptions], not many people seemed interested in striking up a friendship! For the record, I usually don't behave so badly myself. My cohorts and I just got very scared and confused about the kinds of relationships and interactions that are awaiting us in the wide world of folk. Hope it's better than all that.


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