Mudcat Café message #3266074 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #141742   Message #3266074
Posted By: GUEST,aging cynic
30-Nov-11 - 11:01 AM
Thread Name: Occupy Folk Music! (USA)
Subject: RE: Occupy Folk Music! (USA)
while i've never played in many usa folk venues there was a time i tried getting booked along the eastern seaboard. it did seem like trying to gain entrance to a closed shop. i don't see this as a conscious conspiracy of the 'one percent' but more the result of several factors, though a version of group-think among those responsible for booking acts is among them.

most of the time there was no response to booking queries, which is apparently fairly common. when there were responses, they were often along the lines of 'i really like your stuff but we can't book you because nobody in our area knows you.' when queried as to how to build a following in their area without getting bookings, the response was usually, 'when you get a following, please let us know. we simply can't afford to bring people in who can't fill seats.' an understandable concern, though also something of a catch-22.

it was also suggested that attending a regional meeting of the folk alliance might help. these weekend events, when room, board, and travel expsenses are added up, can cost upwards of $600. and, as was often pointed out, do not expect to get gigs at these meetings, only to create 'relationships' that might eventually lead to gigs, especially if you get a showcase. the chances of getting a showcase are slim so this doesn't seem a wise expenditure to musicians who are watching their nickels, though neither is it exactly a pay-to-play situation, as some critics might suggest.

attending other people's gigs, and lurking on folk websites, did offer some insights into this world. there are many good players but plenty of ordinary and mediocre ones as well. this would indicate that, as in all other areas of life, contacts and perseverance can pay off even if you're not very talented. there's also the question of personal taste. there truly is no telling what a venue booker might like. many people have no doubt had the experience of hearing raves about a performer, going to hear for yourself, and being mystified as to what the excitement is about.

as for group-think, a visitor to a folk venue may sense a prevailing political and cultural orthodoxy shared by performers, the audience, and likely the person who booked the show as well. in a line, the attitude seems to be 'aren't we the clever ones!' i'm reminded of contemporary christian music: so long as you invoke the Lord enough, your music can be utter drek. to an outsider, especially one with dissenting views, the atmosphere may seem deeply smug and unwelcoming.

so, plenty of reason for seeking opportunities elsewhere -- house concerts, bars, or starting your own scene. and there's always busking.