I’ve just returned from the Northeast Folk Alliance Music Conference in Kerhonksan, NY (www.nerfa.org) where I spent four days playing music with my friends and business associates and met dozens of other musicians, DJ’s, promoters, presenters, venue operators, house concert presenters, agents, luthiers, dancers, etc. The list goes on and on. The Folk Alliance is definitely an inclusive organization and there are all factions of acoustic music represented from around the world.
photo by duff ferguson
I remember when I first heard of the FA. I thought that I wasn’t a folk musician playing traditional songs, so they would have no interest in me. Reggie Harris (www.kimandreggieharris.com) convinced me to come to Nerfa and I have every year ever since.
So many different genres and levels of expertise were represented, I realized I could not only learn from many of the people there, but could actually give back to the community to people who had not achieved my level of expertise as yet. And you do learn by teaching, believe me. It’s a win win situation and I want to talk today about what I am doing to take full advantage of the four days I just experienced.
First off, on the plane back to Los Angeles last night, I went through my program book and circled everyone that I met, played with or saw perform. Then I organized the list by friends, associates, business connections (agents, managers, disc jockeys, venues), who I gave CD’s to and performers whose performance I attended.
Today, I am going to send a personal post to all my friends to let them know how much I enjoyed seeing and spending time with them.
Next I will thank all the DJ’s who attended my DJ showcase, then all the people who came to my other showcases, then the artists whose performances I enjoyed.
After which I will contact all the venues to whom I gave CD’s and thank them for giving the CD a listen, and I will tell them that we will be contacting them in the near future (what would be a good time for you? Is a good question to ask) with regard to booking me at their venue.
There are also quite a few people who asked me to mail them a CD. I am sending them a post to let them know that I am honoring their request and that a CD will be sent to them in the next day or so.
After a week, I will contact them and ask them if they’ve received the CD and ask them how long I should give them before I contact them regarding their having listened to it. Give them plenty of time as there are a lot of us asking them to listen to what we do. There’s only so much time and interest, so be patient.
Then follow up with all the business contact emails in the time frame that they suggested, always letting them know in as subtle a way as you can, that you are looking forward to performing in their venue, so that they know this isn’t just altruism on your part. You are looking for work.
That’s the downside of being an independent musician. You have to rebuild your life every single day. If you don’t seek work, you will have none. If you don’t put yourself out there where you can be seen and heard, then no one is ever going to book you. And it is on the stage, in front of a live audience of mildly indifferent people that you can tell what you are doing and whether it is entertaining and rewarding for them or not. Plus the kind of focus that is required to perform in front of people puts you further into your music than any other experience. That is not to say that you shouldn’t practice, just that no matter how much you practice, you need to be in front of an audience to grow as a performer.
And you get a lot of chances to perform at these folk alliance conferences. Check them out. Make connections and make them work for you. There is so much to be learned and gleaned at these conferences, you owe it to yourself to attend them, experience them to the fullest and to take advantage of the momentum and connections that you make there. Not to mention the friendships that seem to develop into life long connections, just from crossing paths with kindred souls.