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First-timers Q & A
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Luke Daniels 0 L. Daniels Luke Daniels Described by Songlines as “a future classic” and by Acoustic Magazine as “an enchanting delight” ★★★★ award-winning singer and composer brings his solo show and clockwork Polyphon machine to beautifully crated modern morality tales and intriguing instrumental music. A member of the Cara Dillon’s band Luke’s solo set will be performed at Celtic Connections Festival and for chosen for an official showcase at this year’s US Folk Alliance Conference in Kansas City. CONTACT: office@gael.org.uk www.lukedanielsmusic.com  
by L. Daniels
Saturday, December 10, 2016
An interview with instrumentalist & FAI volunteer, B. Ryan B. 0 M. Vial At FARMette conference last year, I met B. Ryan B., a multi-instrumentalist from Cleveland; “B” was a great emcee at the conference. His positive attitude was contagious! B has been a volunteer for Folk Alliance Regional Midwest for a while, and he offered some unique points about being prepared for song circles, the benefits of volunteering, and standing out: MV: Hi B. Ryan R. How’s winter going in Cleveland? Hopefully it’s like this in a few weeks for the FAI commute. Any tips on how to approach Folk Alliance for the first time? B: The snow’s newsworthy over here, though mostly just because we had mild weather so long. So…tips? Know your goals going in: pickin’ and grinnin’, or honing certain skills, or networking, or getting exposure. So much awesomeness is going on, don’t expect to do it all the first year. MV: I’ve learned that the hard way even with the regional conferences. Have any tips on how to keep calm and costs affordable? B: Here’s a big one for me: get there a little early, just to get oriented with the venue and neighborhood, so you’re not spending conference time getting un-lost. Buddy up! Sharing the drive and lodging saves money. Sharing the drive is safer and makes the miles go faster. You can also then “tag-team” the concurrent workshops/seminars, and exchange notes later. MV: That’s smart. Music conference can feel overwhelming. B: Another biggie: retreat at least once a day to decompress, and take notes. MV: Any tips on standing out? B: Bring your niche instruments. They add color to the song circles. Biggest tip by far: volunteer. If you’re looking for networking opportunities, there’s no better way to get in the public eye. MV: [chuckling] That’s relieving to hear! That’s my hope with volunteering. Plus, I’m trying to keep costs down. B: We’re all poor. There are deals to be had. Register early. Look a block or two away from the venue for cheaper restaurants and lodging. Bring food from home like granola, apples, bagels, and other stuff. MV: Just like touring! Sounds like doing the research can go far. Any tips that get overlooked? B: If you come to the song circles, and you should, have a couple songs ready that are either well known (“trads”) or at least easy to pick up. * * * B. Ryan B. just posted a new song video, “Cleveland Is Your Land”: ClevelandIsYourLand.com.  
by M. Vial
Wednesday, February 3, 2016
Give your art a snack 0 M. Vial Want to know how Lyal Strickland became one of the most memorable attendees at a Folk Alliance regional conference three years ago? It wasn't just his showcase performance. Instead of simply a CD, he add a bag of ready-to-eat popcorn in everyone’s conference bag with a note that included a link to download the album. After SERFA, on the community message board, so many musicians commented a thanks to Lyal for the snack during the long commutes home from the conference. (I bet the venue and radio hosts were thankful, too!) In the end, popcorn doesn't replace the art, but it helps to have a snack to enjoy as you listen to it. Especially when the music delivers:
by M. Vial
Tuesday, February 2, 2016
An interview with Al Kniola from WPVE 88.1 FM 0 M. Vial I’ve been playing in South Bend regularly over the last year, and one of my favorite moments during my commute is crossing into Michiana, getting to WPVE’s broadcast radius. WPVE is one of those NPR stations that we shouldn’t take for granted, with unique programing between the nationally syndicated favorite NPR shows. Al Kniola has been hosting one of those unique programs since 1995, the Back Porch. This month, I interviewed him, seeking tips for songwriters attending Folk Alliance. MV: Al’s what’s the most important event at FAI songwriters should attend other than their showcases? AK: For Folk Alliance, the number one priority for artists is to attend the Folk-DJ Reception, usually on Thursday, the first full day of the conference. Have bunches of your CD(s) on hand and don’t be shy about approaching every single DJ in attendance, introduce yourself and give them an airplay copy. MV: What if you don’t have professional CDs replicated for a new record yet? AK: If you don’t have any CDs to distribute, make an EP on a CD-R and bring a bunch of them. Don’t forget a business card or one-sheet, especially if you don’t have good liner notes in your CDs. MV: What about digital releases? AK: Don’t count on passing out download cards; few DJs will bother with them. MV: Gotcha. It sounds like the Folk DJ reception is essential. AK: If you don’t do anything else at the conference, don’t miss this event. It is tailor-made to get your music into the hands of the people who can play it on the air or Internet. At last check, there are 48 media people registered for this year’s conference. Meet every one of them. A handful of showcases to a handful of people does not come anywhere close to the opportunity you have at this reception. Did I say “don’t be shy”? ;!) MV:Thanks for that nudge to be friendly! As an artist, I need to remember it’s OK to be direct–just not pushy–to remember that we are here to build some relationships. What else should we be doing? AK: Otherwise, find every opportunity to showcase, including hallways, elevator lobbies, wherever. The object is to be seen and heard as much as possible. Don’t waste your time and money going just to hang out with your pals. Work at it! MV: I’ve already emphasized this in other blogs, but I’ve found the networking opportunities with other like-minded artists was an initial reason to attend. AK: Networking with your fellow artists is invaluable. And a lot of venue people attend the conferences, too. They’re looking for new people to book. Meet as many as you can and give them a CD, too. MV: Do you think DJs will ever switch to a digital system, with streaming and digital singles becoming more popular in the country, pop, and hip-hop markets? AK Part-time DJS (that’s all of them), unpaid (that’s most of them – not me, however) don’t have the personal time and money to download everything that comes out. And no one has staff to do it for them. MV: Gotcha. My friend Anthony Spak–actually a former student form my teaching days–who’s now the music director of Oakland University’s WXOU told me the same thing. He showed me the music library. I can see why that album format is still embedded in this process. AK: We tell artists and labels that, if they want airplay, we need hard copies, or we just don’t play those people. Their choice. * * * * Read Al Kniola’s bio here, and listen to the Back Porch online at WPVE, or 88.1 FM on your radio dial, on Sundays from 7-11 PM! * * * * Author Bio: Mike Vial is a songwriter from Ann Arbor. He has performed close to 1000+ gigs, including shows at the Ark in Ann Arbor, The Flint Institute of Arts, Six String Concerts in Columbus, Rockwood Music Hall in NYC, and State Theater in South Bend. He has been an official showcase artist at SERFA and FARMette, and he is attending his first FAI conference this February. You can hear his newest single, "Burning Bright" and read the feature by American Songwriter Magazine here. 
by M. Vial
Tuesday, February 2, 2016
4 Tips from Ralph Jaccodine 0 M. Vial Last week, I interviewed Ralph Jaccodine for tips when attending Folk Alliance, asking, “What ways can an artist stand out in the crowd?” Ralph is a manager of artists (most notably Ellis Paul), an adjunct professor at Berklee School of Music, and re-elected board member of Folk Alliance. Here are some questions and answers:  1. The first time I showcased at SERFA, I felt a bit overwhelmed and underprepared! How can first timers avoid that feeling of getting a bit lost in the size of the FAI’s larger conference? ​RJ: Promote your showcase as much as possible. Have your set down: the right balance of music, talking, interaction with the audience. Read the room and its energy, and plan a set according to this. Promote your showcases: ask friends to attend for support. 2. I was inspired by Ellis Paul’s analogy of constructing a music career, brick-by-brick, over a long haul of connecting with people. What type of bricks should us newer artists be seeking in the music industry at FAI? ​RJ: Think of co-writing, start a writing group, tour with like-minded artists. You need to play live as much as you can, and eventually you will need to be great live. Then, you will aggregate fans​ who will sign your email list. Communicating directly to these fans is key; fan to fan, club by club, market by market you grow a career. 3. My first blog referenced Lyal Strickland and how his business card was a snack at SERFA. Any examples of promotional materials that stood out over the years? RJ: ​Food, candy, pens–there are all sorts of things given out, but great music trumps all. You should have a cool card, an easy way to get your music out to folks (might want to give a download card, simple CD sampler)​. 4. Showcases in the hotel rooms go by so quickly! How might a newer artist approach these performances to get the most out of the experience? ​Quantity counts. Have a great set prepared, bring lots of energy and focus to your set. Get to meet others, see how you can help others. Ask for advice, partner in some way with others at your level​, observe what is going on around you. The most important part of these conferences is meeting like-minded music fans/promoters/players. * * * * * * * * When I attended SERFA in 2013, I didn’t know anyone at the conference; but by the end of the conference, I met at least a fourth of the attendees, had solid time meeting 25-30 folks during the meals, and 10 to 15 of them have stayed in great touch over the years through email, Facebook, Instagram, etc. Ralph emphasizes finding artists “at your level,” and this is great advice. It’s tempting to chase a chance at opening for a more established artist, and those opportunities are going to present themselves early in your career, especially in your local markets. (Like Ari’s Take says, “50 is the magic number.”) But how do we get those first chances to play in new regions? The easiest way is to team with others at your level from other cities. Have a long term vision when attending FAI. Have a future tour plan–one you can execute in six months or a next year–in mind.  Plus, new friends you meet during the meals and in the halls of the conference might attend your showcases later that night. Do the same for them! * * * * * * * * Author Bio: Mike Vial is a songwriter from Ann Arbor. He has performed close to 1000+ gigs, including shows at the Ark in Ann Arbor, The Flint Institute of Arts, Six String Concerts in Columbus, Rockwood Music Hall, and State Theater in South Bend. He has been an official showcase artist at SERFA and FARMette, and he is attending his first FAI conference this February. You can hear his newest single, "Burning Bright" and read the feature by American Songwriter Magazine here. 
by M. Vial
Saturday, January 23, 2016
FAI Tip - The value is in the community & meeting other songwriters 0 M. Vial I asked my favorite songwriters, ones who have been previous Folk Alliance showcase performers, for tips when attending a music conference. Every one of them emphasized the role of community: Brad Cole: "It’s probably more important to find chemistry with other artists than it is to stalk bookers." Josh Rose: "I have befriended some wonderful people through the Folk Conference circles: you, Chad Elliot, Heather Styka, Ben Bedford, and others. The mutual respect comes easily at these conferences and all I have been privy to is collaboration with these folks, not competition." Graydon James and Laura Spink from The Young Novelists: "You sit down and have a chat with someone about common interests. Get to know them a little bit. If you're looking to have a career in music, you have to build relationships because it makes sense, not because someone is trying to take advantage of a situation. Maybe someday you will work together, maybe not, but that's not even really important at this stage. Just meeting and getting to know each other a bit is the best thing." Andrew McKnight: "Small investments in making people feel appreciated in some way, and making it easy for others to join them... Leaving a trail of positive interactions wherever you go will surely build a more sustainable foundation for the decades of your career yet to come." (From his essay in the book: Killing It in the Streaming Age.) And here are some habits that might help from Camela Widad: "I learned early on that business – for me – was about meeting people[...]I’m not so good with names, but I’m good with stories. After I meet someone, get their card, I immediately write down what stuck out for me about them. Some people I may work with, some I may not; but when I go back home to 100 or more business cards, flyers, and personal notes in my journal, those little bits I wrote down jog my memory. I contact everyone I’ve met with a personal note to thank them, remind them of who I am and how we met.I still have cards from 5 years ago and remember who someone is from my notes." Al Kniola, radio DJ at 88.1 FM WVPE, sums it up well: "networking with your fellow artists is invaluable."  Attending music conferences is expensive, but there is an opportunity to find value in the songwriters standing in the corners of the rooms. Peyton Tochterman and I shared a fun week tour together, all because we had met as strangers over lunch at SERFA, and left the conference as friends. Your next show share in a new region might be made at Folk Alliance! An immediate bond is formed quickly between traveling musicians. We've been bitten by the same bug; and one with the sickness understands you. * * * * *  Author Bio: Mike Vial is a songwriter from Ann Arbor. He has performed close to 1000+ gigs, including shows at the Ark in Ann Arbor, The Flint Institute of Arts, Six String Concerts in Columbus, Rockwood Music Hall, and State Theater in South Bend. He has been an official showcase artist at SERFA and FARMette, and he is attending his first FAI conference this February. You can hear his newest single, "Burning Bright" and read the feature by American Songwriter Magazine here. 
by M. Vial
Thursday, January 21, 2016
FAI Tip - Turning Bloodsuckers into Blood Donors 0 M. Vial Paul Barker, host of Barker's House Concerts, wrote an exemplar essay for the first-timer attending a music conference like Folk Alliance: Read here: NERFA - For the First Timers I love this motto: "Take the pledge: I am not here to book gigs. I am here to build relationships and the gigs will follow," says Barker. Obviously, we hope to gain some monetary value from attending a conference, but it's easy to lose sight of the forest of songwriters--the community--from the trees of venue hosts and radio DJs. You are here to connect to people. The gigs will follow if you follow this mantra. So take that pledge, first timers! One point of advice in Barker's essay doesn't hold up for me, but maybe that's because it's 2016 (IE: Apple Music, Spotify); not 2010 when his essay was written, as CD sales were at the start of declining. Barker advices to conserve your CDs and promo packs--which is sound advice--but he goes a step further about people who don't represent venue that take free CDs: "These bloodsuckers go from table to table collecting 'free' CDs for their personal collections. It’s very unprofessional, but they think they deserve it for their 'support' of folk music." I applaud any chance to use the word "bloodsuckers"; however, I think we need to take a step back here, especially in a world where scarcity left music long ago, and the enemy of a new artist is being unknown. If someone is interested in your music, why would you want to withhold them from getting hooked by your songs? Instead of seeing these freeloaders as bloodsuckers, I think it's important to see them as potential fans. That doesn't mean you need to give them a professional CD for free, but this is standard advice for all merch tables: You should always have something cheap or free to give away. You should be enticing potential true fans to sign up for your email lists. Maybe give away a CDR. A cheaper alternative, a download code. Even better,  have an iPad on a stand with a Noisetrade widget on the screen, so someone can type in their email address for a free download!  Either way, have a plan to turn them bloodsuckers into future blood donors! * * * * *  Author Bio: Mike Vial is a songwriter from Ann Arbor. He has performed close to 1000+ gigs, including shows at the Ark in Ann Arbor, The Flint Institute of Arts, Six String Concerts in Columbus, Rockwood Music Hall, and State Theater in South Bend. He has been an official showcase artist at SERFA and FARMette, and he is attending his first FAI conference this February. You can hear his newest single, "Burning Bright" and read the feature by American Songwriter Magazine here.   
by M. Vial
Thursday, January 21, 2016

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