Folk Alliance Conference may be as powerful as Jazz Fest in helping musicians’ careers.

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Many a musician has acquired a much larger new audience by being selected to perform at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

By gigging at the Fest, thousands of musicians have been heard by festival promoters, talent bookers, management company representatives, record labels, publicity people and club owners from literally around the world—to say nothing of the hundreds of thousands of Fest-goers who perhaps never had the opportunity to see or hear some of our great local music. It can truthfully be said that the Jazz Fest has been responsible for many a band’s career in music. (An aside: The Jazz Fest 2020 schedule will be available tomorrow at an undisclosed time; we’ll post it as soon as they give it to OffBeat).
The same holds true for the musicians who are lucky enough to have been selected to play at the Folk Alliance International (FAI) Convention.
I was pretty familiar with FAI through my old friend Louis Jay Meyers. Meyers was a smart, cool cookie, musician and concert promoter, and one of the co-founders of South By Southwest in Austin. He left SXSW in 1994, selling his share of the business, came to New Orleans and attempted to start a similar event in New Orleans: LMNOP (Louisiana Music, New Orleans Proud). It lasted three years. Meyers then went on to head up the Folk Alliance, back then based in Memphis. Sadly, Meyers passed away suddenly of a heart attack in early 2016; a great loss for FAI and for music folk, in general.
Another friend, Reid Wick, who’s now with the Recording Academy, attended a Folk Alliance Convention, and came back raving to me about how fantastic and different it was. That was probably 10 to 12 years ago (forgive me, Reid, if I don’t have the timing right), and right away the idea was hatched to ask FAI to have the event in New Orleans. Lucky for all of us music freaks, Wick is now on the board of FAI, and persuaded the powers-that-be (now headquarterd in Kansas City) to have the conference in New Orleans this year.
I can’t recommend this event enough to anyone who is involved in music in New Orleans. There are multiple showcases of Louisiana-based or –borne musicians, mentoring sessions, workshops, networking with music biz professionals (including festival and talent bookers from all over) and so much more. It’s sort of what “South By” used to be in its earlier years: less tech and corporate, more musician-centric, smaller and more manageable, and very user-friendly. Keynote speakers are Rhiannon Giddens (see a conversation with her in our January issue) and Mavis Staples. How can you beat that?
I’m so happy that OffBeat is part of this event (we are co-sponsoring Louisiana showcases with WWOZ on January 22 and 25). I wish I could go to every event on every day including all the showcases. There are multiple showcases throughout the event, but what’s even more interesting is that there are small, private showcases that take place in hotel rooms at the Sheraton. So you can go from showcase to showcase to hear fabulous musicians you may not have been familiar with.
Take our poll, and you may get a chance to win a pair of passes to FAI New Orleans. You really have to take every chance you can to make it there. It’s that good.
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