Something is happening in the Roots Music Scene.
Things are changing. A whole bunch of things.
Things are imploding, exploding and corroding!
Toronto-based singer-songwriter Jory Nash, recently posted the following letter on facebook.
Confession time: I’m not playing any gigs this summer and it’s bumming me out a bit. The nature of this music thing can lead to times when you are so busy with work/gigs that you blink and a season has gone by but other times you don’t hired to play and you wonder if you ever will again. I’m in one of those downtimes right now. I don’t have a gig booked until October. Summer is music festival season and I’m so proud of and happy for my many musical friends who are playing so many great festivals and stages right now across this country. My Facebook and Twitter feeds are full of fun festival pics from friends doing their thing and spreading musical joy. But amongst the feelings of happiness for my friends is a little bit of professional jealousy. Festivals are wonderful experiences for artists and fans alike, a musical culture of camarderie and personal and professional growth, and I’m missing that, big time.
This is the second summer in a row I haven’t been hired to play any folk fests (and the first ever where I couldn’t land any gigs at all) and it’s a worrying trend, especially after I released a new album this year that was well received. I’m hopeful that 2016 will be a better year for summer festival bookngs. I know I have a lot to offer festival ADs in terms of workshop versatility, mainstage performances and general positive vibes. Here’s to hoping.
I know Jory isn’t the only one having this experience. I think this is happening to many great artists for a number of reasons, in no particular order:
- there are legions of more artists applying for the same few spots at Festivals than used to be.
- many of the Festivals seem to be caught up in booking ‘this weeks flavour’ of artist more than they ever were. If you were ‘last weeks flavour’ you can no longer be this weeks flavour ~ you have had your chance and that’s it.
- it used to be if you were popular at a Festival, you could pretty well count on returning once every 3-4 years. That is no longer true. There are simply too many choices now and peoples attention spans (or fan loyalties) simply don’t last as long.
- Numerous Festival Artistic Directors will really only deal with booking agents at this point in time, aside from the local acts they hire. It used to be that ADs would go out into the field and spend time curating their events, proudly presenting artists no one had ever presented before. I’m not so sure this is the case anymore. People now do their booking more around industry events exclusively.
- What was once the ‘commercial’ music scene has resorted to an invasion of the folk and roots world because there is no longer a place in the commercial world for many of the artists and perhaps even more so, music business people who used to make their living in that world. They have discovered and manipulated the non-profit Festival scene into being their new domain.
- Funders are interested in seeing ‘deliverables’ which often relate to more ‘corporate model’ demands not really making quality art the main objective.
- Each Festival has it’s quota of artists it will book in every genre of music. This also has to include a diverse selection of performers based on ethnicity, age, sexual preferences, geographic location, etc.
I think it’s fair to say that 90% of the time you don’t get booked to play at a festival, it has NOTHING TO DO with you!
This is so hard to remember as an artist.
But so important to acknowledge.
Those of us who play music for a living are blessed to have a pursuit and a profession we love. It used to be, you could make a decent living as well. I’m not so sure that you still can.
Perhaps the 70’s set us all up for unrealistic expectations.
We remain blessed to be in this community and to have something we love to do. We also get beat up lots if we put ourselves out there.
The point of this article is to start a conversation. I’d love to hear your thoughts about all this mess called the music business.
Thanks Jory, for your truthful message in a bottle. Here’s a response, thrown back out into the Ocean.