For four days and nights at the annual Folk Alliance International conference in Kansas City, performers of all sorts play for anyone who will listen in official showcases, in the hallways, on the roof…vying to be noticed by the right people. The musicians I’ve known are dysfunctional trying to do anything else. No one will ever come between them and their first love. Going to an industry conference, I got to see that raw dedication at an extreme.
Unlike music festivals or concerts, it’s the artists who pay to be here. Like a casting call, they line the hallways, ever warming their vocal chords, waiting to make an impression, to somehow set themselves apart. Well dressed managers are often nearby, like salesmen ready to close a deal. Agents and promoters wander from showcase to showcase looking for new talent. Like buying a car, they’re careful never to express too much interest. For everyone there, it’s a fine line between appearing already successful but still looking for that big break.
I went down with my good friend Eddie Danger, the man behind a majority of my musical adventures.We thought we’d be on top of things by having a stack of handbills and posters to put up. Before we got there we had even called the hotel to see if we could put posters up outside our room. We were also hoping to slip some business cards around in key places.
When we arrived, we realized how funny our call ahead must have been. Tables set out originally for water or programs were overflowing with band promos and showcase schedules. Even the elevator doors were covered with large decals advertising record labels and festivals. Suddenly, our box full of homemade flyers felt rather modest. Luckily, Ed is tall.
This year, Eddie Danger Music and Star B Imaging partnered to manage a private showcase room for our friends at Ocooch Mountain Music. Three floors of the hotel are dedicated to these private showcases, which are like speed dating sessions for artists and promoters. Each hotel room is sponsored by an organization that books artists they either want to help promote by giving them an opportunity to play (perhaps in front of someone looking for their type of thing), or bands they want to meet and get a personal performance from.
In addition to Eddie Danger Music performances, we hosted the Ocooch Mountain Music nightly showcases until 4 o’clock each morning. We even tested out our live video “session” skills. The light is low, but the sounds is excellent!
We spent our (short) days on volunteer shifts which were laid back and allowed for frequent opportunities to meet and listen to other acts.
We did get a brief chance one afternoon to see outside of the conference center itself. Kansas City is a neat town and worth exploring more some day. The downtown features interesting architecture. It was my second time here and by far the most I’ve seen of it. It would be fun to come do it all over again for the 2017 FAI Conference next year!