Posts Tagged ‘ Folk Music

A Bit of History: Remember the DOT-COM explosion? We were there…

Been there?  From the Internet Archive, what they call the “Wayback Machine“, with a history of the Internet- I think they started before us, as they have us from the very beginning, if I remember correctly.

Here’s the record of efolkMusic beginning on Oct 9, 1999, and the Wayback Machine has snapshots through the ages! The mission is the same is it ever was, really, same rock to push. Luckily the edges have been worn down through the years and it’s a bit easier to roll.  Depending on the size of the rock, you don’t always “pick it up and carry it on..” as we have been known to say; more often it’s OGS – of good size – and you ROLL it.

The graphic to the left is a month later, Nov 1999, sorry about the missing graphics. Some of these hairpins are kickin’ grass’  as I write, somewhere, I hope. The idea was grand, using “digital delivery” to get and keep the good music in the air, all with a little compressed file called an “MP3” that flew across borders, from our servers right into your computer, and nearly frictionless (not to mention green).

The market was defined- a large niche of music fans who found no satisfaction listening to most of what they heard on the radio; they also saw their neighborhood record stores close down. Voila, efolkMusic, MP3s by the track, 98 cents.

The artists in our broadly-defined “curated”  folk music family were required to offer a free MP3 to our website visitors. Most didn’t know what an MP3 was, and were afraid to “give it away” even though they had no other practical way to get their music to the fans.

Ah, how times have changed. We became a non-profit in 2003 (May 31st is the first snapshot), and have continued to be a valuable distribution channel for an exceptional roster of too-often overlooked musicians. and MySpace have “gone out”, Facebook and Twitter are having their 15 minutes of fame, Google + is too late to the ballgame- we all “compete” (ha!) for your clicking attention, and golly, we are practically venerable by comparison. Folk music does get some respect, but ask any folkie, if you aren’t in it for the ART, and if you aren’t ready for the LONG HAUL, you don’t last long on the bluegrass highway.

SO here we are today, thanks to your support- you know the difference between real music and empty cowboy hats, that’s why you are here. Help us keep it going, won’t you?

The Book of Gigs

I’ll get the whole thing started, but I’m really looking for your stories. Send us your most memorable outing, we’ll publish the best and brightest, the most harrowing and embarrassing- and we’re not interested in the “perfect gig” (ha), rather the more unusual encounters…..for example:

It must have been about 1976, a cold night on the Iowa plains just before Christmas. This was my sensitive-singer/songwriter period, with a stunning afro, a wispy beard, an old vest and an older guitar (I wish I still had that one, a ’29 Gibson Nick Lucas). I was on my way to my fiancé’s home in Spencer, with a stop at a so-called “club” in Mason City (coincidentally the hometown of  Meredith Wilson’s, composer of the great  “Music Man”).

I’d never been to the place before, it was booked by my agent at the time, and I should have smelled a rat before I walked in the door. I don’t know what my agent told them about me to convince them to hire me, but none of it was true. I think I was the first live entertainment they’d had, and as inexperienced as they were, there was no lack of preparation. The owners had built a one-man stage in the corner, about 10 feet from the pool table.  As befitting the season, the stage was ringed with Christmas lights, with a nice sign; unfortunately the sign announced me as “Kris Kringle” (arrgh….) like I was supposed to in a red fat suit.

Everybody seemed friendly, though, so I set up my PA and tuned up the ol’ sixer.  My repertoire at the time consisted of some original songs, a few instrumentals, and a fair amount of swing and old jazz tunes, and I headed straight for my best stuff, my sure-fire crowd-pleasers, not exactly pandering, but starting to suspect that it might be a tough night.

What crowd there was had moved to the front of the bar, as far away from me as they could get.  One brave couple continued with their pool game, he with a lovely cowboy outfit including a nice belt with a hand-tooled “Leonard” in big letters, she with a medium-height beehive.  After about two numbers the brave cowpoke came to the stage and asked me if I played any country. I knew that what I called “country” wasn’t the kind that was on their juke box, and wouldn’t be recognized as such, but I launched into “Miss the Mississisppi and Me”.  It didn’t seem to be working.

Luckily this is a short story. The owner came up to me, said that I didn’t need to play any more, gave me the promised $75 and shuffled away, no argument, no discussion.

It was only a few degrees colder outside as I loaded up the gear. I could hear the jukebox  blasting away- the patrons forgot about me pretty quickly, probably had a pretty good time.  Hey, they didn’t throw anything at me!!!!


Let efolkMusic Promote Your “Concertcast”

Broadcasting an event over theInternet (webcasting) used to be a HUGE deal.  Getting live video and audio distributed to a larger audience required the ‘caster to have a big “pipe” to serve many streams at once, but now days anyone with a decent high speed connection can get it out to any and all with one of the new services like

A game-changer for traveling AND stationary pickers.

The email came from from Massachusetts folk-rocker Erin McKeown, and announced a series of house concerts, with a twist. She’s webcasting the shows using a new service, The service allows anyone with a webcam and a mic to broadcast live “TV” from wherever to an unlimited number of viewers- and if you have higher production values (lights, good sound, nice video cameras, duh) it looks and sounds fabulous! The best part is that she is selling tickets on her website (through paypal, $10) and sending ticket holders the URL and a password just before the show to give them access.

Her press says she is “inviting you into her living room, onto her porch, into her river, and into her yard” and I’ll be shocked if she doesn’t make some money on this. I’m not trying to sell tickets for her (although I wish her luck and will be curious as to how it turns out), but this is just such a great concept, I had to tell you about it. I suggest you get your email lists up to date, sign up at ustream, and produce a concert.

efolkMusic wants to help artists and producers get the word out when a concertcast of interest to our community is happening, so please write us and we’ll let our 9,000+ newsletter subscribers know:


We seem to be on the edge of a paradigm shift. Orchestras are struggling to stay alive, rock has been relegated to the underground, jazz has stopped evolving and become a dead art, the music industry itself has been subsumed by corporate culture and composers are at their wit’s end trying to find something that’s hip but still appeals to an audience mired in a 19th-century sensibility. – Glenn Branca, NY Times

We are living through an amazing time in the arts, the beginning of an epoch. Artists of all types, (even those of us with limited resources), have access to tools that hadn’t been dreamed in the “golden era”, fabulous instruments musical and technical. Everything has changed- the playing field, the game, the players.  This presents us with a challenge, but luckily we threw the rulebook out with the old game.

We must seize this moment. WE THE PEOPLE, the artists, the musicians, the dancers, WE can write the new rules, and take back our art from the puppetmasters. We can go around their weakened forces, directly to our fans.

We are talking  revolution, here, and what the new post.alt music business 2.0 will look like.  If anything is certain, it’s that you will be in control of your art and your business if you intend to survive- and you will be using any and every tool available, to make your music and to get it into the ears of your listeners, wherever they are.

I won’t go too deeply into music production tools (although there may be a bit about the Death of Autotune (2009), sticking mainly to the marketing and distribution of your “product”, the micro-business of you or your band.

Yamaha CX5M, c1984

Yamaha CX5M, c1984

Musicians were early adopters of computer tech. It all started, for me with a Yamaha CX5M in 1984, hooked to a DX7.  The evolution to an Atari ST in ’85 and an internet connection was logical and orderly, and I had email (Compuserve, 1987!) for about a year before I had anybody to email to.  But I knew then, it was something that could be leveraged, a huge network I didn’t pay for, a pipe of ever-growing size from my computer to yours! Practically free, I could send a song for a song, and it changed my life.   The wires  and the satellites are  there, we can use them willy-nilly. How do we do that? How can we make the most of it?

Answering this and looking ahead, this is all about surviving in the real world by utilizing the virtual world.

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