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Folk Alliance Newsletter

Performers Column

by Joel Mabus

written March 2001



Thinking Ahead
By Joel Mabus

So you still have the buzz of the Vancouver conference. You are catching up on sleep, entering your new contacts in your database, following up on leads, and enjoying your free demo cds. Maybe you have all of that on hold while you take care of all the every-day tasks you let slide while you were away playing. Or maybe you missed the Vancouver conference for whatever reason, and figure you'll do the Folk Alliance "next year."

Wake up! It's not too soon to be thinking about next year's conference in Jacksonville, FL. First, put the dates on your calendar (even if you are not sure you are going) -- February 21-24, 2002. Now go look up Jacksonville on the map. (Guess what - it's not near Miami!) Knowing where and when will help you make decisions as to whether you can attend, how you will travel, and the attendant decisions of what and who you will take with you. (That takes care of four of the "five W's." See "why" below.) Do the same for the various regional conferences that will occur later this year.

Very soon you performers will need to decide whether you want to apply for the official showcase. Members can read about the application process in this newsletter or in mailings you will receive. If you fall into more than one of the "categories" give some thought as to where you would like to be seen, if you are chosen. It's not to soon to begin a plan for private showcases - talk to friends and business partners about sharing resources.

Investigate the lay of the land. Know anybody in Jacksonville? Touring north Florida this year? (If so, go take a walking tour of the conference area.) Do you really KNOW what their climate is like in February? The more you know about the facilities, the better you are to make strategic decisions as to where you will "pitch camp." The temptation to save bucks by staying "off campus" in a cheaper hotel or with friends is indeed tempting. But sometimes the hassle of ground transportation and the time spent in travel outweighs the savings. You can save yourself a scramble if you do some asking well before next year's conference is looming.

Stay in touch with the home office. The Folk Alliance has deadline dates for nearly everything to do with the conference. Put those dates on your calendar too. Know when to have your application for showcase in. Know when you should know if you are chosen and what decisions flow from that. Know when the early bird discount is available - and when it's too late to save on the early registration. Know the dates to book your room or choose your booth space or get in the lottery for a showcase room. I'm always amazed at the number of performers who decide to attend the week before the conference, and wonder why they don't get more attention.

Make a budget. I know - a lot of "right brain" musicians shudder at the word, but making a simple plan of what things will cost versus how much you can afford is time well spent. There are ways to save money on literally any aspect of the conference. You can register early, share rooms, share rides, share booths, brown bag some meals, etc. But you might decide that in one or two of these areas you should splurge. Maybe the private room is worth the expense if you are going to entertain guests or need to sleep at odd times. Maybe a booth all to yourself makes sense - or a few meals with potential presenters on your tab will pay off. Think about where to pinch a penny and where to spend a buck. Better to decide what you can afford before you arrive in Florida, so you don't wind up with a swollen credit card instead of a swollen date book. Don't overlook the option of attending a regional conference this year. The various regionals may offer different opportunities than the annual International. Maybe you can afford to do more than one conference - costs will vary by region. And if money is tight, starting a conference fund now makes sense, doesn't it?

Make a strategy. With all you learn about the costs, the opportunities and the potentials of the 2002 conference, make a game plan. Why are you going? (There's the fifth "W") Will you go to promote a new CD? Will you concentrate on networking with other musicians? Are you out to meet agents? Presenters? Weigh your priorities and make a strategy to do the best with what you've got. Time is on your side if you start planning now.

At this time of the year you can rationally decide how to invest your time and money in the various resources that the Folk Alliance offers. Play it smart: plan ahead - follow through - keep in touch!

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