Have you ever been to South by Southwest? If you’re a part of the music industry, if you’re a musician, you know that “South By” developed a reputation of the place to be seen to be discovered by the music industry at large. But you have to go all the way to Austin, Texas to attend. And the conference has developed into a huge behemoth where band showcases almost take a backstage to the privately-sponsored parties and non-official showcases that are scattered all over the city.
New Orleans musicians and music industry people have an amazing opportunity to participate in the Folk Alliance International Conference that’s being held in New Orleans this year from January 20- 26, 2020 at the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel.
The FAI Conference is unique in that everything takes place within the hotel. (For those of you who are old enough to remember its beginnings, South By used to be held in a single hotel but since has morphed into three huge week-long events: music, film and technology that moved to the Austin Convention Center and to venues all over the city).
The Folk Alliance, a non-profit headquartered in Kansas City, MO, will hold its 32nd annual conference in New Orleans in 2020 (last year was in Montreal, Canada). It’s the first time the FAI Conference will have been located here, and it’s an outstanding opportunity for musicians and bands to get exposure via showcases (official and private) to talent buyers and festivals from around the world, as well a to get some in-depth networking and education too.
The Folk Alliance International Conference, presented by Folk Alliance International, is the world’s largest gathering of the folk music industry and community (crossing a diverse array of genres including Appalachian, Americana, Blues, Bluegrass, Celtic, Cajun, Francophone, Global Roots, Hip-Hop, Indigenous, Latin, Old Time, Traditional, Singer-Songwriter, Spoken Word, and Zydeco). The annual conference draws almost 3,000 artists and industry (agents, managers, publishers, labels, festival/venue presenters, promoters, media). Delegates who attended the 2019 conference represented 48 countries.
In some ways, the annual Jazz Fest is also one of the opportunities for musicians to get incredible exposure to talent buyers from all over the world; but FAI also includes days of workshops, educational seminars, mentoring sessions, trade show, networking, one-on-one meetings, and much more. The FAI Conference also provides many showcase opportunities. According to their website (folk.org), “Showcases are a way for artists to show off their talents to festival and venue bookers, agents, record labels, DJs, media, and more. While Official Showcases are exclusive to jury-selected musicians, anyone can perform a Private Showcase. Many artists book multiple Private Showcase slots, and we recommend all artists take advantage of the opportunity to perform in Private Showcases.
Official Showcases feature 180 jury-selected, tour-ready musicians representing diverse cultures, languages, and sound. The 30-minute sets are performed on full production stages at the conference. FAI has pledged to achieve a 50/50 gender balance in programming across all stages.
To play an Official Showcase, performers must apply before July 15, 2019, and await approval by a board of jurors. Artists who receive an Official Showcase may also submit a song for the conference Official Showcase Compilation CD.
Another opportunity for musicians are “Private Showcases” that will turn 70 hotel rooms at the Sheraton New Orleans into listening rooms. These performances are more intimate, often without any amplification, and offer a unique opportunity for musicians and bands. Rooms are very fluid, and some people cycle in and out of different performances.
Hosts are artists, record labels, publicists, agents, managers, state/city music offices, national export offices, collectives, and extraordinary fans of the music. Artists can apply to perform in a Private Showcase by connecting with presenters.
There are also “Lobby Jams,” that are one of the most notable things about FAI. Music happens in all corners of the conference, and lobby jams offer a chance for artists to collaborate, explore music, and connect in authentic ways.
Registration information for the FAI Conference is here. Registration includes all benefits of the conference, including the opportunity to apply for a showcase. Some of the registration fees may be covered by scholarships and credit for first-timers.
The cost to attend is well worth it. FAI may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in New Orleans for local musicians.