I am excited to begin this year with a new monthly column entitled “Songs for the Revolution.” Some of the topics I’ll be exploring are poverty, racism, equity, social justice, religion, immigration, culture and politics. I’ll look to explore them though the lens of art, the lens of music and the lens of our folk community.
This month, it seems, the United States of America, at it’s Capital building, came within a hair of its democracy crumbling, a reminder that democracy is imperfect, is fragile, is precious.
It got me thinking about our folk community and how it’s woven together. It is also fragile, also precious, but also made up of strong people and an abundance of passion.
Given how COVID-19 has unexpectedly divided us, how can we react positively and strengthen our community. Can our politics, our institutions save us? The listeners, the artists, the industry, the labels, the organizations, the festivals, community radio, the blogs, the magazines. What are our mutual interests, objectives, goals? What are the ties that bind?
As Independent artists, we often rely on ourselves first. We do reach out and try to forge loose alliances with other artists. but it is challenging in a world that promotes competition over cooperation. Luckily our folk community is generally a supportive bunch.
The audience, those folks that listen to artists in our folk community, how are we connecting with them through this? How do we strengthen that bond? Listeners being introduced to other folk artists is one way. Labels do try and cross-promote their roster. Obviously festivals are a great place for listeners to find new artists. Community radio can be a good avenue. But what are we doing collectively to fulfill, to feed the folk audience at this time. If we are not actively engaging them, we are losing an opportunity and maybe losing them to other musical styles and other interests.
Luckily, music lovers are a loyal group. My daughter recently made the observation that she wasn’t in a good mood one day, because “I haven’t listened to music yet today.”
I have been encouraged by a Monthly Writer’s Group that I’m facilitating called “Writer’s Block.” We’ve had decent attendance, and this has been a way to stay connected with other songwriters and continuing to learn and grow. Co-hosting CKCU’s Tuesday Special Blend has also been a way to stay engaged, push myself and monitor our community’s pulse.
But back to the politics. How do we strengthen our community? I noticed in Folk Music Ontario’s most recent newsletter, The Alliance for Equity in the Music Industry was quoted as saying, “We can do better by taking action to demand restorative action and equity for Black, Indigenous and People of Colour in the music industry. And we have an opportunity to do that right now. “
This is an opportunity that we can seize on. As Naomi Klein’s book the Shock Doctrine references, times of upheaval are opportunities for positive change. This is an opportunity.
And what about the music business model? Is there still a business model? Do we need to re-construct the business model? Canada’s support for the arts is strong, and thankfully, many of those supports have even increased through this pandemic, but as an industry, we need to fight for a fair return for our music. At some point, we need to organize and take a stand and demand a fair return for our art.
We have the folk organizations that include a new merger of FMO with Folk Music Canada. We have Folk Alliance International and the regional folk alliances like NERFA. With the FMO merger, they are looking for input. Let’s help shape FMO v. 2.0. Our politics will be as strong as the extent of our involvement.
Eric Alper on Maplepost this week spoke about how the livestream will become a staple of how artists connect with and grow their audiences. It is an important point. How do we fuse what we’ve learned through COVID with the past to set the stage for the future.
As Carol Hanisch said back in the 60s, the political is personal. Let’s look for opportunities to connect with artists in our community, support our small venues that can’t host us at the moment, check in with our partners in music, look for opportunities to cross-promote, ways to get involved in our organizations. It’s time to check in with each other. it’s time to strengthen our democracy.