Folk musicians and dancers from all over the continent will be gathering in San Diego, California in February for the 16th Annual International Folk Alliance Conference. Organized by the North American Folk Music and Dance Alliance (Folk Alliance), the conference offers music and dance performances, industry business seminars, and forums designed to promote new careers in folk music and dance. Each night of the February 26 – 29, 2004, conference features a Folk Alliance Showcase and Lifetime Achievement Award Ceremony. These mainstage events will include a total of eighteen musicians and bands from all over North America, including The Arrogant Worms from Ontario, Christine Kane of North Carolina, Texan Billy Joe Shaver, and Mexican band Sonaranda.
One of the Folk Alliance’s missions for the preservation and growth of folk music and dance in North America is promoting and developing new talent. Besides the mainstage performances, each night will feature a late-night showcase called The All(most)-Star Café, designed to showcase new, unsigned performers for music industry agents and talent scouts, while encouraging influence and creative stimulation among performers and artists.
During the daylight hours, conference-goers have various seminars and classes to choose from. Many seminars deal exclusively with the business end of folk music and dance. For instance, people interested in promoting folk musicians can attend Booking Agent Training School, while potential festival organizers can check out the Focus on Festivals Workshop. The performers themselves can benefit from seminars like Songwriting Ahead of the Curve and Music Business Basics (a Crash Course). Even music industry lawyers have a seat at the table with the Continuing Legal Education Classes.
Throughout the weekend, the conference offers what they call “The Exhibit Hall,” a forum that brings musicians and industry professionals together for promotion and recording opportunities. According to the Folk Alliance’s attendance records, about 21% of the attendees are talent scouts, 5% are record company representatives, and 11% are from the press. Because of the high saturation of industry professionals, much new talent is discovered and signed to agent and recording contracts each year.