When one is a self-booking musician, finding one's audience is the top priority (after mastering the craft of music creation and performance, of course). [NOTE: An important preparation resource is available via the link below.]
The next challenge is finding the places where one's music will be a good fit with the audience that will be receptive. The other challenge is being paid a just, living wage for practicing one's art or craft. This post will focus on the first of these challenges.
I've been a member of the Folk Alliance for almost as long as I've been a member of the Musicians Union (Local 1000 AFM.)
Booking conferences are one avenue that I've found very helpful.
The Folk Alliance sponsors a massive annual gathering in February which is chock-full of showcase opportunities (both official and private "guerilla" ones.)
It is also features many panels and workshops and informal ways to connect and interact with colleagues, venue owners and festival booking agents, artist representatives and radio DJs who report to the FolkDJ list.
Next year's conference is in Toronto, Canada. (2013). In addition, there are many, more accessible regional gatherings across the US and Canada, which take place at different times throughout the year.
Southwest Regional (SWERFA) Sept 27-30, 2012, Austin, TX
Far-West Regional (FAR-WEST) Oct 18-21, 2012, Irvine, CA
Folk Alliance Region Midwest (FARM)Oct 11-14, 2012, St. Louis, MO
Southeast Regional (SERFA) May 16-19, 2013, Montreat, NC
Northeast Regional (NERFA ) Nov 8-11, 2012 Kerhonkson, NY
These kinds of events are an investment in one's career, and are not like slot machines where you put in money and eventually win a prize. They ARE a way to meet people and develop the relationships which can guide, support and further your career.
To use an Olympic analogy, when preparing for them think Long-Distance Race, rather than Sprint.
Here is the most thorough and very helpful list (First Time) of preparations that I've ever seen for:
1) making the best use of the conference,
2) not being overwhelmed by the conference,
3) coming home from the conference energized and ready to take the next necessary steps
As I read it through today it reminds of me all the ways
I've benefited from the past conferences I've attended,
and I can trace bookings and career-advancing opportunities
from them, but even more,
I am finding myself sifting through memories
that enrich my own artistry,
but even more importantly,
tie me up in a web of relationships
which is the community of musicians
who wrestle with our art,
who wrestle with our lives,
crafting songs and music
that we then pour from our hearts to our listeners.
And being fully present for these conferences helps me refresh, renew and connect in order to find the audience that will most welcome and receive my gifts.