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From the Ottawa Citizen:

http://www.ottawacitizen.com/entertainment/Producer+tells+folkies+improve+business+plan/2118746/story.html#

Producer tells folkies to improve business plan

By Lynn Saxberg, The Ottawa CitizenOctober 19, 2009

Most years, the Ontario Council of Folk Festivals conference is best remembered for a mind-boggling array of musical performances, many of them starting at midnight and lasting into the wee hours. This year's conference, which wrapped up yesterday, had no shortage of showcase action to keep delegates hopping between hotel rooms and depriving themselves of sleep.

However, in addition to comparing notes on artists, the folkies crowding the hallways were also buzzing about a couple of other things: the scolding they got from legendary rock producer Bob Ezrin, and the resignation of Chris White, artistic director of the Ottawa Folk Festival.

We'll start with Ezrin, a music-biz bigshot who's produced classic albums by rock stars like Alice Cooper, Pink Floyd and KISS. During his keynote speech on Friday, he talked about producing the concert that celebrated Pete Seeger's 90th birthday earlier this year. It took place at Madison Square Gardens.

Dozens of high-profile artists, including Bruce Springsteen, Dave Matthews, Kris Kristofferson and Emmylou Harris were honoured to be part of the tribute, while a sold-out crowd of 18,000 people took in every note of the four-hour performance and weren't shy about singing along.

It was a beautiful folk experience, Ezrin told delegates, but it was also an eye-opening demonstration of the money-making potential of folk music.

Ezrin, by the way, has roots in Toronto's folk scene of the 1960s. His uncle ran a Yorkville folk club, and young Ezrin grew up surrounded by acoustic music. He says he's "exquisitely sensitive to the energies of the folk community."

But when Ezrin was invited to the OCFF, finding that community was the first challenge.

His Google search of Ontario festivals turned up a government tourism website. "That's pretty pathetic," he told the audience.

"The reality is that your business depends on people knowing you're here, and I couldn't find you."

The message Ezrin had for the folkies was that they had to step up their game in a business sense. For the rest of the weekend, professionalizing the grassroots festival community was a theme widely discussed in workshops and panels.

It's also a big issue for the Ottawa Folk Festival, which has been criticized for its team-management approach to running the annual festival. Under the current model, three people report to the board of directors instead of one executive director. The artistic director is on equal footing with the volunteer co-ordinator and director of planning and operations.

Restructuring the management of the Ottawa festival has been a priority for the festival's board of directors, said board president Lynne Haggarty, and there were plans to change the nature of White's employment. White, who co-founded the festival in 1994 and has been its artistic director ever since, tendered his resignation on Friday. "Chris is leaving us with a festival that is artistically credible, recognized, respected and established," said Haggarty, expressing the board's appreciation for his work.

Ottawa singer-songwriter Ana Miura, who emerged as an organizational force at this year's festival, will be taking over as the festival's interim director of planning and operations. Her contract is for three months, but may be extended, Haggarty said, pending the board's discussions on staff, management and recruitment.

This year's edition of the Ottawa Folk Festival was the first in six years to show a surplus, a success Haggarty attributes to the tireless work of Tatiana Nemchin, the outgoing director of planning and operations. "Our improved financial footing will help us attract other talented new leaders," the board president said.

Naturally, in the end, every folk event boils down to the music, and the OCFF is no exception. After all, it's designed to help festival organizers seek out artists. Of the many exceptional artists who showcased this year, I was particularly impressed by the showmanship and vibrant musical talent of several francophone groups, including Le Vent du Nord, Bon Debarras and Chuck and Albert. Once the rest of the country discovers these engaging acts, it won't take much for French-Canadian trad to be the next big thing in folk music.

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While this is a great push in the right direction for Folk Festivals, I wonder how much the net saavy of a 60 something guy affected his results.

By simply adding Folk to the search terms, I get ALL of the appropriate results (including FIRST the OCFF that he spoke at).

We certainly need to improve the business side of things, but this was more than misleading......

This would be like searching english shoes, and being pissed the first result wasn't for 10 hole Doc Martens in plaid.

S

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His Google search of Ontario festivals turned up a government tourism website. "That's pretty pathetic," he told the audience.

I too found that to be a VERY weak point to have in a keynote. He should really up his game for Keynotes. When I typed in "Music Festival Conference Keynotes" into Google, it turned up Americana Music Association Home, SXSW, and Totally Huge New Music Festival Conference. None of those results featured Bob Ezrin.

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So long as we're poking holes in Ezrin's message...

Dozens of high-profile artists, including Bruce Springsteen, Dave Matthews, Kris Kristofferson and Emmylou Harris were honoured to be part of the tribute, while a sold-out crowd of 18,000 people took in every note of the four-hour performance and weren't shy about singing along.

It was a beautiful folk experience, Ezrin told delegates, but it was also an eye-opening demonstration of the money-making potential of folk music.

I'm guessing they were the draw, not "folk".

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Springsteen did a Seeger album. His lyrics are pretty folksy. Storyteller. A stretch, but with today's splintered interest in music and media identity, making Folk 'Business Savvy' has to water it down a bunch.

That's like calling the Sadies or Mr. Something Something folk - doesn't mean that they can't put on great sets at FolkFest - but 'Folk Music' is certainly not 'about' business savvy. Folk Music deserves intelligent and prudent management to help give back to its community and keep it afloat amidst the constant distractions modern living throws us.

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I'd like to think that Folk Festivals offer more in the way of an experience than other music festivals. When was the last time you learned about sustainable gardening hands on with a professional, or built a ukelele, or did yoga with 3000 other attendees? These "concerts" are about far more than a few beers and chatting with friends while the speakers pump out tunes.

Workshops, education, community awareness, a concern for the environment are all factors that folk festivals consider heavily- and not just for media attention or financial success.

They also bring together some of the most diverse lineups available, and support artists that ordinarily might be overlooked by Bluesfest etc.

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