Why you should set the ID3 tags on your downloadable MP3’s before you release them

by AlanRowoth on September 11, 2016


You know how you buy a CD and you come home and pop it into your computer and it recognizes what CD it is before you download it into iTunes (or whatever MP3 player you may use)? That MusicID information is called MetaData and it comes from an online database run by Gracenote.

It didn’t get there automatically. Somebody had to type that data in and send it Gracenote. YOU should be that person. If you leave it to somebody else, they will mangle the data, misspell and misattribute. You should generate and submit this information as soon as the CD is mastered as it can take some time to get into the database.

If you don’t take control of that data, all sorts of bad things can happen. Illegal characters, like apostrophe’s get lost from Title tags generated automatically from file names. Other special characters may get lost. Meta tags supported by iTunes include Title, Album Title, Artist, Album Artist, Composer, Year, Track Number, Genre, and even more esoteric stuff like BPM (Beats per Minute), an essential value used by music supervisors and film editors to match up songs with the tempo of edited video content. Song lyrics and album art can be bundled into the MetaData. There is also a large comments field which can be used to embed your website and social media links, sideman data, etc. I have been unable to determine from online documents if all of these tags are supported by MusicID, but they are all supported by iTunes. It takes just a few minutes to cover them and you are nuts not to.

All this is even More Important if you are preparing files for digital download. Don’t ship your MP3 files off to iTunes or anyone else with incomplete ID3 tags. If you do a Google search on ID3 tag editors, you will get a ton of listings for free and paid programs. I have tried half a dozen of them and I liked iTunes the best. (plus it is most likely the program people will be using to read your tags.) But, if you are an AppleBasher, please feel free to use any editor you like. Once you have entered this data and saved it (iTunes saves it automatically) it becomes part of the individual MP3 files and travels with them wherever they go.

Many other multimedia file types also support MetaData. If you are working with nonstandard file types, check to see if you can’t tag your data in those files as well.

I wasn’t prepared to do a big tutorial on this. I was just amazed when a close friend of mine recently released a record with no tags (even after I had sent them a detailed email as to why tagging is so important.) And then they wondered why their artist name and album title didn’t show up and the song titles looked funny. Don’t think it doesn’t matter. This stuff matters.

And now I go back to preparing for the upcoming NERFA conference.

The Big Orange Tarp at Falcon Ridge 2016

by AlanRowoth on August 1, 2016

FRFFsitemap2016wBOTInspired by a life changing visit to the Kerrville Folk Festival, I became obsessed (Possessed?) that every music festival needed a vibrant campground music scene. So I did my very first campground song circle at Falcon Ridge. I think the year was 1994. I knew the weather could be changeable, so I brought two or three smallish tarps we could play under. I don’t remember any other public circles, but I didn’t look too hard. We had a handful of musicians and a dozen or so listeners, I felt like it was a success.  I did the same later that year at the Rocky Mountain folks festival. Them seemed surprised there, because of the chilly nights, but we had a lot of fun.

Using multiple tarps was bad. The junctions always leaked. So, the following year, I searched for a BIG tarp. I found one at Sam’s Club. Utilitarian that I am, I never paid heed that it was orange. But the Orange became our trademark because it is so rare. We are very easy to spot in a sea of green, blue, white, and silver tarps. I fabricated a very dicey Rube Goldberg setup of ropes, 2×2’s and PVC piping. We used this for nearly 20 years in Colorado before I bought a nice metal frame. I taught at Song School from the very first year, so we also used the BOT there. We outgrew the small Tarp at Falcon Ridge and in 2000, I bought a much larger tarp (20’x30′) and a nice frame for the east coast. Because they are so rare, I had to have the new Orange Tarp special made.  It cost me nearly a thousand bucks. The classic Big Orange Tarp moved to Colorado to live with Steve and Kristen Clark, and later John Becker. Crowds continued to swell, we had fabulous nights. Bill Nash, who runs the tarp with me in Colorado, has hundreds of hours of recordings from our evenings there. We fantasize about one day getting the collection into the Library of Congress.

Several years ago I got a really horrible job as a medical courier and couldn’t get enough time off to do the Tarp at Falcon Ridge. At the same time, I was blessed with an offer to become one of the festival Emcees. I love doing it and they like me, so that continues. But this year I felt compelled to bring the Big Orange Tarp back to Falcon Ridge, strengthening our support of the Grassy Hill/Falcon Ridge Emerging Artist Showcase performers, who had always received preferential treatment at the BOT. Grassy Hill is an official sponsor of the Big Orange Tarp for the first time in 2016. We hope for an ongoing relationship.  We are back and better than ever. I have made several tarp upgrades including high tech tarp hold downs and a sweet solar power system to power our lights and keyboards. We also have moved to a super new location down in the Flats, just off the main road up the hill and about 150 yards south of the mainstage. I could not be more pleased. We have added a crackerjack house band at the Big Orange Tarp, featuring some of the best musicians I know: George Wurzbach (keyboards), Eric Lee (Violin, Mandolin, Guitar), Dirje Childs (Cello), and David Glaser (Guitar, anything with strings). We are hoping to also get Mark Dann, Brad Yoder, and Jason Rafalak to sit in.

I am not publishing a full, timed schedule ahead of the festival because our format is very organic. I program the strongest music I can find and we try to avoid dead air as much as possible. We will try to feature each of the Emerging Artists at least once. We have cherry picked a number of artists from the Falcon Ridge mainstage and the lounge stage. And we will feature a few perennial Big Orange Tarp favorites like Rachael Kilgour and Dan Pelletier and original songs by our house band. As always, the audience has our famous Big Orange Tarp “Double Your Money Back” guarantee. I may redouble that this year. (Admission price to the BOT is always free) But seriously, it’s going to be great. We hope you will come and see us. We will be playing Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and possibly even Sunday night if enough artists and listeners stay over.

Photo copyright Neale Ekstein 2013

Photo copyright Neale Ekstein 2013

Here is a sampling of some of our guests:


Alan Rowoth at SERFA 2016

by AlanRowoth on May 16, 2016


I am looking forward to attending my first SERFA conference this week, down in Montreal North Carolina. I have been to most of the Folk Alliance Regional Conferences multiple times and they are always fun and a great way to meet people. The International Conference is so big that you can be there all week and not catch up with your friends. I always leave a regional feeling like I’ve made some great new friends.

Because it’s my first time at SERFA, I didn’t organize my usual Big Orange Tarp showcases for the conference, but many of my frequent showcasers will be on hand. If you are a presenter, I would encourage you to catch David Roth, Tim Rice, Meg Braun, No Fuss & Feathers Roadshow, Kerry Grombacher, Roby Lytle, Sarah Clanton, Will Pfrang, Brad Cole, Caroline Cotter, Eric Lee, Kirsten Maxwell, Betty Soo, Bryan Ashley Jones, Mike Agranoff, and Martyn Joseph. I have had the pleasure of working with all of these fine musicians and highly recommend them.

I will be Moderating a panel in the Promotion/Gigs track entitled Making Technology Work for You – Creating an internet Identity. Saturday 2-3:15pm in the Lakeside with Panelists Mike Kornfeld, Mike Vial, and Dave Curley. I have created an online handout for my portion of the workshop. It’s available online at http://bigorangetarp.org/serfa-internet-workshop-handout2016/ Check it out for more info on what we will be covering.

I will also be mentoring as I do at NERFA and Rocky Mountain Song School. I am looking forward to getting some one-on-one time with a few of the conference participants. Over the years, I have done a couple hundred mentorings. No two have ever been the same. I have had just about every job you can have in music, so I do a quick interview with the performer and try to discern what they believe is holding them back and then we discuss strategies and solutions for overcoming those obstacles. I get a lot of good feedback from these. Upon further examination of the schedule, it looks like I have only 5 sessions total on Saturday Afternoon. If you want to reserve one, you may want to sign up ASAP. If you miss out, send me an email to BigOrangeTarp@gmail.com and maybe we can arrange an ad hoc mentoring at some other time.

It’s going to be a great time, be sure to say hello if you are there!

SERFA Internet workshop handout 2016

by AlanRowoth on May 5, 2016

Social cloud

SERFA Tech Workshop 2016

This is a living document. Make use of the dozens of live links, leave me comments, and stop back now and then to check for updates.

Create an Internet Identity and Master Social Media

Technophobia? Get over it! Musicians have never been more empowered to control their careers. Building a following and connecting with listeners and bookers has never been less expensive. Electronic distribution has cut inventory and distribution costs to the bone. But the music business in 2016 is very different than it was 30 years ago. The old tools and techniques no longer work. It is unbelievably cheap and easy for you to record, distribute, and promote your music. This is both good and bad. It’s good because you can do it all. It’s bad because so can everyone else and more albums are released each week than came out in all of 1964. Your dentist, your priest, your grandfather, and that cockroach who will survive climate change are all dropping their recordings the same day as yours. There is a tsunami of music raining down upon the listener. Yours is a needle in a huge stack of needles. You are going to have to do everything right if you want this to be a success.

So, how do you leverage social media to boost your career?

I shouldn’t have to say this, but I do. The recording has to be GREAT! The songs have to be strong, the musicianship excellent, the vocals outstanding, and the recording top notch. You can’t promote a bad recording. Don’t waste your time and money. Go back and start over if you have to.

Are you still here? Once you’ve made your “Rubber Soul” you need to tell the world it exists. The absolute barest minimum essentials are a webpage host (very likely running WordPress software) and an email host. There are quite a few free services available, but you may very likely achieve more satisfactory results by buying services. Whatever web server you use, it has to be mobile responsive. 60% of Internet traffic now comes from mobile devices, a number that keeps growing. This means trash the Adobe Flash media content and make sure your page renders properly on all screen sizes and popular web browsers. As your career grows, you will certainly need an email list provider, like MailChimp or Constant Contact, to do mass mailings. My websites are all hosted by MidPhase.com, but there are tons of web providers out there. Shop around. Your web page is your own little piece of real estate. Facebook and Twitter and Instagram may all be gone 10 years from now, but ElvisNewsome.com can last forever. Your webpage should contain everything people need to know about you. Your bio and testimonials. Links to your sales and streaming outlets. Photos, videos, music to listen to, booking information, your EPK (Electronic Press Kit). It’s the encyclopedia of Elvis Newsome. There’s just one problem. Nobody knows you exist yet, so nobody is visiting your site.

So, how do you get the word out?

Playing gigs is good. Except few venues will hire you to play, because nobody will come out to see you, because nobody knows who you are yet. So you have to play for almost nothing, and to almost nobody, in the beginning. (This might take a long time…) You can accelerate your visibility by leveraging the power of social media to expand your reach and your mailing list. But make no mistake about it, YOUR MAILING LIST IS YOUR MOST IMPORTANT CAREER DEVELOPMENT TOOL! It is your responsibility to identify, enumerate, and engage the people who resonate with your artistry. Adding people to your mailing list is always part of the goal. Once you find your audience, hang onto them! That means you need to USE your mailing list. It’s no good having one if you never post to it. Don’t inundate people, but I think once a month is a perfectly fine frequency for almost any list, with special postings if something important comes up. You’ll want to be able to tag venues, media, and other contacts. They may or may not need your monthly mailers, but you will certainly need to know how to keep in touch with them.

Let’s go viral!

Fortunately millions of people are just a WiFi connection away, soaking in a jacuzzi of social media services like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+. and YouTube. Of course a million other artists are vying for their attention, but many of these social media users are relentless, passionate consumers of information. And a goodly number of them are also curators, like me, who sift thru enormous quantities of dross looking for the golden nuggets that occasionally glint and catch our eyes. Curators delight in passing these morsels along. But developing compelling content, building your personal social networks, and making it all work for you is very time consuming. The good news is that, as an independent musician you have more time than money, so this is still doable for you, right? But where to start…

A lot of people will tell you to pick two services and ignore the rest. I am more of an “All of the above” kind of guy, or at least I try to be, but you may need to pace yourself. If you get overwhelmed and quit, it’s worse than just doing one or two. Each service has different citizens. If you ignore those services, you are ignoring the potential audience pool that uses them. Major corporations generally support Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at the very least, and Pinterest seems to be becoming a must have also. There is a lot of “voodoo” in maximizing your social media, but due to the interest in this powerful new tool, numerous studies and metrics have been developed. It’s too much to go into in this handout, but I have created a Pinterest board with a mind blowing array of observations, tips, and tricks. Visit it at https://www.pinterest.com/alanrowoth/sociability/ At 273 entries, it goes into FAR more depth than this handout. It will tell you when to post, what to post and how to maximize the reach of your postings. It’s a lot to digest, but worth your time. Periodically examine your metrics. If a service clearly isn’t reaching your audience. Focus on the outlets that are working for you.

Intimidated by my HUGE Pinterest board? In a nutshell, Facebook is essential because everyone is on Facebook (everyone except that guy yelling, “Hey you kids! Get off my lawn!” and your friends in sensitive corporate or government jobs). You probably need an Artist Page as well as a personal Profile. The biggest downside to Facebook is that their business model doesn’t accommodate your business model. They assume that you are making money or you wouldn’t be a musician. (and they are most likely wrong.) You can’t afford to pay what they ask to “promote” (actually, to not hide) your posts. You need to be on Facebook, but it’s hard to be effective. Your Facebook friends are going to have to like and share the hell out of your posts for you to have a major impact. Check your security settings to be sure your public posts really are public. The profiles, pages, groups, and events can be confusing. Here is a link to Facebook 101.

Twitter doesn’t suppress your feed, but it has its own drastic limitations. Originally conceived as a pithy, text only, terse medium, it has grown into a bloated Facebook wannabe with awkward kludges to get around the standard Twitter 140 character limitations. Users are increasing diverted with promoted postings. You can probably tell by my tone, that I think Twitter is struggling with its identity. Nonetheless it can be a very powerful way to reach your audience. Here are the Twitter Basics. You may also want to follow Madalyn Sklar and her excellent TwitterSmarter Podcast.

Instagram has limitations as well. Simplistically described as Twitter with pictures instead of words, it has a lot of members and is a good way to reach an increasingly illiterate constituency. People who are afraid of words just love Instagram. The upside is that Instagram posts have a higher degree of engagement than Facebook or Twitter. And a compelling image can sometimes get people to drill down into more precise content. Here are some Instagram tips for musicians.

Pictures rule. Even on Facebook and Twitter, postings with photo or GIF content get twice as much engagement as text only postings. And still pictures are rapidly being replaced by animated GIFs or imbedded video feeds. The main takeaway is you need something shiny to catch the eye of those media surfers who would otherwise rapidly scroll past your postings. Cell phone cameras are getting better and better. Shoot photos and video like mad and view them later to see what might catch the eye of your fans. Track your likes and shares to see what kind of images get the most traction.

Pinterest and Tumblr are very versatile at integrating various media types and have a lot to recommend them. Neither has the same user population as the Big 3. But Pinterest especially is coming on strong and they have recently implemented a click to buy feature that I have not yet explored. I exist in all 5 universes and several more besides. You probably need a Google+ account too, if only because you need to link your YouTube channel to it. Video is becoming more and more essential.

Audio and video files are larger and require greater bandwidth than photos and text. Selling your music also requires payment systems. Web servers frequently aren’t great at serving audio/video, so you’ll need help. Artists typically sell their music thru iTunes, Bandcamp, cdbaby, Noisetrade, Amazon and other vendors. Amazon and iTunes don’t want to deal directly with indie artists preferring that the relationship be managed by an intermediary, who also gets a piece of the pie. With the exception of Noisetrade, these are all fairly standard commission vendors. The Noisetrade model is different. The downloads are “free”, but members “tip” the artists. I am not sure how revenues compare to the old ways, but I suspect they may get more music out there to listeners. It bears further research. Here’s one take on this.

Many listeners no longer buy music at all, preferring to stream it online from sites like Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Prime, and the Standing O Project. Revenues from these partners (except the tiny Standing O Project) are notoriously stingy. Numerous artists have complained about the remuneration, without a lot of success. They can be a good way to get your music circulating, but they probably won’t pay the rent any time soon. Music is placed with most streaming services thru a 3rd party aggregator like Tunecore or cdbaby. Once your music is available for streaming, you may gain more traction if you can get it playlisted by a curator with a following. Your Royalty payments come thru your aggregator, but be aware that approximately 10% of the royalties are diverted into a royalty fund which is distributed by Sound Exchange in a manner similar to the way ASCAP, SESAC, and BMI pay writers and publishers for other uses of their work. I am not sure how Standing O structures payments to artists,but they claim to pay at a much higher percentage (from their much smaller listener base).

Social Media is in LOVE with streaming video. Online services like YouTube and Vimeo are overflowing with it. The average YouTube visitor spends 40 minutes a day watching YouTube. Shouldn’t they be watching you? Vimeo offers higher quality and a smaller user base at higher cost. Though just a promotional tool for most indie artists, it is possible, though improbably to garner a solid income from highly shared YouTube Videos.Here are more ideas for generating income from YouTube. Facebook is offering great inducements for you to place video directly on their site, despite their clearly inferior quality. The latest greatest is Live streaming video, offered now by Facebook and peer to peer services like Concert Window (remote concerts with them collecting your fees, for a percentage.) And pure peer to peer video challengers like Periscope and Meerkat. These services are new and frequently beset with technical challenges and glitches, but I am confident that live video feeds are going to be an important part of our indie music future. Touring is incredibly expensive and time consuming. Lower merchandise revenues only exacerbate that. Reaching out to your audience over the Internet is far cheaper than doing it in your Honda CRV. It’s gonna get better. Contrast and compare Meerkat and Periscope here.

Many social media sites now support the use of #hashtags to make computer assisted discovery easier. Learn how you can do this here.

So, where does the money come from in this brave new world?

Fundraising (and promotion) may find you using sites like KickStarter, indiegogo, GoFundMe and Patreon to raise money as well as awareness of your social profile. Kickstarter has a great reputation. Some artists are afraid of it because a Kickstarter is all or nothing. If you ask for $10,000 and only get $9000 in pledges, you get nothing and the money all goes back to the pledgers. In a way this makes sense, because if you ask for what you NEED to make the record and don’t get it, they assume you can’t do the project and they have a vested interested in keeping Kickstarter patrons from investing in projects doomed to fail. Indiegogo and GoFundMe will allow partially funded projects, but they suffer a bit of a credibility gap because of a higher number of failed projects. They all do credit card processing and make their money by taking a percentage of your proceeds. All three are project oriented. You can learn more about crowdfunding here.

Patreon is a different breed of cat. They are spearheading a model where patrons create an ongoing relationship with artists and organizations and agree to fund them on an ongoing basis. This, of course, requires a much higher degree of engagement and commitment from the patrons, but if you have that kind of support, you don’t have to go back to the well over and over and over again to ask for help. The jury is still out on the Patreon model, but if you think your fans are rabid enough for that, it may be worth a look.

Don’t make the common mistake of assuming that crowd funding sites are a big pool of money just waiting for you to suck it up. While Kickstarter and other campaigns can raise your visibility somewhat, the lions share of funds will come from listeners already on your mailing list. (Remember that bit about your mailing list being the most important career development tool? If you haven’t already, write that down.) Top flight Kickstarter campaigns can have some news value and find favor on sharing sites. But don’t launch a campaign until you have a decent mailing list and a reasonable expectation of its success. Starlet Melissa Joan Hart became a laughingstock when her comeback movie Kickstarter went over like a turd in a punch bowl. Kickstarters are a great way to presell your record, and bundle the release with other high end merchandise or house concerts and other perks. And the necessary sharing may build awareness and excitement for your upcoming release. If you aren’t successfully selling albums at your gigs, don’t assume a Kickstarter will sell them for you. It won’t. If you are struggling to support your craft, don’t ignore traditional sources of support like family or committed, affluent friends.

If your career is really starting to take off, there are also business services sites for musicians like ArtistGrowth.com that can help you manage your schedule and your finances, create and manage budgets, manage merchandise, attract the attention of agents and managers, and much more. I don’t know of any direct competitors to ArtistGrowth. If you are a full time musician, they may make a lot of sense for you. You may want to use Songkick.com to manage your online tour calendars and sync those calendars between your social media points of presence. (Web page, Bandcamp, Spotify, Soundcloud, Facebook page, etc)

SonicBids or similar services like Bandsintown.com, artistdata.com, and Taxi may help you get gigs or monetize your music in other ways. They may allow you create and store an EPK (Electronic Press Kit) online for use in attracting the interest of music festivals, song contests, or music supervisors searching for music to place in film and tv. Your mileage may vary on the effectiveness of these services. A rule of thumb, The better you are, the more useful they are liable to be. SonicBids was bought out a couple of years ago and general consensus now is that they are no longer worth dealing with. You’ll have to make that decision for yourself.

So, how do you get started?

What do you need? Hardware- A Mac, iOS, Android, or Windows device or combination of devices. Most of these services can be administrated from an iPhone. A computer can come in handy for setting up your services. Most services are designed in such a way that they can be administered on the road from a personal device.

Software- Web Browser, Emailer, and possibly dedicated clients for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, SoundCloud and other services.

Many of these services can be automated. For instance, whenever I post to my WordPress blog, those postings are announced on Facebook, Google+, and my two Twitter accounts. You may also employ more sophisticated management tools like HootSuite, IfThisThenThat, Dlvr.it, PostPlanner, or Buffer.

How do I know if it’s working?

Most services offer you some sort of performance metrics and more sophisticated tools can give you a wealth of information like who visits your website and how they use it or performance metrics on your social postings. The two best indications of whether or not your are doing it right are product sales and a growing mailing list.

What else should I be doing on the Internet?

First and foremost, don’t just be a taker, be a giver. View, react, and share your friends postings to increase their social media reach. Remember that music world isn’t all about you. The golden rule applies in your virtual life as well.

Besides that, you can use the Internet for: Researching gigs and technology. Following marketing and other trends. Seeking out niche marketing opportunities. Travel routing and booking. There are great location sensing mobile apps for finding cheap lodging as you travel (Like Air BnB and hotels.com), cheap gas (GasBuddy), decent food (Yelp). If you have a question, the Internet may have the answer. It can’t hurt to ask.

Thanks for reading. I hope this has been helpful.

Please address questions, comments, or corrections to Alan Rowoth BigOrangeTarp@gmail.com


Big Orange Tarp Showcase FAI 2016 rm552

by AlanRowoth on February 11, 2016


Not all the fun is in the room

Not all the fun is in the room

I am very pleased to be partnering once again with Access Film Music for my Big Orange Tarp Showcases at the International Folk Alliance conference in Kansas City February 17-21, 2016. As usual, I have a killer lineup of artists to share with you. I will be hosting two rounds per night at 11pm on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night in the Access Film Blue Room, room 552. Here is this year’s lineup: (Click on the artist name to view their website)

Thursday Night
11:00p Alice Peacock, Freebo, The Sea, The Sea
11:30p Gina Forsyth, Anna Tivel, Laney Jones & the Spirits

Friday Night
11:00p Catie Curtis, Emily White, The Jellyman’s Daughter
11:30p Rachael Kilgour, Sonia, Eric Lee

Saturday Night
11:00p Tom Prasada-RaoJim Photoglo, Hugh Prestwood 
11:30p Matt Nakoa, Johnsmith, Rachael Kilgour

I am super excited about this year’s lineup.Many of the artists have showcased for me multiple times before and that includes long time favorites like Jim Photoglo, Tom Prasada-Rao, Emily White, and Matt Nakoa. I met Rachael Kilgour at FAI last year and I (like everyone else) quickly fell in love with her music. She’s been lighting up the internet, If you haven’t heard her, don’t wait.

I am so pumped to present friends I don’t get to see nearly often enough like Johnsmith, Catie Curtis, Sonia Rutstein, Gina Forsyth, Freebo, and Eric Lee. I was beside myself when I contacted Hugh Prestwood and he agreed to come and play. We have never met, but I have been a huge fan of his music for years. He is a world class songwriter who, over the last 35 years, has penned #1 hits for some of he biggest names in country music. I believe the song is the bedrock of any great performance, and his songs are rock solid. Though relative newcomers to the scene Anna Tivel, The Sea The Sea, and Laney Jones and the Spirits are very strong acts making waves with their excellent material and strong performances.

This is my first time presenting Scottish duo The Jellyman’s Daughter. Emily Kelly plays guitar, Graham Coe the cello, and they both sing their butts off. This is very very exciting stuff. Relatively unknown in the United States, you might be tempted to skip their showcase. Don’t. (seriously)

Here are a few video’s to whet your appetite. The first is a Big Orange Tarp Showcase set from NERFA 2015 featuring Dan Pelletier, Rachael Kilgour, Jim Photoglo, and Dan Navarro. Even beyond the great artists I get to showcase there is a special magic that seems to happen when I put them in a room together. I hope you can join us.(videos may take a while to load, be patient. It’s worth it.)

Alan Rowoth & Sally Johnson Present: The Big Orange Tarp Rm# 1425 at NERFA 2015

by AlanRowoth on November 10, 2015


Friday night

  • 11:45-12:30a Fox Run invited covers with Annika Bennett, Stephanie Corby, Neale Eckstein, Kelly Ann Kerr, Matt Nakoa, Dan Navarro, Steve Postell, and Eric Schwartz
  • 12:30-1a Eric Schwartz, Katrin, Honor Finnegan
  • 1a-1:30a Ann Armstrong, Maria Brosgol, No Good Sister
  • 1:30-2a Kelly Ann Kerr, Eric Lee, Dan Navarro
  • 2-2:30a Dan Pelletier, Matt Nakoa, Annika Bennett
  • 2:30-2:45am Marc Berger
  • 2:45am Open Circle

Saturday afternoon

  • 1:15-2:15p Stephanie Corby, Vincent Cross, Maria Brosgol, Emily White
  • 2:15-3:15p Jeffrey Pepper Rogers, Ann Armstrong & Steve Hughes, Angela Easterling, Annika Bennett
  • 3:15-4:15p Cosy Sheridan, John Flynn, Eric Lee, Matt Nakoa
  • 4:15-5:15p Jim Photoglo, Rachael Kilgour, Dan Pelletier, Dan Navarro

Saturday night

  • 11:45-12:15a The YaYas, Katrin, Ann Armstrong & Steve Hughes
  • 12:15-12:45 Honor Finnegan, Angela Easterling, Tim Rice
  • 12:45-1:15 Jim Photoglo, Jim Trick, Kate McDonnell
  • 1:15-1:45 The Rix (Rik Palieri & Rick Nestler), Mike Agranoff, Kelly Ann Kerr
  • 1:45-2:30 Matt Nakoa, Dan Pelletier, Dan Navarro

Sally and I are thrilled to present another stellar showcase lineup for NERFA 2015.

As usual, we cherry picked the best artists we could from around the country. Some are long time favorites like Jim Photoglo, Dan Navarro, Ann Armstrong & Steve Hughes, Eric Schwartz, Honor Finnegan, John Flynn, Kate McDonnell, Dan Pelletier, Stephanie Corby, The Rix, The YaYas, Mike Agranoff, Tim Rice, Marc Berger, and my original internet crush Cosy Sheridan.

Others are the next wave of artists poised to take the folk world by storm. Rachael Kilgour, Matt Nakoa, Annika Bennett, Maria Brosgol, Katrin, Angela Easterling, Jim Trick, Vincent Cross, Emily White, Jeffery Pepper Rogers, Eric Lee, and Kelly Ann Kerr. All of whom are turning heads around the country, winning song contests and making new friends every week. These are artists you may not be as familiar with, but all of them are poised for big things and new releases. If you aren’t familiar with their music, you really need to be.

We are kicking off this year’s showcase with a very special segment put together by Neale Eckstein of Fox Run Studios. His home studio in Sudbury MA has blossomed from being a really nice home studio into becoming possibly the most exciting artist incubator in our community. Recent projects produced and coproduced by Neale at Fox Run include:

  • Brother Sun’s first CD (Brother Sun)
  • Click (Neale Eckstein)
  • Buskin and Batteau (Love Remembered, Love Forgot)
  • Bethel Steele (Shadows and Light)
  • Bethel Stelle (Broken Record)
  • Matt Nakoa (A Dozen Other Loves)
  • Mya Byrne (As I Am)
  • Davey O (No Passengers)
  • Rj Cowdery (Something Fine)
  • Ro Colegrove (Becoming Rowen)
  • Annika Bennett (Seventeen)
  • Matt Borrello (A Dollar and a Kiss)
  • .

Also a lot of the recording for Vance Gilbert’s “Bad Dog Buffet, a lot of the recording for Adam Michael Rothberg’s “Soul of a Man” were done at Fox Run. Neale is currently working on new CDs with Greg Greenway and Matt Nakoa. In addition, he has been writing songs of his own that have been cut by Tom Rush, Buskin & Batteau, and others. Most people know Neale from his photos and videos on the internet, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Beyond all the “product”, there is something else very special happening at Fox Run. Neale has created a creative environment almost unrivaled elsewhere. On any given night, you never know who you’ll find sitting around making music. Writing new songs, playing around with covers, or just sitting around talking about music. I wish everyone could experience what it feels like over there. Years from now, I think we’ll look back on the “Fox Run Era” like we do Cordelia Street, Club 47, or the legendary “Big Pink” house that gave us The Band. I know Magic when I hear it. Sally and I wanted to share that magic with our NERFA friends.

Please join us in Rm 1425 for 3 great blocks of music.

To whet your appetite, a few videos will load. (This may take a little while)

8 Reasons Falcon Ridge reminds me of Woodstock

by AlanRowoth on July 24, 2015


I was recently chatting with my pal Stuart Kabak, about the upcoming Falcon Ridge Folk Festival and somehow we drifted into reminiscing about Woodstock. (the original, not the wannabes) It was my first festival and I really didn’t know what to expect. A lot of people coming to Falcon Ridge for the first time, also don’t know what to expect on their first visit. The similarity brought back many fond memories.

1) It was just about this time of year. Woodstock began 46 years ago on August 15, 1969

2) Similar geography. The Woodstock Festival site is roughly 100 miles from the Falcon Ridge festival site, on a hillside.

3) People are soooooooo nice! Seriously. This is a real community. Woodstock was forged out of some adversity. Severely under forecast supplies of food and even water made sharing imperative. People are better prepared at Falcon Ridge, but still quick to help with advice, a sandwich, or some hands to set up your tent.

Judy Collins (AP Photo/Henny Ray Abrams)Judy Collins (AP Photo/Henny Ray Abrams)

4) The music is fantastic! This year Falcon Ridge has music legends like Judy Collins, Garnet Rogers, and Ann Armstrong are appearing along with many breakout new acts like Matt Nakoa, Haley Reardon, and Caitlin Canty. People forget that many of the “Stars” of Woodstock were nobodies back then. Santana was a local Bay Area band. The drummer, Michael Shrieve was only 16 years old at the time and they were paid $750 to appear. Melanie, Sha Na Na and Keef Hartley were all paid less than a thousand bucks. John Sebastion got a thousand and the Grateful Dead were paid $2500. These groups went on to become household names, but everybody starts somewhere. Appearing at music festivals like Woodstock and Falcon Ridge make a great introduction to a hillside of new fans all at once. Here is the full performers list for this year’s festival.

5) The music goes all night. At Woodstock, this was mostly a result of poor planning and transportation logistics. It was a huge endeavor and nothing got done on time, The Who went on stage at 3am. (Probably not the best time slot, but they made the most of it.) By contrast, at Falcon Ridge, everything runs like clockwork. Under the watchful eye of Stage Manager Donna Grande, the Falcon Ridge main stage is always on time. But there is plenty of music after hours. The campground is alive with song circles and events, well into the wee hours. Camps like Pirate Camp (originally started by songwriting luminary Jack Hardy, and now ably coordinated by Stuart Kabak and Michael Kornfeld) has a covered performance, nice lighting, and an actual schedule chocked full of the some of the best performers around. Other music spaces like the Budgiedome and the Front Porch are the tip of the iceberg. The Lounge Stage on Thursday night outgrew the campground and is moving the dance tent this year. The campground is a smorgasbord of musical talent, presented in the most intimate situation. You are often a dozen feet away from the performers, Woodstock couldn’t offer that.
6) People LOVE to dance! At Falcon Ridge there is actually a dance tent, full of dance music all weekend long.Dancers at Woodstock got muddy and fell down a lot. Either way, people LOVE to dance.
7) You might get wet. It’s the northeast in the summer. Over the quarter century of the festival, we have had wet years and dry years. Most years, we get a little of each. I don’t think our rain has ever exceeded the mud factor at Woodstock. Unless you are the Wicked Witch of the West, a little water won’t kill you. Get over it…

8) You make memories that last a lifetime. This kind of events, full of friends, fun, and great music; are the source of my dearest memories.

There is at least one glaring difference between Woodstock and Falcon Ridge. Woodstock was stillborn. Finished almost before it began. A beautiful, historic, Quixotic stab at 3 days of Peace and Music. But Falcon Ridge lives on, delighting families for over a quarter of a century. Food, water, logistics, public safety issues are all well in hand, making it safe family fun for kids and adults alike. There are now a whole generation of Falcon Ridge Babies. Many of whom have been to the festival every single year they have been alive. Two of them wrote the welcome message for this year’s program book. I spoke with another Ridge Baby recently. Allie Sibner. Organic gardener, yoga and dance instructor, social activist, a senior at George Mason University studying Conflict Analysis and Resolution, and a volunteer on the Falcon Ridge sign crew. She calls it her “Religious Holiday” and hasn’t missed one. Falcon Ridge is a part of her that glows year round, living the dream of a better, peaceful, more musical world. Is there a better legacy for you and your children?

Here is the welcome message from this year’s festival flyer, written by Ridge Babies Delia Drake and Albie Murri:

Welcome to the Twenty-Seventh Annual Falcon Ridge Folk Festival

Welcome fellow festival goers! For those of you who have just taken your first steps inside the main gate, welcome in! For those of you who have been attending Falcon Ridge for quite some time like ourselves, welcome back! If you’ve been here before, what goes on should be of no news to you. If this is your first time coming, though, then let us fill you in on what happens here.

Falcon Ridge is a way to express yourself. Through music, dancing, art, or whichever other way you spend your time here, you’re expressing who you truly are. You’re not limited by what society’s standards of “normal” are, or any expectations you’re supposed to live up to. When you’re here, the rules are flipped upside down. You can be yourself, instead of acting for everyone else. You can unwind, listen to some great music, let loose in the dance tent, eat great food, meet amazing people, and look at all the amazing crafts that the vendors have to offer. It’s truly a different experience to our lives outside of here, but it’s a needed experience so that for the rest of the year, while longing for the festival to come around again, we can live our normal lives with all the great memories that we’ve made here. Adapting to and from it is hard, though. Going from a place where people won’t give you the time of day on the street, to a place where you’ll be singing, dancing, and bonding with fellow festival goers over what you both love, is quite a change.

This is the 18th Falcon Ridge that we have attended, even though we’re both 17. We achieved this by having great parents who brought us here when we were both infants, so that we logged our first festival before our first birthdays. Growing up, we always looked forward to the festival so that we could see each other, and we still do, 17 years later. The friendships made here are special, and even though you may see one another for one weekend of the year, they’re some of the strongest because of all the memories you have together.

While you’re here, talk to someone new. Listen to an artist or band you haven’t heard before. Try out a dance you’ve never done. Look at interesting vendors. Try the great food. Burst out of your shell, and make some memories that will last a lifetime. We know we will be, and we would love for you to join us and everyone else, as we make the most out of this special weekend that we possibly can.

Thank you,
Delia Drake and Albie Murri


(videos make take a while to load)

(but they should pop up here…)

Rachael Kilgour- Artist Spotlight

by AlanRowoth on February 25, 2015

Folk Alliance is like old home week, but some of the most exciting moments come when we discover a great artist we were unaware of. This year’s Big Find for me was Duluth Songwriter Rachael Kilgour.

I love her songs. Love her voice. She is very charismatic and unconsciously makes great singing faces. I totally resonate with the progressive, activist message that underlies her songwriting which unequivocally advocates for human rights, income equality, and peace. A lot of current performers are squeamish about ruffling anyone’s political sensibility. This may be safe, but I don’t find it very interesting. Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie were hyper aware of the power of music as an agent for social change. Rachael’s songs pull no punches, but she delivers them with an earnest clarity that makes her impossible to dislike.

Rachael plays violin as well as guitar and sometimes tours as part of Catie Curtis‘s backup band. Please give this wonderful performer a listen. I hope you enjoy her music as much as I do! #FA2015 #folk #AccessBlue556

Louise Mosrie, Jim Photoglo, Dana Cooper, Jeff Black, Ann Armstrong & Steve Hughes

by AlanRowoth on February 18, 2015

Louise Mosrie, Jim Photoglo, Dana Cooper, Jeff Black, Ann Armstrong & Steve Hughes are the artists that round out this years FAI 2015 BOT showcase. I had intended to do individual blog posts on each of them, but a death in my family has consumed much of last week. I left these five until last because, If you are hip to what’s going on, none of these artists should be unfamiliar to you. All are totally professional established artists headlining shows around the nation and sometimes the world, widely played on folk radio, and often covered by other artists. If I ran my own series, I would book every one of them in a heartbeat. These performers are top notch, as good as you will see at FAI. Dana Cooper, Jeff Black and Jim Photoglo were also tapped for FAI Official Showcases, along with other BOT Showcasers Harpeth Rising, Annika, Russell DeCarle, Greg Trooper, and Allie Farris. If you are unfamiliar with any of them, shame on you. Now would be the time to get caught up. #FAI2015 #Folk