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Thread: Who is a member/board member of a local BG/OT/Folk Society?

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    Default Who is a member/board member of a local BG/OT/Folk Society?

    Not really any mando content here - but thought it might get more views than in the jams/camps/places to meet forum. I own a few mandos if that help. (lol) Apologies in advance.

    We have a loose group of musicians in the Myrtle Beach, SC area that get together once a month for an old-time/bluegrass/folk jam session. We call ourselves the Long Bay Folk Society. We have a FB page, a web page and one time we brought Foghorn Stringband into town. That's it, no non-profit status, no membership fees, no board members or titles, no bylaws - just some nerds that love American roots music. We've been at it 2 years and the group of players and audience has SLOWLY been growing. This seems to be a tough part of the world to find players and fans of this music - we are swamped with Boomers who love their Jimmy Buffett, classic rock and baseball cap FM country. Nothing wrong with that, but that's not what we are trying to do.

    If you build it, will they come?

    So my question is, who here is a card carrying member of some type of bluegrass/old-time/folk society or association? Tell me about your group, how involved you are and how active is the group is in promoting jams, concerts and teaching events. What do you enjoy about the group and what do you dislike?

    Who here is a board member that runs a organization? Do you have any advice on setting up and running a non-profit? Finding sponsors, grants and other funding sources? How big of a village does it take to keep you clan up and running? What do you do in your community to promote and preserve the music associated with your group? Advice working and negotiating with band promoters/management? Looking for any advice regarding taking it to the next level - and more importantly is it worth the headaches and work involved - or does it just make more sense to pick and grin for the hell of it and let the community SLOWLY grow by itself? We are generally interested in preserving and promoting the music.

    The Rivertown Bluegrass Society ran for many years in the Conway, SC area but they called it quits a few years ago due to lack of interest and participation is how I heard the story. They shut down years before the pandemic.

    Thanks for any advice! Look forward to your responses.

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    Default Re: Who is a member/board member of a local BG/OT/Folk Society?

    We have a great old time community here in S.W. Wisconsin. We have monthly square dances, and have for 30 years. Band is open and we usually have 3 or 4 callers. We charge a couple bucks to pay for the hall rental and if enough a few $$ for callers, band is just for fun. There are other jams and dances thru the year. I think it has more to do with the community here. Musicians move here because of the amount good musicians, which helps. We are a few small communities, but if someone has a house party there will be music and square dancing. We have a small Folk Festival, the key word being small. It's been going on about as long as the square dances. I am a member of the committee and have done sound since day 1. Played a few of the years, but we try to keep it varied, a dance on Friday with concert on Saturday. It is the end of the monthly square dance (Sept - May) and the dance changes from Sat. to Fri. for the fest. It is a great area for music, even tho rural.
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    Default Re: Who is a member/board member of a local BG/OT/Folk Society?

    My sweetheart and I together have run and sometimes performed at a folk club. The institution that we performed in provided coffee and snacks. We took out a few dollars for promotion costs, then the hosts took half the gate and performers received the other half. it was a labour of love -- we got nothing -- but successful and fun. Sometimes we'd be disappointed in the size of the audience, but we couldn't lose money. I also belong to a few informal folk song groups around Ottawa, and have been in both jam and storytelling groups here and in other cities. I prefer involvement with informal organizations to incorporated groups. My partner belongs to a dance group that is part of a "folk society." They have to deal with government paperwork and regulation, elect a board, organize both concerts and dances with out-ot-town bands, then make enough money to pay musicians, hall rental, publicity expenses, and so on. Two ongoing problems that I see as an outsider to this organization are: persistent worries over money; and tensions and rivalries that barely seem to exist among the people who attend my folk song groups. (We have interpersonal tensions of course, but these never break into factions, besides which there's very little power and status to compete for, so why bother?) On the other hand, the incorporated folk society brings in fine musicians who we wouldn't see otherwise, puts on large dances with people coming in from other Canadian and the American locations. Participants generally seems to have a good time.

    I'd think twice before formalizing your organization though. What if the Jimmy Buffett crowd end up controlling your board? In my singing groups, one of us can quietly take a newcomer aside and say, Listen, we really don't like the content of that particular song -- don't sing songs using those words here. We don't need to have a meeting, fight for a majority, pass a bylaw, and then bring it back to the group. If you incorporate, you have to decide whether the rewards are worth the price, which they may be.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Default Re: Who is a member/board member of a local BG/OT/Folk Society?

    I'm a trustee of the Bluegrass and Oldtime Music Association of NJ (BOTMA, one of dozens the US). We have had our ups and down over the years, recently reeling from the pandemic and members just aging out and passing away. We are in rebuilding mode. The main thing is to get folks to come in the door and enjoy a show also get folks interested in jamming and learning about the music. We are an all volunteer organization including talent. The one thing I will say is that you want to own the snack bar sales. We don't because the guys that started the organization back in the 70's didn't want to be bothered by it. It's a big piece of what should keep your organization going. We have our stage shows in a church auditorium with a small stage. Finding a home is important as well. Survival 101 is to make sure you aren't losing money on your gatherings. We get together every third Sunday from September to May (except December) for a stage show and we have our Pickin' In the Park series in June, July, and August. Those don't make us any money but we still have to insure them. We did pretty well right up until early 2020. We'll survive but it takes a lot of people willing to work together.
    Last edited by MikeEdgerton; Nov-25-2022 at 8:12pm.
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    Default Re: Who is a member/board member of a local BG/OT/Folk Society?

    Thanks for the input, some great info here to consider.

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    Default Re: Who is a member/board member of a local BG/OT/Folk Society?

    I agree with Ranald: Incorporating as a true nonprofit is a big commitment, and you may or may not feel that the benefits are worth the cost. I personally haven't seen any consistent difference between true NPs and informal ones with respect to politics and disharmony; it can happen or not happen in both.

    One way to think of it is that incorporating means creating an entity that is meant to be legally immortal. In other words, it's a serious step to take.

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    Default Re: Who is a member/board member of a local BG/OT/Folk Society?

    I'm a member and volunteer in 3 local acoustic music organizations (and treasurer/board member of one). There is a good amount of overlap between these three.

    Mid Columbia Traditional Arts and Music Association (MCTAMA). We hold a weekly jam (mostly bluegrass). Some of us get together for Old Time jams too. We have an annual outdoor festival at the confluence of the Snake and Columbia rivers. Funding and membership have unfortunately decreased over the years. We are a registered 501c3 organization. We play at local farmers markets and retirement homes also.

    Local chapter of the Washington Old Time Fiddlers Association. We have a couple jams per month. Play out at local retirement homes a couple times per month. We play mostly bluegrass, some swing tunes and old time C&W. Ironically no Old Time. Affiliated with the national Old Time Fiddlers Association. Our membership is also ageing.

    Three Rivers Folklife Society. Founded almost 30 years ago, also a 501c3. We put on a popular free festival in a local park every Labor Day weekend. We have a couple concerts a month featuring local, regional and nationally known folk/Americana artists. We have jams, song circles and other events each month as well.

    These organizations take a ton of volunteer hours to keep them going. We network with and support other similar organizations throughout the Pacific Northwest. This is a great region for bluegrass, old time, Americana and folk music, but the general public is still more into klassic rawk, bro kountry and white suburban blues.

    Our biggest challenge is reaching out to and engaging with younger people. Whenever I go to the regional festivals I see, meet and pick tunes with a lot of great 30 and under players. Artists like Billy Strings, Sierra Hull, Sarah Jarosz and others are attracting young people to this kind of music, but it's difficult to connect with younger folks in our community of 300,000 people.

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    Default Re: Who is a member/board member of a local BG/OT/Folk Society?

    We were not nonprofit for decades, but work under the umbrella of a non profit for the last decade or so. If you are not big enough to get your own 501c3 then maybe you can work under the umbrella of an organization that has that status. Our local co-op let's us, we are good for the town and combine our event with a town event. In the beginning we were frowned upon by the town, but after some time they saw us as an asset and were very good about helping us out and working with us on our events.

    We have a lot of jams outside of any organized organization. There are folks jamming at farmers markets in all the towns around, we have monthly jams in the evening at a local establishment, not of which is an organization. There is also playing at rest homes. It is loosely done by a few folks at each event and is for the fun of the musicians, but it's more fun to play when there is someone to listen so you have that.
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    Default Re: Who is a member/board member of a local BG/OT/Folk Society?

    For your information: This note was at the end of a concert promotion that I received in my email this morning. Because it's part of a public notice, I'll take the liberty of passing it on as the notice illustrates what people may go through when groups get complex. It's good to see that they're not giving up and are trying to find solutions to their problems. Again, I'm not telling you to do or not do anything, but I suggest that you go in with eyes wide open.


    "A little more about Old Sod Concerts' finances:
    "You may have heard that The Old Sod Folk Music Society of Ottawa, which included Ottawa Contra Dance under its umbrella, recently dissolved its incorporated status and became two separate unincorporated entities: “Ottawa Contra Dance” and us, “Old Sod Concerts”. As our business model has always been to pay the artist at least 90% of our profit after expenses, thus accumulating very little money, we could only lay claim to a small portion of the Old Sod Folk Music Society bank account. This would not be a problem, except that our on-line ticketing portal (Ticketscene) does not transfer ticket money to our account until a few days after a concert. Quite reasonably, most artists prefer to be paid immediately after their show, so it would be useful for us to be able to cover the performer fee from our bank account without having to borrow. Consequently, we’re starting to look at ways to raise this financial cushion, which would also give us the option of paying an artist more than we make on the odd occasion when audience turnout is low.

    "Thanks for reading!
    The Old Sod Crew"
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Default Re: Who is a member/board member of a local BG/OT/Folk Society?

    I'm a member of the Celtic Arts Foundation for Scottish/Irish music and culture but not involved in running it. It's a large organization, heavily supported financially with their own building for concerts, sessions, and workshops. Probably not relevant to what you're planning due to its size, just mentioning it.

    What might be relevant is something I haven't heard mentioned yet, and that's liability coverage.

    I'm a former board member of a club in a different hobby (astronomy). I eventually left over a split between board members over the level of liability insurance we should carry for events where we interacted with the public at nighttime "star parties" and school outreach events. Dark parking lots, big equipment, small ladders for some of the scope viewing. Plenty of opportunity for people to get hurt accidentally. Some of us on the board had more "deep pockets" than others as potential targets for a civil suit, so there was disagreement about how much coverage the club should have.

    These events were maybe not the same liability risk level as an organized BG/OT jam session, but you'll need to consider how much exposure each member of the board will have if you organize as a nonprofit or profitable corporation. You don't want to get sued personally, if a member of the audience or club member trips on a speaker wire and breaks their hip at an event.

    You might be able to find a venue where you're under the liability insurance coverage of the venue owner. Although, that may not protect you completely if you're charging membership fees or audience admission, and are seen as the organization responsible for the event. Definitely something to think about, keeping the personal injury lawyers at bay.

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    Default Re: Who is a member/board member of a local BG/OT/Folk Society?

    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post
    I'm a member of the Celtic Arts Foundation for Scottish/Irish music and culture but not involved in running it. It's a large organization, heavily supported financially with their own building for concerts, sessions, and workshops. Probably not relevant to what you're planning due to its size, just mentioning it.

    What might be relevant is something I haven't heard mentioned yet, and that's liability coverage.

    I'm a former board member of a club in a different hobby (astronomy). I eventually left over a split between board members over the level of liability insurance we should carry for events where we interacted with the public at nighttime "star parties" and school outreach events. Dark parking lots, big equipment, small ladders for some of the scope viewing. Plenty of opportunity for people to get hurt accidentally. Some of us on the board had more "deep pockets" than others as potential targets for a civil suit, so there was disagreement about how much coverage the club should have.

    These events were maybe not the same liability risk level as an organized BG/OT jam session, but you'll need to consider how much exposure each member of the board will have if you organize as a nonprofit or profitable corporation. You don't want to get sued personally, if a member of the audience or club member trips on a speaker wire and breaks their hip at an event.

    You might be able to find a venue where you're under the liability insurance coverage of the venue owner. Although, that may not protect you completely if you're charging membership fees or audience admission, and are seen as the organization responsible for the event. Definitely something to think about, keeping the personal injury lawyers at bay.
    I guess my mention of insurance in the fourth post didn't delve deep enough. Yes, don't expose your board members and trustees to litigation. Nobody should ever lose their house because somebody decided to cheap out.
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    Default Re: Who is a member/board member of a local BG/OT/Folk Society?

    I really appreciate all the shared info. It seems like I am in the “don’t ruin a good thing” stage of our little group. Of course now I’m scared to death I’ll lose my house if somebody gets tetanus after they break a rusty string. After reading these post and noticing a common thread of deteriorating interest, funding and group restructuring I find it a bit sad. So many of us passionate about these aging genres really want to turn on the non-believers, the younger generations and mildly curious to help preserve the traditions but welcome to America, the insurance companies and red tape win again. As mentioned earlier, hopefully the Billy Strings, Molly Tuttles and Sierra Farrells will be enough for Gen Z to pick up an acoustic instrument and trace these songs back to their origins and then take it to the next level on Tic Toc. As of now, it might not be a task for the Long Bay Folk Society.

    Does anybody have experience with the Charlotte Folk Society? They seem pretty deeply committed (and hopefully over insured and funded).

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    Default Re: Who is a member/board member of a local BG/OT/Folk Society?

    We buy insurance for our Folk Festival for all three days, but not the rest of the year. Since the fest only covers Friday evening to Sunday morning we only have to pay for 48 hours of insurance, so it's not that bad. The jams and other events are just folks getting together to play and we don't worry about it, There is no advertising, admission charge or structure. I would guess the farmers market would have insurance so it we play there we would be covered like a vendor, tho maybe not. They especially like it and appreciate that we come each week so maybe they would cover us if something happened.???
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    Default Re: Who is a member/board member of a local BG/OT/Folk Society?

    Quote Originally Posted by Trader Todd View Post
    So many of us passionate about these aging genres really want to turn on the non-believers, the younger generations and mildly curious to help preserve the traditions but welcome to America, the insurance companies and red tape win again.
    Canada and the rest of the developed world too.

    To be fair, members of the former Old Sod Folk Music Society (Post #9) are dedicated hardworking volunteers, committed to what they're doing. For them, I assume the rewards are worth the work and stress. Personally, I like being in loose organizations with a minimum of politics, but that's just me. I've benefitted greatly from these organization folks (thanks, everyone) who sometimes accomplish big, rewarding project like concerts and festivals. I've done my volunteer shifts at many festivals and shows, and even some board work, but being on a board of directors ain't my cup of tea. As well, I'm cautious about the legal responsibilities of being on a board. Many others would rather be dealing with finances than with directing folks to washrooms and reuniting children with parents. Everyone has to figure out for themselves where or if they fit in.

    Added: In 2001, Cheap Trick was performing at Ottawa Bluesfest when a sudden storm brought down a stage (through no fault of the band). Three people were badly injured. Everyone was happy that the festival had paid its insurance.
    Last edited by Ranald; Nov-26-2022 at 7:19pm.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Default Re: Who is a member/board member of a local BG/OT/Folk Society?

    We've been lucky because playing Irish Traditional Music has a built-in cushion -- the local Gaelic American Club hosts us free of charge. Back, dunno, 35 years ago? there was a falling out between the GAC, and the musicians who met there, so the musicians incorporated as a 501c3 under the name Shamrock Traditional Irish Music Society, becoming a separate entity from the GAC. Apparently, the politics of all that worked out in our favor, since there was a GAC board change and a few people who didn't hate "diddly-eye music" got on, invited us back to play for free in the meeting room, and we've been meeting there ever since.

    What we had going for us, however, was one person who was absolutely dedicated to promoting ITM; he hosted monthly house concerts, invited up and coming musicians (read: cheap), reached out to the NYC Irish community and made amazing connections. He always worked in the background, but there was no question we survived and even thrived because of him.

    Because of that, holding a STIMS board position was more of an honorary title. I did my stint as secretary, vice president and president, as did many of us who hung around any length of time. All the concerts and finding venues and hooking up with professional musicians was all done by that one guy. We eventually had enough musicians who could actually play that we could field a pickup group to play out. Whoever was gigging (it was never the same people) played under the name Shamrogues; because we're a non-profit, whatever we were paid for the gigs is a tax write-off for our employers because 100 percent of whatever we're paid goes back into the STIMS bank account and is used as seed money for our concerts. We're all volunteers; for the concerts, we charge at the door; our acts are guaranteed a set sum; if we make more than what we've promised them, we generally give them a hefty helping of that overage. They sell CDs at the concerts and we man the merch table and act as ushers. For years, if we ran short, that one guy would help make up the difference but generally he didn't have to add anything to the kitty.

    Of course, all things wane in time, and, as has been noted, a lot of the original players are aging out. From a high of about 35 regular players, we're down to about 18, ranging in age from the mid-30s to the early 90s; the pandemic put a halt to the house concerts about the time our leader was diagnosed with stage 4 esophageal cancer. STIMS went on hiatus for nearly 2 years, although we had a couple small Shamrogue gigs once things began to open up.

    Last year, the guy who ran the organization pretty much as his second job died; We weren't sure if STIMS would survive, frankly. However, we're lucky again in that there's a lot of Irish Traditional Music in this neck of the woods; we have a comhaltas branch, the Irish pubs that have hosted sessions are back hosting sessions and one of the mainstays of the music out here -- who was instrumental in getting the group going back before they were STIMS by teaching everybody how to play Irish music -- was invited to come join us at the GAC and has done so. She also has connections in the ITM music world, and we're back to doing concerts, although the concerts are now being held at the GAC under their insurance and as dual sponsors.

    So far, we're holding on but we've had a massive amount of help doing that over the years.
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    Default Re: Who is a member/board member of a local BG/OT/Folk Society?

    One other thing to consider. If you meet at someones house or a park and no money changes hands and there is no formal organization you can play any music you like. If you have a jam at a public venue and money changes hands or there is a money making organization involved in any way then performance rights payments are required. And the PROs are experts at claiming rights even to traditional tunes long in the public domain because one of their artists recorded it.

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    Default Re: Who is a member/board member of a local BG/OT/Folk Society?

    Quote Originally Posted by CarlM View Post
    One other thing to consider. If you meet at someones house or a park and no money changes hands and there is no formal organization you can play any music you like. If you have a jam at a public venue and money changes hands or there is a money making organization involved in any way then performance rights payments are required. And the PROs are experts at claiming rights even to traditional tunes long in the public domain because one of their artists recorded it.
    I've heard and experienced a slightly different set of rules regarding the PRO's (ASCAP, BMI and SESAC).

    It makes no difference if the venue/event charges money or not. It doesn't matter if its a formal organization or not. And the PRO's don't typically pursue the performers at all.

    They strictly go after the venue/promoter/host of the event. License fees to play music in any of their catalogs are based on the venue size (how many people can attend) and how many performances there are per year.

    It could be a house concert, bar, restaurant, festival or even school talent show. If it is open to the public and music from any of the PRO catalogs is played in any form (live, recorded, broadcast, amplified or not) the venue/host is required to pay licensing fees.

    It turns out the PRO's don't typically shake down an informal picking party, school talent show or piano recitals. They usually go after bars, restaurants, etc. But they effectively shut down jams and open mics at coffee shops, a pool hall and farmer market music in our area.

    The organizations I'm in do pay licensing fees for our festivals. One way some venues have attempted to avoid fees is by insisting all music performed is public domain/traditional or original to the artist performing it.

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    Default Re: Who is a member/board member of a local BG/OT/Folk Society?

    We have had jams shut down in our area too. No organization, no money, just a place to play and have a drink or two.

    If you are a musician that plays only your own music, but you have that music copyrighted, then the venue still has to pay for you to play your original music.
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    Default Re: Who is a member/board member of a local BG/OT/Folk Society?

    Although Covid knocked it pretty hard, folk dancing in the DC area is alive and pretty well. Folk Society of Greater Washington used to hold weekly English Country dances at Glen Echo Town Hall, monthly contra and waltz events in the former amusement park's ballroom and arenas. Events are less common now, with reduced participants, but continuing.

    Most of the music is public domain, but original tunes are ok if not registered with BMI, etc. A number of names have original tunes printed in the collections like the Portland Collection of fiddle tunes and the Barnes collections of English Country Dance.

    Dancers pay a fee to attend, which pays musicians and the hall.
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    Default Re: Who is a member/board member of a local BG/OT/Folk Society?

    In Vancouver BC:
    https://www.pacificbluegrass.ca/ (bluegrass and old time music, weekly jams at the ANZA club, periodic concerts, open stages, farmer's markets, etc)
    https://vancouvermm.weebly.com/ (vancouver morris men)
    celtic music has no formal society (weekly irish, french-canadian, etc sessions in pubs, etc)
    contra dance society has no formal membership (monthly dances, https://www.vcn.bc.ca/vcountry/)
    english country dance society has no formal membership (2 dances per month, https://www.vcn.bc.ca/vanecd/)

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