We were lucky enough to attend our first Folk Alliance this year in New Orleans; held in late January, the event was held shortly after the first case of COVID-19 had been confirmed in the United States. But the thought that the event in the following year, which had been scheduled for February in Kansas City, Missouri, wouldn’t happen could have not seemed further from a possibility. Hell, a month later we still thought SXSW was going to happen.
But today, the annual conference and festival – which takes over a hotel in one of the most unique events in the world (read our reflection on the 2020 event here) and attracts thousands of punters and delegates from over 30 countries – has confirmed their 2021 event would not be going forward at this time.
Here’s the full statement from Executive Director, Aengus Finnan:
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the entire music community has been impacted, and many are struggling, concerned about their personal and professional lives.
As a non-profit organization serving the global folk music community, the board and staff of Folk Alliance International have a responsibility to its membership, mission, and founders to continue to provide relevant services while ensuring the sustainability and viability of the organization itself.
In terms of FAI’s standard annual activity, there are countless impacts of the pandemic over which we have no control (uncertainty regarding when things will stabilize, when a vaccine will be discovered and widely available, when cross-border travel will be permitted, when it will be safe to hold large gatherings in close quarters, when our community will feel comfortable to meet, or when folks will have the financial resources to attend events and conferences).
FAI must be decisive, nimble, and innovative, and make responsible and proactive decisions. Consequently, in addition to suspending events for the remainder of the calendar year, we have determined that the best course of action at this time is to suspend our in-person conference next February 2021.
Full refunds will be processed for everyone who has already purchased a 2021 registration, and we will be extending all current membership to the end of the calendar year, at no extra cost. The entire community will be consulted about the best timing for the next edition, once it is safe to be held.
In place of producing the conference this coming fiscal year, FAI staff will immediately pivot to developing meaningful online tools and resources, mounting a world-class online showcase conference, securing financial support, and advocating for the folk community and industry.
A resource page is now available to provide links to emergency funds, informative webinars, details about our ongoing advocacy efforts, a Connecting Folk peer support network, and an upcoming revenue-contributing online concert hub.
FAI is forecasting its first deficit in over two decades; however, a carefully managed long-term reserve will be used to cover the anticipated substantial loss next year. Unfortunately, this also means that FAI will have to initiate some staff layoffs of friends and colleagues who have been important members of the team.
It’s our hope that by letting you know these things now, it will bring some clarity and relief, and that it might perhaps support others struggling to decide how to proceed.
We all look forward to a future time when we can gather again and simply sit in a room with a group of people and hear live music. Until then we invite you to reach out to us, stay engaged at folk.org and on social media, and look for detailed updates in our monthly e-news.
For now, on behalf of the entire board and staff of Folk Alliance International, please be safe, take care of yourself and each other, and let’s continue to be the voice of the people by bringing meaning to this time through music and song.
Thank you for your continued support.
Aengus Finnan, Executive Director (he/him)
So what does this mean for any other events happening between now and then? You can bet everything will face a similar fate if it relies on attendance from around the world.
While locally focused events will certainly (hopefully) return sooner, especially in countries that haven’t been hit as hard as the UK or the USA, it’s the freedom of movement internationally that will remain a difficult issue over the next 12-18 months.
We’re certainly hoping circumstances change, but in the place of events like this look out for a lot of digital programs, as Folk Alliance have done here. Events like MIDEM in France and A2IM Indie Week in New York have already announced their conferences would move online and we expect many others to follow suit.
For more details about the event and the digital components that will replace it, head to folk.org.
Pictured in Header: Alice Skye at the 2020 event; Photo by Larry Heath.