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The Art of Booking Pt. 5 - Vancouver Island MusicFest with Doug Cox Episode 33

The Art of Booking Pt. 5 - Vancouver Island MusicFest with Doug Cox

· 34:30


[00:00:00] Rosalyn: Hello, and welcome to season two of ReFolkUs, where we talk to artists and music industry professionals about building sustainable careers as creative workers with a focus on folk. I'm your host, Rosalyn Dennett.

[00:00:28] Rosalyn: Hello and welcome to [00:00:30] ReFolkUs. Doug Cox has been the longstanding producer for the last 28 years of the Vancouver Island Music Fest. In 2017, Doug was inducted into the BC Music Hall of Fame as an industry pioneer. He's performed on a Grammy nominated album by San Antonio's Lustics Maniacs, produced a Juno nominated album for April Virch, and is busy producing projects from his studio on Vancouver Island and is acting theater manager.

[00:00:54] Rosalyn: An artistic director for Courtenay's iconic Old Church Theater. This is our interview with Doug Cox.

[00:01:01] Rosalyn: Hello, Doug. How are you doing?

[00:01:07] Doug Cox: Hey, Rosalyn, good. It's good to see ya.

[00:01:10] Rosalyn: Good to see you too. Thank you for joining us at what for, for you is an early hour, calling in from the West Coast.

[00:01:17] Doug Cox: Yeah, it's a little bit early. It's not too bad. It's quarter to ten right now, so that's not bad.

[00:01:22] Rosalyn: Well, thank you. I appreciate you taking the time. So we're talking about the art of booking. You book an [00:01:30] absolutely wonderful festival out on Vancouver Island, and I'm wondering if you can tell us a little bit about it. Tell us about the Vancouver Island Music Fest.

[00:01:37] Doug Cox: Well, it's a festival that's 30 years old this year, it's in the Comox Valley, which is about three hours north of Victoria, or an hour north of Nanaimo for people that know a little bit about the island. it's a multi genre festival, although we follow the sort of traditional Folk Festival, Canadian Folk Festival in particular, format.

[00:01:57] Doug Cox: So we have six stages, all six of the [00:02:00] stages run during the day. One of those stages is an actual workshop stage where people either talk about what they do or we have interviews and that kind of thing. There's a sort of a singer songwriter stage, I should say that every performer that plays at the festival gets to do their own concert.

[00:02:15] Doug Cox: At some point over the weekend. So for single performers or duos, they would probably play on the woodland stage, which is our smaller performance stage. We have two huge workshop stages where we'll put up to 18 musicians at a time on those [00:02:30] stages. And we have two drum kits and two bass rigs that live on those stages.

[00:02:35] Doug Cox: I think that's one of the things that makes us a little bit different. And then we have, sort of a band performance stage where we have. Bands that aren't going to play on our on our concert ball stage will do their concert in this area called the Grassy Knoll then we have our concert ball stage which Is also our main stage, but we don't like to call it that because that, kind of makes it seem like everybody that plays on that stage is more important than everybody else and, uh, that's just not true.

[00:02:58] Doug Cox: We have about 10,000 people a [00:03:00] day that attend the festival and we hire 50 to 60 artists every year and we are a campground festival. So we're just on the outskirts of Courtney, our population is about 90,000 for the whole Comox Valley where we live here. We have about 3 to 4,000 campers that hit our campground every year, half of our campground is volunteer camping and half of our camping is public camping.

[00:03:22] Doug Cox: We have a family camping area as well, which is sort of a, kind of a low tolerance, safer area. I mean, it's safe everywhere, [00:03:30] but, um, it's just not a party area. Basically, it's a more quiet area and people respect that. We also, I think, have one of the most beautiful festival sites in the world.

[00:03:39] Doug Cox: I've been fortunate as an artist to get to play a bunch of the festivals, and I still have yet to find one that's nicer than ours. one of the things that's really cool about our festival grounds is that each stage really has its own, area. So as you move from stage to stage, you almost feel like you're in a completely different place just because some are surrounded by woods, some are surrounded by fields.

[00:03:59] Doug Cox: One of them [00:04:00] is in a great big old barn. One of them is our concert bowl, which is where most of our vendors are. So there's this big circle that embraces the kind of the concert bowl stage. And what happens at night is that everybody comes together into the concert bowl and, For the rest of the day, people are all over the site at different stages.

[00:04:16] Doug Cox: 200 volunteers a year, some of which are now, triple generation volunteers. So we have grandparents and parents and their kids all volunteering. One of the things I love right now is we have 40 volunteer crews and a [00:04:30] bunch of the people that have been running their crews for basically the whole festival, their kids are now taking over their crews.

[00:04:37] Doug Cox: And that's pretty incredible to watch that happen. We are a family event for sure. and I think because I'm a musician, it's kind of a musicians, musicians festival. So we might have a few more artists that really focus on their playing. I know other artistic directors probably wouldn't want to hear me say that, but I think it might be a little bit true. Yeah. And, it's mostly a roots [00:05:00] or folk festival, but we also have jazz. We have classical music. We have rock and roll. We have people like Laurie Anderson who are really hard to define, um, multi genre artists, but it's mostly, mostly roots music and global music still at the at the festival.

[00:05:14] Rosalyn: That's great. That sounds like a grand old time. So then audience wise, do a lot of folks travel in to attend the festival or are you drawing from, more from the, uh, Courtney

[00:05:24] Rosalyn: Comox community?

[00:05:25] Doug Cox: Mostly from the Courtney Comox community. It's probably 50 [00:05:30] percent local, and then 30 percent Vancouver Island, and then 20 percent the rest of the world. So that's usually sort of where we land.

[00:05:39] Rosalyn: Cool. And then when you're booking, do you, you kind of have a split in your mind, in terms of like how many local acts, how many nearby regional acts, or folks across Canada? Do you book international acts as well?

[00:05:51] Doug Cox: Yeah, of course, I don't follow this to the T every year, because you have different opportunities every year, but we're usually, probably [00:06:00] 60/70 percent Canadian, of which half is, is local, and by local, I mean British Columbia. and then all over the world as well. We book probably more American artists than people from other parts of the world, but we book people from all over the world too, and that, that change is just based on Each year's opportunity, but I do try to, very specifically make sure we, we stay close to that percentage for British Columbia artists, for sure.

[00:06:24] Doug Cox: And, out of that group of people, I try to book a few local people every [00:06:30] year. by local, I mean probably more North Vancouver Island. And those are the people that we're, trying to mentor basically. So we bring them in. I mean, we have some older performers that are world class performers here too, and they play as well, but very specifically, I try to book some local, newer artists that, that really need the experience of being put on stage with their heroes or just going through the more professional festival experience.

[00:06:53] Doug Cox: I think one of the mistakes that a lot of. The emerging artists might get to play their local [00:07:00] festivals very specifically for that reason. And then they automatically think that that opens them up to play all the other festivals across the country. And I think it's important to recognize, you know, without, not having total belief in yourself, but I just think it's important to recognize that sometimes you get booked for more regional events because you actually live there.

[00:07:18] Doug Cox: And I don't think there's anything wrong with that. I mean, it's, it's how we all start. Right. So I've noticed that though, like someone that's just really just an emerging performer might be from another part of the country. And they think because they've played their local [00:07:30] festival, that they're now ready to, to hit the road and play all of them, you know, we have our own local people that we would favor over that case, probably, although I also try to book one or two every year that are at that stage from different parts of the country. I think it's really important because it's also part of the education and part of the folk process, right? so I try to do that as well. If I find a young artist from, from other parts of the world, mostly Canada, then I'll, I'll really make a point of bringing them here and, uh, introducing them to the excitement of The whole shebang, [00:08:00] right?

[00:08:00] Doug Cox: And I mean, that's, that's one of the things I really enjoy about the conferences is I come to FMO and get to see quite a few of those young regional performers from Ontario, you know, I usually end up booking one at least.

[00:08:11] Rosalyn: It's only now, percolated in my brain long enough that I can handle this. So 18 performers on one stage, um, 18 to, okay. so other than, you know, possibly being a sound technician's worst nightmare, can you like explain a little bit about, if, When [00:08:30] we're, we're to be, booked at the festival and got, programmed on, on a stage like that.

[00:08:34] Doug Cox: Well, we have, you know, we have this confusing term of workshops or sessions or, you know, that we all like to use at the festivals. I try to look at the performer and. See where their strengths are. So, sometimes it's a jam session. and I'll put together the group of musicians who are, might be more players than, than anything who are capable of, sitting in on a big session like that without turning it into a monster, right?

[00:08:59] Doug Cox: [00:09:00] Sometimes it's a song circle. So, I'll take up to six songwriters and put them on stage together, kind of in the round. They're not really expected to jam. and we tell the performers before they hit the stage, you can invite people to join you if you want, but you can also invite them not to join you if you want.

[00:09:17] Doug Cox: Sometimes it's an experiment where you might take three bands that might have something in common, sort of the basis of their music or the roots of their music. This was a fun one, but one time we had eight bass [00:09:30] players together for a session and people remember that one because it was so magical and they were all really good musicians.

[00:09:35] Doug Cox: So they found room for each other. sometimes those things don't work so well, you know, so

[00:09:40] Doug Cox: that one's one that people really always remember, you know, one time I tried to put on like the most epic drum solo I could think of. So I tried to put, Richie Hayward from Little Feet, who's Now passed away, and, Terry Bozzio used to play with people like Jeff Beck and Neil Pert from Rush, and I thought, you know, what if we just put these three drummers up on the stage for, 45 [00:10:00] minutes and say, okay, this is like the most epic drum solo of all time, and when it's over, it's over, but Neil Pert wouldn't do it, so it was unfortunate because the other two guys were actually into the idea. it's not all, let's get really weird though, you know what I mean? Like, it has to have some sort of musical component to it that's actually going to create some kind of collaboration that makes sense. So I've been in a few sessions like that where it's it feels like the person that's programming is just thinking, let's just make this as weird as we possibly can.

[00:10:28] Doug Cox: And that doesn't always work, you [00:10:30] know. So, it is really fun to put musicians together who are really good and, and just say, okay, I know that this band is going to blow this band's mind. And to watch what happens, you know, when that happens. One time, We had Bill Frizzell and David Lindley at the festival, and they had played together on numerous recordings, but they'd never actually played together.

[00:10:48] Doug Cox: So I asked them if they would just jam just the two of them on one of the stages, and they both agreed, because they both really admired each other, and the funny thing that happened was that just before the festival, [00:11:00] David Lindley phoned me, and, and, uh, we're kind of friends, and, said, you know, I'm not really so sure about this.

[00:11:05] Doug Cox: Like he was getting nervous about it, right? And I said, Oh, David, Bill's going to be so disappointed. And so he said, okay, I'll do it. And then funny enough, a few days later, Bill Frisell's people phoned and they said the same thing. Bill's a little bit nervous. And so I said, okay, well, you know, David will be so disappointed.

[00:11:19] Doug Cox: So they ended up doing it. Just before they got up on the stage, we had a budget truck parked backstage, which was a gear truck basically. And they went and they sat in the back of the truck for [00:11:30] 45 minutes. Which I have some photos of, and it's one of my favorite photos from the festival.

[00:11:34] Doug Cox: Sometimes it's a jam, sometimes it's a song circle, sometimes it's more of a sharing, people just take turns with the jams, it often turns into magic, you know, and I think it's For a lot of people, it's the most exciting part of the festival I think about, half of our audience comes to the festival because they just want to discover, and then maybe 25 percent come because they want to see the headliners. And then the [00:12:00] other 25 percent come because they just want to be part of the community.

[00:12:03] Doug Cox: And that the music isn't even really the most important part of why they're attending. I think that more of our volunteers come, probably half of our volunteers, if not more, come because they want to be part of the community. And the music isn't necessarily the most important thing for them either, you know.

[00:12:18] Doug Cox: So for me, that's hard to believe because That's why I'm there, you know, but that's not all true, but I don't think everybody's there just for the music either. They're there for the whole experience, right?

[00:12:27] Rosalyn: Oh, absolutely.

[00:12:29] Rosalyn: It sounds like you've [00:12:30] built a really incredible, community that's been created there.

[00:12:33] Rosalyn: You mentioned like discovery and I'm wondering if we can chat a bit about like how you discover new music and new bands you go to a lot of conferences? Where do you

[00:12:42] Rosalyn: usually find new music?

[00:12:44] Doug Cox: Everywhere. I mean, I do, I do go to quite a few conferences. I, I, before the pandemic, I was going to a lot. I just went to five in three months. So I'm done with conferences for right now, but I also, I mean, I'm old enough and have been involved in this long [00:13:00] enough to know that the early artistic directors, people like Gary Crystal from Vancouver, Don Whalen from Edmonton, who is my mentor, Mitch Podolak, used to actually go into the woods, literally, to find musicians and artists.

[00:13:12] Doug Cox: And I, I really believe in that, you know, there's music everywhere. I like to think of myself as a curator of the festival, which means I don't want to just go to an industry event and be told who to hire, nor do I want our festival to have the same bands that are playing every single [00:13:30] festival across the country, which is right at this moment, it's, it's a little bit of a concern for me because I'm, for some reason, the word's gotten out that all the festivals block book.

[00:13:40] Doug Cox: Which means that we all sign on to the same artist to make tours possible for them. And I do believe in some of that, and we definitely do some of that. But I don't like looking at the lineups of the festivals all across the country and basically seeing the same lineup, you know. I think that we can do better than that. I also think if you program one band in particular, [00:14:00] you might want to look at that band and go, okay, what can this band contribute to that's very cool. That means I could book somebody else specifically for the collaborative part of what might happen at the festival. I have a radio show as well.

[00:14:13] Doug Cox: It's a syndicated radio show. So I have to program two hours of music every week on that. So I'm always looking for music for that too. I am a total musichead. So I listen to music all the time. I do believe as well that, you don't know when you're going to discover something that really moves you.

[00:14:29] Doug Cox: [00:14:30] It usually just comes up and grabs you by the heart, right? That doesn't necessarily always happen at a conference either because you're, so, overwhelmed as everyone is with all of the music that you see. It's not really a natural way to discover the beauty of art, which is in my mind takes a certain amount of stillness.

[00:14:47] Doug Cox: For me to accept something coming at me, I need to be in a place where things are a little bit still. And the bad part of the conferences, and I don't know how you get around this, is that you're running from room to [00:15:00] room to room to try to catch as many things as you can. So you might go see one song from somebody.

[00:15:05] Doug Cox: and then run to the next room. And that's not really a natural way to discover music, you know. I understand it is the only way to do it at those things, and it makes it work for everybody. And usually what it does for me is it helps me see where I want to dig a little deeper. Or it just, might, for the time being, allow me to cross somebody off my list, too, which is just as valuable, right?

[00:15:27] Doug Cox: As I grew older, I realized, oh, that's not something that [00:15:30] you necessarily want to hold on to forever, right? So you might see an artist And they might not be right for you, or they might not be right for what you're booking. don't write them off for the rest of their lives, though.

[00:15:38] Doug Cox: You know, when I was younger, I did that. I would see somebody and basically go, Okay, big X, right? And then run to the next band. And, and unfortunately for those people, I might not look at them again for another five or six years, you know, which is kind of unfair. again, the good that comes from those things, outweighs that, for sure, you know.

[00:15:58] Doug Cox: I do think that the communal [00:16:00] aspect of a conference is just as important, and all the other lessons are just as important, right?

[00:16:05] Rosalyn: And I think it truly as relevant to this conversation because for somebody who might've gotten, maybe there's somebody who, who was applied to. play Vancouver Island Music Fest and has gotten rejected and might be feeling like, oh no, I'll never play it again. And, and it's, it's actually really encouraging to hear, your journey with that and that people do change their minds

[00:16:26] Doug Cox: I mean, I find

[00:16:27] Doug Cox: music everywhere. And I'm also, think, I'm [00:16:30] like an amateur musicologist too, so I am always reading books about the history of music, mostly just out of interest, but also because as a musician, a producer, it's my job and my passion. So that'll lead me down a lot of rabbit holes to, as I read autobiographies and music history books, I have my, my, Apple Play right there beside me, and I'm searching every record they're talking about, and I'm following the paths of the history of the different musicians and stuff. I mean, I'm a total nerd when it comes [00:17:00] to that stuff, right? That's, that's, that's where my passion is, really. I also do believe, someone once said to me that every single person in your audience wants to see themselves on stage, which, which is something that I hold really dear to my heart, and I know that there's holes in my programming on certain years where I will very specifically be looking for one thing, or someone from a specific culture, or that kind of a thing.

[00:17:24] Doug Cox: Not to tick off boxes, I don't agree with that at all. I do look at things that way though, at [00:17:30] times. But more specifically, because it fits into the programming for that given year. So that'll lead you down different rabbit holes, too, where you're, you're looking for one very specific thing, and sometimes an artist will approach you and you've already filled that spot that they fit into for that year, or you just don't feel that they could.

[00:17:50] Doug Cox: become part of the overall program for that year, right? I'll often tell artists, you know, that when you're approaching anyone with your music, they might book you three, four, five, six years [00:18:00] down the line, right? I mean, you're probably hoping for that year, but the reality is that that doesn't necessarily always happen, but don't ever think that, you disqualifies you, right?

[00:18:09] Doug Cox: Also in the new world, which is like the last 10 years, we get so many people approaching us now as artistic directors that, it is so overwhelming, that if you can do anything to actually get your music into that person's collection, I think that that strategy is super critical and it's almost become lost because [00:18:30] everybody sends out one song now or one video.

[00:18:32] Doug Cox: You know, you might come back and ask to hear more at that point, but that's taking a lot more energy than, than, uh, actually just right away falling in love with someone's work completely. So I guess what I'm trying to say is you want everyone who's going to support your music to actually become a fan of what you do and to like it so much that they become knowledgeable about it.

[00:18:52] Doug Cox: very importantly, you want to end up in their personal collection of music. So that they

[00:18:57] Doug Cox: listen to you.

[00:18:58] Rosalyn: You know, you mentioned that, [00:19:00] that you get a lot of, People vying for your attention. do you have like an open submission process for

[00:19:06] Rosalyn: the festival? How do folks express their interest in playing?

[00:19:09] Doug Cox: I actually don't. I mean, if you go to our website, you'll see that we don't accept unsolicited submissions. And there's a long explanation there as to why we don't. It's not because we think we're important. You know what I mean? Like it's not a, it's not a snobby thing and It's not because I think I'm so great and Mr.

[00:19:26] Doug Cox: Artistic Director, it's got nothing to do with that. The actual fact [00:19:30] is I don't want to lie to you and tell you that I'm going to have time to actually go listen to your music. I don't know this, but I suspect there's a number of festivals that take submissions and don't even look at them.

[00:19:39] Doug Cox: There's no way they can anymore. Unless they hire someone full time to do that, right? So, rather than lie and say, here's the non existent email address that no one checks that you can send your stuff to, I'd rather just say, you know what, that doesn't work for our festival. That doesn't work for me. How do you reach me?

[00:19:59] Doug Cox: I mean, people [00:20:00] in the business know how, or they know someone that knows how. I'm always looking. If you send me your music, I will check it out, but it might take me six months to do so, right? I have this huge folder, where I'm, I'm always saving things, right? And I'm all, I am always actually checking them out, but I don't want that responsibility Or that false hope of saying, you send this in and you're going to have the full attention because it doesn't work that way anymore.

[00:20:23] Doug Cox: I mean, that's, that's a, it's a hard answer.

[00:20:25] Rosalyn: Well, I mean, another part of that answer is that, I mean, you just said that he went to five [00:20:30] conferences this, fall. So, you know, I feel like that's a really, important thing to highlight because, you know, any one of those five would probably be a great opportunity

[00:20:39] Rosalyn: to get in front of you and say, Hey.

[00:20:41] Doug Cox: yeah. And it's just like an organic process, you know, where you just keep doing what you do and, and work, follow your own path as an artist. And hopefully there will be enough people. Like what you do and continue to support you that, this, I mean, you can tell I'm from the West coast here, but it's walking down that path[00:21:00] that is hopefully what is the joy of your experiences as any sort of an artist and walking through the doors that open rather than trying to kick all the doors open and be really, aggressive and, unhappy because you're over here.

[00:21:15] Doug Cox: But you want to be over there, and you're never, you're never going to enjoy yourself as an artist if you're always looking over there, going, oh, I just want to be over there, right? That's, and I'm saying that as an artist too, because I spent years in my own career as a musician being that way, [00:21:30] realizing, well, I was doing the most amazing things all over the world.

[00:21:33] Doug Cox: And I wasn't enjoying them because I was looking at my day timer and going, where am I tomorrow? Or how do I get this? You know, not, not going, wait a minute. This is, this is it. This process of me playing my instrument and getting to walk through whatever doors that opened to me is, is really all there is, you know?

[00:21:50] Doug Cox: So how do you get into all of this stuff? You just, you just do it and, and, open those doors. And my strategy at the conferences. I mean, I wear numerous hats, right, in the [00:22:00] industry, but, um, my strategy has always been to go there and, and discover what opportunities do present themselves, rather than going there with a strategy to, only have very specific opportunities and not be pleased if if those things don't happen.

[00:22:14] Doug Cox: And I think that that's something you, as you get older, that you, you become way more aware of as well as I have never gone to a music conference, taking my festival hat off now for a minute as an artist or as a side person or a front person or whatever sound, getting music into soundtracks [00:22:30] and not had three or four amazing things happen, just from simply sitting in the And restaurant or meeting somebody or having a conversation with someone in an elevator.

[00:22:38] Doug Cox: you just choose to engage and be an honest part of that community, and you're going to meet people that are going to make things happen for you. That feels better, I think, than, uh, desperately being out there pushing yourself, right? The other thing that's really important to me is what kind of a person you are.

[00:22:53] Doug Cox: The way that I look at our festival, it's for the volunteers first. It's for our community [00:23:00] second, which means our sponsors, our audience members, our board of directors. It's for the musicians third. So I look at you and I go, okay, I love what you do. I can fit you into the programming really well. Now, what's it going to be like when someone comes up to you and says, hello, you know, are you going to give them the time of day?

[00:23:18] Doug Cox: Are you going to share the stage gracefully with other artists? Is this about you, or are you actually wanting to come and take part in this gathering, right? That's where a lot of people blow it, you know? if you're appearing [00:23:30] to be so hungry about pursuing your own musical career, that you forget that The person on the receiving end is also a human being, then or if you're a jerk, I don't care how good you are, you're just, you know, you're just off the list.

[00:23:42] Doug Cox: That's also probably when I'd cross somebody off for quite a long time. So, one of the real benefits as a presenter to come to the conferences is you actually get to meet the artists. and watch them interact with people. and that's so important, it's about the community that are putting the event on first.

[00:23:59] Doug Cox: You're [00:24:00] inviting them into your home, you know, with all the people that you really care about. you're invited to Christmas dinner, you know what I mean? Like,

[00:24:07] Rosalyn: That's, yeah, that's

[00:24:08] Rosalyn: a beautiful analogy,

[00:24:09] Rosalyn: yeah.

[00:24:09] Doug Cox: It's why I think our festival has been healthy for all these years. It's why we still have no problem getting 1, 200 volunteers.

[00:24:16] Doug Cox: Every year, you know, it's not, it's not an issue

[00:24:18] Rosalyn: I don't think that's a given, you know, that's a real conscious choice. I remember that being like, you know, back in, you mentioned earlier, Mitch Podolak and, you know, I remember talking to Mitch ages ago and [00:24:30] him explaining concept of the Winnipeg Folk Festival backstage at the time, where he was like, the person who's playing the main stage waits in the same line as the person who's picking up the garbage after everyone leaves from the main stage, you know, those two people should be able to stand in the line together and have a chat, right?

[00:24:46] Rosalyn: but I always thought that was such a beautiful thing.

[00:24:48] Doug Cox: Yeah. that's changed a little bit with some of the headliners

[00:24:52] Doug Cox: We have kind of an emergency crew of volunteers. four or five people who, when performers arrive, we identify the problem [00:25:00] once, and we put that crew on those performers. Basically, almost to the degree where we say, okay, we don't want these people to come into contact with anyone else because we don't want their weekend ruined.

[00:25:11] Doug Cox: Because they met one of their heroes and he's a jerk, So we do, we actually have a, kind of a, a crew that just does that work, right? It usually only happens once or twice a year where we get someone who's really difficult. Most of the time it's not even the performer, it's their road manager.

[00:25:27] Doug Cox: It's their crew who are really the problem, you know? [00:25:30] And so we isolate those people and move them away from what we think of as the festival. And honestly, it's their loss, you know? They can come in and do what they do and then get rid of them as soon as we possibly can, they're missing completely what they're coming for.

[00:25:44] Doug Cox: I want to say also, so I don't forget this, and this is more practical advice, when you apply to play at our festival, it really helps me to know what you can do beyond your performance, beyond your concert. the artists that are able to list the [00:26:00] other things they can do to contribute to the event.

[00:26:02] Doug Cox: are giving themselves a huge step up, right? good example, Tennyson King, who's a wonderful Asian Canadian artist, came up to me and told me he could do a meditation through music session. that was like, wow, okay, this is showing that this guy actually really wants to engage in the festival, not just sell CDs, right?

[00:26:19] Doug Cox: Which everybody does anyways, but if all you can do is tell me you want to play a concert, then go play a concert. Don't come to a festival. That's, that's not really what festivals are. are all about, you know,[00:26:30] people's managers might argue with that.

[00:26:33] Rosalyn: But, let's help some folks out, though, in that, so you mentioned that there's, like, a stage that does teaching workshops, so if somebody imagined, like, a skill they can share on that, you mentioned the meditation, do you have, like, a, a children's, or, like, a family area.

[00:26:48] Doug Cox: We have a kid's area, but it's an activity area. I don't like to put children's music in a different place. I think kids are smarter than [00:27:00] that. So we will have children's performers, but we don't isolate them.

[00:27:04] Doug Cox: They're just part of the festival.

[00:27:05] Doug Cox: you might want to teach a vocal harmony class. You might want to teach a bluegrass mandolin class or, you know, so it's all over the map.

[00:27:11] Doug Cox: But if I'm piqued in interest in your music and I look at what you have and you, you have a list of these. Really amazing things that you can do otherwise. That's what makes the festival, right? Or if you have a really great collaborative idea that's never happened before.

[00:27:26] Doug Cox: If you say, I really want to do this with these people. If it's [00:27:30] early enough, or it might check to be something that we'd work on a year or two down the line, That also shows that you know what you're coming to instead of just being another gig, so just about anything works in that capacity, right?

[00:27:42] Doug Cox: And it helps me as a programmer, do something that's much more festival friendly, because you're already going to get your concert, right? So.

[00:27:49] Rosalyn: I wish that there was a way for like listing the the instruments and the musicians and like indicating that you can, jam or you're, able to improvise

[00:27:57] Rosalyn: on people's music. You might be able to pick that out [00:28:00] too, just from seeing them or hearing them, but I always think that's an interesting anecdote to add.

[00:28:04] Doug Cox: absolutely. Yeah, it's really important. You know, the thing that's funny to me about the conferences is that we're all basically introverts, you know, I'm actually really a shy person. on stage, I'm fine, but put me in a room full of people. And I'm a, total, klutz and uncomfortable and introverted.

[00:28:19] Doug Cox: Most artists are that way as well. So we all come together in these things and we're all like introverts and it's uh, one of the hardest things to, to approach any human [00:28:30] being is that you come across as being sincere and not overly hungry. when you've spent all this money to go to a conference and you're there to try to make things happen, that's a real struggle because you have to somehow figure out how to approach people.

[00:28:44] Doug Cox: But in a way that is natural and, again, some people are really good at that, you know, pressing flesh or whatever you want to call it, where they run around and then they manage to make contact with everybody. I'm not one of those people, and I'm a person where I'll have to engage in the [00:29:00] conference for about an hour and then go hide for about 20 minutes and then come back out.

[00:29:04] Doug Cox: And I think that most of us are actually like that. And I don't have an answer to that, but I think it's, uh, something to really be aware of and be really careful, that the energy that you're putting out isn't really fake because you're simply trying. And I think it's something that's not addressed enough, you know?

[00:29:20] Doug Cox: How do we actually contact each other as sincere human beings in a way that isn't gross and manipulative, you know? At the music [00:29:30] conferences, in particular, I do not know what the answer is, but,

[00:29:34] Rosalyn: Oh my gosh. I don't know either, but I think it was at this FMO that somebody had a, a t shirt that said don't approach the introvert

[00:29:41] Rosalyn: on that. Like yeah, it's an interesting, I really feel for the, people who, are, trying to be that kind of extroverted though because they think that that's what's expected of them, you know, when truly, just being chill and having, regular paced conversation with folks is

[00:29:58] Rosalyn: usually what's most [00:30:00] effective.

[00:30:00] Doug Cox: Yeah, and I guess part of it is coming up with your own kind of posse, too, at those things, right? Like, everybody's got their own little social circle. As an introvert, it's way easier to be part of one of those circles, and then you will meet. Everybody introduces everybody to everybody else, and you do find people that you just have a connection with, right?

[00:30:20] Doug Cox: I mean, I, I've noticed with myself, and I, I hesitate to say this because I don't want this to, people to think that they should just come up and do this, but sometimes I'll really connect [00:30:30] with an artist because we start talking about guitars. Or studios, or, or what have you, right? Songwriting, or whatever, anything.

[00:30:37] Doug Cox: And then there's other people you make a connection with because you're not talking about music. Maybe you're talking about whatever else you do, you know? those kind of things are really important at these conferences too, because it's almost like you've met an oasis person when that does happen.

[00:30:52] Doug Cox: They're, oh my god, someone I can actually have a conversation with,

[00:30:55] Doug Cox: You know, it is a great thing too. So, how do you approach an artistic director? [00:31:00] we're all different. We're all looking for different things. you come to the conferences to do that. Most of us hopefully are accessible at those things.

[00:31:08] Doug Cox: I, I try very hard to be. I try to be respectful about not talking outside of showcase rooms and stuff, but at the same time, usually when we're talking outside of the showcase rooms, we're actually talking about who we just saw, or we're comparing notes about who's touring, or we're doing business, right?

[00:31:25] Doug Cox: So that's hard too, because if I see somebody that I really like at a [00:31:30] conference, I'll make a point of trying to set up enough gigs for them that I can immediately book them. Um, so. It might look like we're just hanging out and partying, sometimes we are, but I think we've become aware that we need to be more careful and, and, uh, it's not like most of us are drunk, hanging out in the hallways or that kind of thing, because that's not really the case, you know, we're there to serve the music, um, and if any artistic director is arrogant enough to think we're not.

[00:31:56] Doug Cox: It's part of the problem with the current music industry. It's [00:32:00] almost like the industry's more important than the artists. That's a big mistake, as well. and, you know, unfortunately a lot of people make money off of the music business and a lot of people don't remember. Spotify. That, um, it's very important that the artists make their money too.

[00:32:16] Doug Cox: Don't eat your children, right? Yeah.

[00:32:23] Rosalyn: Oh, I couldn't, I couldn't agree with you more there. Well, first of all, thank you for spending some time talking to us today. It's been, it's been [00:32:30] really fantastic. And I'm wondering before we go, if we can, just let us know, Maybe like what your dates are this year, just let us know a little bit about, the festival that's coming up this summer.

[00:32:40] Doug Cox: Our dates are July 12th to 14th. We are in a community where it's fairly hard To get hotel rooms. We have a shortage of hotel rooms, which is a real problem for Where we are, there's lots of Airbnbs, we have our campground, which goes on sale, March the 1st, and that usually sells out within about 24 [00:33:00] hours, there's other campgrounds in the area, so people coming to the festival one of our problems is, is that we, we do have a fairly low amount of available hotel rooms, like everywhere in the world, two of our hotels have turned into low income housing, and one of our hotels has half turned into seniors housing.

[00:33:18] Doug Cox: So, it's becoming a concern for us, you know. How do you host a huge event when there's nowhere for people to go? But there is, you just have to look a little bit more, you know. So, if you [00:33:30] want to come just to attend the festival, consider that, Make sure that you have your accommodations figured out.

[00:33:36] Rosalyn: Fantastic. Well, Doug, thank you so much. I really appreciate, getting to chat with you today.

[00:33:40] Doug Cox: Rosalyn, it's good to talk to you.

[00:33:48] Rosalyn: That's all for this episode, friends. The ReFolkUs Podcast is brought to you by Folk Music Ontario. Find out more by heading to folkmusicontario.org/refolkus. That's [00:34:00] R-E-F-O-L-K-U-S. The podcast is produced by Kayla Nezon and Rosalyn Dennett and mixed by Jordan Moore at The Pod Cabin. The opening theme is by King Cardiac, and the artwork is by Jaymie Karn.

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