A collection of tidbits we've collected along the trail
GETTING RADIO PLAY
There are hundreds of DJs at college and community radio stations who accept music submissions from independent artists.
Most DJs ask for physical copies of CDs (with the shrink wrap removed) rather than downloads. They also like lyrics and some background about the artist, including contact information.
Many DJs and/or the stations that host their programs post playlists. By reviewing these, we can figure out if our music might be a good fit before reaching out to introduce ourselves.
There is an active discussion group for DJs and others who are interested in folk-based music on the radio. Artists are welcome to join, participate in discussions, and post to the group when they have a new release. To sign up (free), visit www.folkradio.org.
Richard Gillman compiles a list of top albums, songs, artists and labels every month, using playlists submitted by folk DJs who are part of the discussion group mentioned above. These lists are archived at nwfolk.com/topfolk.
Many presenters welcome inquiries from artists who are interested in performing, but some are reluctant to book an act they have never seen in person. We have found it helpful to have recordings on our website along with references from folks who have worked with us.
Venues that attract listening audiences who appreciate live acoustic music are ideal for artists like us, whose music is driven by lyrics.
Many venues book at least three months out.
Some venues expect artists to play only original music and/or songs that are in the public domain, i.e., no covers.
Not every venue has a sound system for performers to use. We have found it very helpful to travel with our own equipment.
TOURING THE UK
There is no need to rent a car in the UK. Traveling by train is relaxing and easy, thanks to an extraordinarily well-run rail system, and if you get a BritRail pass you can hop on and off wherever and whenever without worrying about tickets. Taxis are often queued up at the stations, ready to drive you to your final destination. The only challenge is London's underground because not all stations have elevators ("lifts") and subway cars get very crowded at times.
There are lots of places to buy healthy prepared foods if you don't want to eat out too much but don't have access to a kitchen. We had some delicious salads at a train station.
Many of the locals are very approachable and willing to try to help. In fact, a man in Liverpool walked us part of the way to our gig when we asked him for directions.
The UK's folk clubs are fabulous venues for connecting with listening audiences who appreciate acoustic music. As a result, organizers are approached by many artists and tend to book at least a year out.
If you will be performing and/or selling CDs, you are expected to get working papers, known as a certificate of sponsorship, from someone who is licensed to issue them. Otherwise, you risk getting turned away at the border.
Many venues have a sound system but artists are expected to bring their own cables ("leads") for instruments with pickups.
You can plug equipment into wall outlets using only a standard adapter.
FOLK MUSIC IN PITTSBURGH
The Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall presents a series called Listen Locally Downstairs, which features local artists.
Burghsong is a concert series hosted by Sunburst School of Music in Squirrel Hill. Each show features two sets -- one by a local artist and the other by a touring artist -- with a short intermission in between.
Calliope: The Pittsburgh Folk Music Society presents concerts at the Carnegie Lecture Hall in Oakland and the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts in Shadyside. Calliope also offers workshops and classes and sponsors a weekly open mic at the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern.
Wallace's Taproom at the Hotel Indigo in East Liberty presents live music on Thursday evenings, 7-9PM. No cover charge. Food and beverages available for purchase.
The Palace Theatre, owned and operated by the non-profit Westmoreland Cultural Trust, provides a historic and theatrical venue for community artists.
To find out about local house concerts, join the Pittsburgh House Concerts Yahoo Group.
The Pittsburgh Songwriters Circle offers amateur and semi-pro songwriters free monthly contact, song critiquing and discussion. The group meets on the first Tuesday of every month at the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern in Bloomfield.
The Saturday Light Brigade is a weekly public radio program broadcast on several stations across southwestern PA and eastern OH. Each edition includes a live set by a local or touring artist.
SongSpace at First Unitarian is a celebration of folk, Americana, singer-songwriter, old-time, acoustic blues, and world music, featuring local, regional and national artists. Concerts take place at the First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh in Shadyside.
SummerSounds is a family-friendly concert series that takes place outdoors in St. Clair Park in Greensburg.
The Three Rivers Arts Festival takes place near "The Point" in Downtown Pittsburgh in early June, with free performances on several stages.