SWOT Analysis of Folk Music

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Strengths

  • The extensive and cooperative festival network. Australia has a wealth of music festivals, and folk music leads the way. The []http://www.folkalliance.org.au/index.php?option=folkdir&catid=5&directory=Australian Folk Directory] lists 95 festivals across the country and across the year. Overseas visitors are amazed that such a small (population) country offers such a wealth of folk festivals. The festivals, particularly the major ones, network effectively and deliver the highest quality events, often collaborating to provide touring opportunities for major overseas acts. Festivals large and small provide an important opportunity for emerging performers to step onto bigger stages, and for more experienced performers to consolidate their domestic reputations.
  • The typically low price of admission to folk events. Historical and social influences have resulted in a trend for folk music events to have admission prices at the lower end of the price range. This makes it very affordable for patrons who may find other musical art forms beyond their means.
  • A large number of people in the general community are attracted to folk festivals (i.e. other than folkies)
  • Folk Music, especially traditional expressions, has a direct relationship with Australian culture - unlike any other music - inasmuch as they represent national creativity from a historical and living perspective.
  • Folk Music is accessible. The Folk Directory lists 103 folk clubs and venues, 101 dances and dance groups, and 84 radio shows. Most people have a folk event within easy reach. The folk community is also very welcoming and there are few barriers to participation.

Weaknesses

  • The typically low price of admission to folk events. Historical and social influences have resulted in a trend for folk music events to have admission prices at the lower end of the price range. In all musical genres, there is a vast differential between the incomes at superstar status, and those of the struggling newcomers. For folk musicians, the highs to which they aspire may not be so high. The very best performers may move out of the genre, or take their slice of the genre elsewhere.
  • The small number of truly professional performers. Very few Australian folk performers are able to make a living wage from their musical efforts, and most have to hold down a "proper job" to survive. This inhibits their ability to become the very best.
  • Lack of integrated, professional infrastructure within a fragmented folk community. This makes it difficult to raise funds for any but short-term, narrow-focus projects or to lobby government, industry, etc. Folk Music has become a generic name and represents more musical expressions and diversity (by a mile) than any other music. In countries (like USA) there would be an anointed institution to care for much of the work of the FAA - think American State Folklife Programs, museum attitudes to folk music and, of course, Smithsonian and Library of Congress.

Opportunities

  • The establishment of well resourced folk federations (or equivalent representative bodies) in all states and territories and their support / integration by a national body. Not all states have an overall representative body, and for those that do, the scope and effectiveness are variable. Folk Alliance Australia is generally accepted as the folk national body, but it is under resourced, and has no formal link or relationship to any of the state bodies.
  • The wide range of potentially competing music forms, the way that folk can adapt, interpret and otherwise incorporate elements of other music genres.
  • The current folk boom provides opportunities for raising the profile of folk performers and of folk matters in general.
  • The State Folk Federations and FAA represent both grassroots and advanced music styles - and music that has an extremely wide community appeal including absolutely no limitations on age, ethnic background, sex or religion. The challenge is to take this music even further by expanding festivals, music camps, courses etc and, at the same time, assist professional and developing artists.

Threats

  • All the other recreation options that compete for audience/participant attention. There is an ever growing range of sporting, cultural and recreational activities available to the Australian community. Folk organizations must be proactive in finding ways to consolidate existing market share, and to attract new participants.
  • The wide range of potentially competing music forms, the way that folk can adapt, interpret and otherwise incorporate elements of other music genres.
  • The folkie ethos militates against the kind of organised activities required to provide effective development
  • We are our own worst enemy. Tall poppy syndrome still exists. The sector is still not equipped organizationally. There is ongoing confusion as to what the FAA represents. There is ongoing confusion as to what folk music represents.


Author

Steve Bullock. Submitted 29 February 2008.

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