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Performers FAQ

Performers are not paid!

Alaska Folk Festival greatly appreciates the energy and talents each of the Performers brings to our stages. Without you this great event would not happen. Performer application forms will be available here on our website in late January or early February.

For those of you new to the notion of a free, all volunteer festival, it is important to understand that we cannot and do not pay our Performers. If you are interested in being a part of this week of music and community celebration, please read on and see what being a Performer involves. We welcome your application.

FAQ: Here are answers to the questions we commonly get about applying for and performing at the Alaska Folk Festival:
  1. When/where/how can I get a Performer Application? When is the deadline?
  2. Do I have to send an audition tape?
  3. How much will I get paid to perform?
  4. How can I get to be a guest artist? Should I send you my promo pack?
  5. Am I guaranteed a spot if I send in my application?
  6. Do I have to be an Alaska Folk Festival member to perform?
  7. What happens after the Performer Application due date? When do I know anything about the performance schedules? What is the Tentative Schedule?
  8. I'm bummed. I didn't get in to the schedule. Why did I get put on Standby? I put in for two acts, but one got put on Standby. What happened?
  9. How can I maximize my chances of getting in the schedule?
  10. OK. I'm on standby. What happens next?
  11. How many acts will cancel?
  12. Who gets taken off the Standby List and offered chance to play?
  13. I'm a solo act, a singer/songwriter. I can play any time. Can't you fit me in?
  14. What's the point of coming to the Alaska Folk Festival if I don't get a chance to perform on stage?
  15. How long will my set be?
  16. What do you mean "15 minute set counting set-up?" What if I have a big act that takes a long time to set-up?
  17. I wrote these really great songs and want to describe them to the audience. Is that OK?
  18. So, how many songs can I actually play in my set?
  19. Why this rigorous time limit?
  20. What happens if I end up going overtime?
  21. I'm performing at the next Festival, what happens when I get to the concert hall? How does this performing thing work at the Alaska Folk Festival, anyway? Where do I go? What do I do?
  22. Where do I find the Stage Manager?
  23. What is the purpose of the Stage Diagram Form?
  24. How will I know when I should go on stage?
  25. What should I do while the stage crew is setting up?
  26. The Stage Crew had a problem with my set up. Will that count against my 15 minutes of stage time?
  27. How will I know when my 15 minutes is up?
  28. What does it cost to attend the Festival?
  29. Can you help me find lodging?
  30. Where can I get more information about the Alaska Folk Festival?

1) When / where / how can I get a Performer Application? When is the deadline?
A: We'll send out the performer application along with a newsletter to all members in mid to late January. The Application will be posted here on the Alaska Folk Festival web site. The due date (when the Applications must be received by us) will be late February or early March, about five weeks before the start of the Festival. The application will give the exact "in-our-hands-by" date. At that point, all applications are treated equally. Late applications go to the bottom of the pile and have an almost zero chance of getting into the schedule.
2) Do I have to send an audition tape?
A: There are no auditions, audition tapes, etc. required. Please don't sent your "promo pack." Just fill out the application and describe your act as requested there. Make sure it gets to us by the due date. The Festival board will get together right after the due date and arrange a schedule.
3) How much will I get paid to perform?
A: Because we are a free festival, we do not pay performers. If you want to come to Juneau and play on stage you will be doing so at your own expense. EVERYONE who comes to the Alaska Folk Festival to perform jam, party, listen, or otherwise participate, whether professional, amateur or just someone who loves the music, comes on their own nickel. This means they pay for their own travel to the Festival, arrange and pay for their own lodging and food.
4) How can I get to be a guest artist? Should I send you my promo pack?
A: We don't choose a Guest Artist based on their promo pack, so please save your money. We research, seek out and select our guest artists. They are chosen based largely on their connection to musical roots in America. We want Guest Artists who will demonstrate their music and heritage as well as entertain us and teach us. Check out the link for Guest Artist Criteria for more details on what we look for.
5) Am I guaranteed a spot if I send in my application?
A: Unfortunately, no; performance spots are NOT guaranteed just because you apply. Each year we have many more performance applications than performance space in our schedule, so not all acts get a chance to be on stage. There is NO guarantee that you will get a performing spot. The tentative schedule will be your notification. Some years as many as 25% of the performer applicants will be put on standby; of those, 10 or 15 may eventually get offered a spot in the schedule as acts cancel.
6) Do I have to be an Alaska Folk Festival member to perform?

A: You do not need to be a member of the Alaska Folk Festival to perform, watch, jam, anything. The Alaska Folk Festival is free to performers and audience members, alike. BUT, being a member of the Alaska Folk Festival is, in fact, something that you should WANT to do. Here's why:

Many people still erroneously believe that since the Festival is free to come to, it must not cost anything to put on. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The venue rentals and the Guest Artists (fee, travel, room and board) alone cost the Festival more than $20,000 (in 2003), for just those items. The Festival spends another $5,000+ on professional sound engineering, equipment rental, printing, etc. In addition we invest $15,000 or more in merchandise to sell at the Membership Table.

Memberships (of people like you and me) pay for most of the Festival costs, about 75% in fact. The remaining 25% of the Festival's expenses comes from Membership Table Merchandise income, from sales of tee-shirts, posters and such. Some income comes from concerts during the rest of the year. That's it. No grants.

In fact individual memberships supply about 75% of the money that goes to pay for the Festival, folks like you and I. Performers and audience members who love the should WANT to be a member. That's the only way to make sure there will be a next Alaska Folk Festival. $15 signs you up, though more is always helpful. There is a membership form on the web site.

Oh, in case you were wondering, the AFF Board is all volunteer. There is no paid AFF staff.

So, as a summation: the all volunteer AFF board (7 people) work their tails off for free for several months before the Festival organizing it; hundreds of folks (250+) volunteer to do the many tasks needing doing DURING the Festival; hundreds of people (800+ addresses) donate money by becoming members to help pay the expenses; performers (500+) come to play; and, voilá, we have the Alaska Folk Festival.

OK, so it's not that simple, but without the hundreds of volunteers AND the hundreds of members, there would be no Alaska Folk Festival.

So, do you have to be a member to perform? No. But, this said, when it comes time to create the Tentative Schedule, we have had , for the past 15 years, more performers applying than performance spots. Who do we place on Standby and who do we give a performance spot? That is ALWAYS a difficult decision. There have been times when we have to chose between two essentially identical acts for one performance spot, one an AFF member and the other not a member. In these cases, we tend to give first chance to the AFF member, giving them the spot on the schedule. The other act will be placed on Standby where they could STILL get into the schedule if someone cancels (which does not preclude them getting into someone else's act). This does not happen often, but does happen.


7) What happens after the Performer Application due date? When do I know anything about the performance schedules? What is the Tentative Schedule?
A: Very shortly after the Performer Application due date, the Festival Board meets and hashes out the schedules. We create a Tentative Schedule which we send to all the performers who applied, usually about week after the due date. Seeing your act's name in this schedule means you got in. This schedule also has other important information of utility to performers.
8) I'm bummed. I didn't get in to the schedule. Why did I get put on Standby? I put in for two acts, but one got put on Standby. What happened?

A: Being put on Standby is a hard thing to find out. "Why me?" The short answer: Because we always have more application than performance spots in the schedule, everyone does NOT get into the schedule. But, why you, specifically?

When we meet to create the concert and dance schedules, we are looking to create interesting shows for the audience to watch at each concert. We are looking for variety. We are also seeking to get as many different performers on stage over the course of the Festival as we can. We do not want stage hogs who the audience sees time and again. Beyond this, why a particular act goes on standby is based largely on the laws of chance. For example, if we get five different kazoo bands that say they can only perform on Friday night, we are likely to put three or four of them on standby. Out of 15 acts an evening (most evenings) to have 1/3 of the acts all sounding the same is bad programming. We want, and the audience deserves variety; after all they help PAY for the Festival with their memberships. In the case of the kazoo bands, the acts that are removed are taken out of the show by randomly pulling out their application. Another issue with these kazoo bands is that they could only perform on in one concert. This ties our hands because everyone can't perform on the same evening. Out of town acts are frequently in town only on the weekends. Sometimes an act will be in town for the weekend but say they can only perform in the evenings and not the afternoons. If an act really wants to perform, they will not limit themselves and will give us all possible performance options to place them in, including weekend afternoons. Scheduling is a balancing act where the AFF Board does its best to be fair to everyone. We wish everyone could get a performance spot, but that isn't possible.


9) How can I maximize my chances of getting in the schedule?

A: 1) Be as complete as you can when filling out the Performer Application.

Some applications come to us with so little information (no list of performers, no description, etc.) that we wonder if they are actually serious about performing. Often such applications go into the Standby pile pretty early in the scheduling meeting (Which, by the way can take four hours, or more, some years.) We worry that the act is not serious and will cancel. It is much better for everyone if we schedule acts that will NOT cancel. Treat your application to perform seriously. Be realistic. If you know in your heart that you are "iffy," please don't apply.

2) Give us as many performances as possible to place you in.

We ask you when you CAN'T perform. Don't decide you don't WANT to play on this day or that, even if you COULD perform then. If we have the chance of putting you in any of the nine concerts, your chances of getting in the schedule are MUCH better than if you say you can only perform in one particular concert. Out of town performers are frequently only in town for the weekend. In their case, the afternoon concerts are half of the performance chances. Out of town acts who really want to perform on stage should make sure we know they will perform in the afternoon or evening. If you limit the concerts you'll let us schedule you for, you may end up in the standby pile.

3) Only apply for one act.

Since we try to get as many different folks on stage as we can, we do not appreciate performers putting in for two or more acts. If you are in two acts that have essentially the same set of performers, you need to decide which of the acts you really want and only apply for or stay in that one, not both.


10) OK. I'm on standby. What happens next?
A: It's hard to be placed on Standby. Why your act got put there is largely a matter of chance, but that does not lessen the disappointment. What happens next? Over the five weeks between the scheduling meeting and the start of the Festival, a number of acts will contact us saying they have to cancel.
11) How many acts will cancel?
A: That's hard to say, but averages around a dozen. Also, hard to say is WHEN the acts will cancel. Some acts cancel as soon as they see their name in the Tentative Schedule, in early March, and realize they can't come. Some don't let us know until very late, even during the Festival.
12) Who gets taken off the Standby List and offered chance to play?
A: That depends on WHEN the spot opens. If the cancellation is on a Monday night, most out of town people will not be available, for example. If you have told us, on your performer application, that you are only available Friday, Saturday and Sunday and an opening appears on Thursday, obviously you can't fill it. If you have told up you can only perform Friday or Saturday evenings (but not Saturday afternoon) you limit your chances, and may not get a substitution offer. Also, since we strive for a variety of acts at each concert, if you could fill a spot with your glockenspiel act, but that concert already has four glockenspiel acts, we might opt for a different substitution rather than have five glockenspiel acts.
13) I'm a solo act, a singer/songwriter. I can play any time. Can't you fit me in?
A: Being a solo act makes your prospects on Standby MUCH easier. Though we don't want a schedule full of solo acts, groups will lose their enthusiasm for rehearsing if they find themselves on Standby and may well have given up by the time we could get to them to offer them an opening. Groups or solos acts that play anyway will be hanging in there, even for a last minute offer to fill an opening. One advantage solos singer/songwriters have over other acts is that even if they don't get offered a spot to perform, there is the Songwriters Showcase. Saturday and Sunday afternoon, songwriters can sign up to perform a couple of their songs at the Showcase in a coffee house environment with an appreciative audience.
14) What's the point of coming to the Alaska Folk Festival if I don't get a chance to perform on stage?
A: Since the Alaska Folk Festival is a week long music party, a 15 minute set is only a tiny part of what goes on here. Even if you do not get your own set, you might end up getting invited into someone else's set. And, there is still a lot of fun to be had in the almost continuous jamming all around town and the new friends you'll make, not to mention the 40 hours of concerts, the 13 hours of dances, two days of workshops, the Songwriter's Showcase and the separately organized Coffee and Jam dance/potluck and more, all happening during the Festival's week long run.
15) How long will my set be?
A: Every act that gets in the schedule has one 15 minute performance set (counting set-up), in Centennial Hall. Or, if you are doing a dance set, you will have 50 minutes for your dance music (counting set-up). We do schedule the guest artists to perform longer sets.
16) What do you mean "15 minute set counting set-up?" What if I have a big act that takes a long time to set-up?
A: Your entire time on stage from when the stage crew starts setting up for your act to the end of your last tune/song should be 15 minutes or less. Given the popularity of performing at the Alaska Folk Festival, in order to get as many performers and acts across the stage as we can, we have settled on 15 minutes sets. The "clock" starts when the stage crew has finished clearing the previous act and starts setting up yours. You don't have time to waste. Get on stage. Start making musical sounds so the sound engineers can get you dialed in. When you are set, the MC will introduce you and away you go. At this point, you may have been on stage for 2-3 minutes depending on your set-up, longer if you are disorganized or have a complex set up, leaving you with a maximum of maybe 12 minutes for you music AND any between song talking you might do. When you have been on stage for 13 minutes, a RED light will turn on at the front of the stage. This is your "Two Minute Warning." If you are in a song, it should be your last. Don't start a song after the red light has come on unless it is real short.
17) I wrote these really great songs and want to describe them to the audience. Is that OK?
A: Bob Dylan said, "If you have to explain a song, it ain't worth singing." Be that as it may, you should realize that talking can eat up a surprising amount of your set time, if you are not careful. If you are going to talk a lot, you can't sing/play as much. All your talking is part of your act, part of your 15 minutes. When you rehearse, time your music, AND time your talking. Based on experience, we recommend that you keep the total (music and talking) to about 12 minutes. That gives you three minutes for the Stage Crew to set you up and for anything unexpected. Do not cut the 15 minute time limit too close or you'll find yourself going over.
18) So, how many songs can I actually play in my set?
A: With set up and talking, you should plan on no more than about 10 minutes of music (three average 3 minute songs). If you plan carefully, have a quick and easy set-up and yack very little on stage, you might get by with 12 minutes of music, but that is risky as it is easy to end up going overtime.
19) Why this rigorous time limit?
A: The goal is to be fair to all the other performers. Each performer has the same time to fit their act into, 15 minutes. If a performer goes long that does two unfair things: 1) It pushes back the ending time of the LAST acts of the concert, meaning smaller audience for the last acts than those who went earlier, because people start to go home as the hour gets late. 2) This unnecessarily late ending time ALSO adds to the work time of the technical volunteers, many of whom work long hours during the Festival and all for free. The volunteers usually have day jobs and need to get their sleep to function efficiently at the next concert.
20) What happens if I end up going overtime?
A: That really depends on how much you go over time. Don't sweat a few seconds. Two or three minutes (or more) and you will probably be sent a warning letter. In the past we have told some overtime acts that they can't perform at the next Festival. The 15 minute time limit is a matter of courtesy and fairness to all the other performers.
21) I'm performing at the next Festival. What happens when I get to the concert hall? How does this performing thing work at the Alaska Folk Festival, anyway? Where do I go? What do I do?
A: Show up AT LEAST an HOUR before your performance time, so that you don't miss your performance spot because the concert is moving faster than anticipated. The STAGE MANAGER will be looking for you; and, you need to make contact with that person. They will fill you in on procedures and where we are in the concert schedule, answer questions and have you fill out a Stage Diagram Form. When it is your time to perform, the Stage Manager will get you on stage while the Stage Crew is setting up for your act (based on your Stage Diagram Form) and the sound crews are turning up mics. The MC will introduce you. The performing part is up to you.
22) Where do I find the Stage Manager?
A: There are several places. 1) At one end of Centennial Hall (the Festival's main venue) there are several small meeting rooms around a small lobby. One of these rooms may have child care going on in it, but the rest are warm-up rooms for performers. Find an empty room (or, you might have to share). The Stage Manager will make the rounds of the rooms looking for performers. Another place to make contact with the Stage Manager is to hang out at the Membership Table in the main lobby (with all the tee-shirts). Let the folks there know you are looking for the Stage Manager. They will help flag them down. A third place to make contact is in the performing hall, where the Stage Crew and monitor sound board are. Actually, on the WEEKEND AFTERNOONS, the Stage Crew area is THE place to find the stage manager, as all but one of the meetings rooms will be packed with workshops. 3) When the Stage manager finds you, they will update you on where things are in the schedule and hand you a Stage Layout Form to fill out.
23) What is the purpose of the Stage Diagram Form?
A: The Stage Diagram is one of your main ways of communicating your stage needs to the stage crew and the sound engineers. You'll list performers, mark on the form WHERE people will be standing/sitting, WHAT they will be playing, WHERE people will be singing/talking, who needs a DI, etc. The stage Crew will set up the stage for you as you diagram it, so get this step right. A poor stage diagram will slow down the stage set-up, eating into your stage time. The stage crew tries to work as fast as possible to minimize the time they take on stage. Any and all information about your act that the Stage Crew can get before they set up for your act will help. If you need to talk to the Stage Crew Leader because you have some special needs, out of the normal, that's fine. If there are things you want the sound engineers to know, the Stage Diagram Form is the place to note them. The more organized YOU are, and the more info you give the Stage Crew/Sound Crews, the quicker your set-up will be. Since set-up IS part of your 15 minutes on stage, shortening the set-up gives you more performing time.
24) How will I know when I should go on stage?
A: Since you have already made contact with the Stage Manager and filled out the Stage Diagram Form, the Stage manager knows where to find you. When the act just before yours goes on stage for their 15 minute set, the Stage Manager will come get you and walk you to a position back stage just outside the concert hall. When the act on stage has finished their last piece, you'll be ushered into the concert hall during the applause. The act on stage will come down one set of stairs and you'll go up another. The Stage Crew will already be on stage clearing away from the last act and starting the set up for yours.
25) What should I do while the stage crew is setting up?
A: It is very important for the Sound Engineers that you start to talk, strum, etc., as soon as a microphone is place in front of you. They can start dialing you in so that when the Stage Crew is done and the MC introduces you, everyone is ready to roll. Also, as you are making noise the Stage Monitor Sound Operator will be turning up the stage monitor speakers. You should start hearing yourself through them. This is a very good time to make sure everyone can hear everyone they need to hear. If you want changes in the monitors, let the operator know. They are off at stage left. Smile and wave at them!
26) The Stage Crew had a problem with my set up. Will that count against my 15 minutes of stage time?
A: If the problem was due to you having an overly complex set-up or equipment problems, yes, that is YOUR time ticking by. Check your guitar cables, pickups and such BEFORE you come to Centennial Hall. Get things fixed/replaced, if need be. On the other hand, if the problem was a goof or inefficiency by the stage crew, that will NOT count against your stage time. Close counts in the 15 minute timing deal. It will not be measured to the second. So, relax. Rehearse well. Enjoy your stage time.
27) How will I know when my 15 minutes is up?
A: If you have a watch, make a note of when you go on stage. That will help. In any event, as soon as the Stage Crew starts setting up for YOUR act (clearing pieces of the previous act do not count against you), the monitor board operators will start a 15 minute timer. When their timer reaches 13 minutes, a RED LIGHT will turn on at the center-front of the stage. This is your TWO MINUTE WARNING. If you are in a song, go ahead and finish it, but DO NOT start another. Revel in the applause and move off stage for the next act. If the red light comes on just before you start your last song, you have a decision. How long is that last song?? Don't leave a long song for last as you might either not get to sing it; or, if you sing it, you'll end up going over time -- not a good thing to do in front of everyone. TIME YOUR ACT when you rehearse, with all music and between song talking you might want to do included in your timing (talking takes up an amazing amount of time of time). Put short tunes at the end of your set to give you flexibility. Keep your entire act (music and talking) to a maximum of 12 minutes and you should be fine. Set up will likely eat up the rest of your 15 minutes.
28) What does it cost to attend the Festival?
A: There is no charge to perform at the Festival and admission to the concerts is also free. BUT, we strongly encourage everyone to become a MEMBER of the Alaska Folk Festival. Even though this is a volunteer run, "free" festival, it still costs $30,000+ a year to put on. The money to make the Festival happen comes mostly from memberships, both performers and audience members. If you enjoy the Alaska Folk Festival, support it with your membership.
29) Can you help me find lodging?
A: The Festival's volunteers have a lot to do just to get the Festival off and running, so they don't have the time or energy to help people find lodging. There are several downtown hotels with the Prospector Hotel, Goldbelt Hotel and the Driftwood Motel being the closest, just a couple minutes walk away from Centennial Hall. Located a five minute walk away in the center of downtown are the Alaskan Hotel & Bar, Westmark Baranoff, Silverbow Inn. Other close hotels are the Alaska Suites and the Driftwood, still within 10 minute walking distance. As well, there are quite a few Bed & Breakfasts in downtown Juneau. Go to the accomodation finder on the Juneau Convention and Visitor Bureau web sit where you'll be able to find all commercial lodgings in Juneau. To be closest to the Festival chose "Downtown" from the location list menu.
30) Where can I get more information about the Alaska Folk Festival?

A: This web site is one of the best places for more information. There is a lot of useful information to be found, so browse around. There is also a MEMBERSHIP FORM that you can print out and mail in with your check or fill out the web form and use your credit card.

Still have questions? You can leave a message on the Festival's voice mail number 907-463-3316. If you expect us to call you back, make it easy to reach you by giving times when you can be reached. Also leave a detailed specific question so we can leave an answer on your message machine. We are all volunteers and would rather not waste time playing "phone tag."