Music is built on relationships; the relationships between notes and chords, between people and songs, and between the musicians and promoters who bring those songs to the world. For professional musicians, building relationships through music is a necessary part of building their careers.
“Nothing ever gets done in isolation,” said Summerfolk Artistic Director and JUNO-Award winner James Keelaghan, himself a more than 30-year veteran of the Canadian music scene. “And especially when you’re starting out, your best contacts in the music industry are your peers, specifically your peers who are gigging.”
According to Keelaghan, one of the most fruitful opportunities for performers to connect is at the jam sessions and song circles that pop up at music festivals and conferences.
“You tend to connect with people on a musical level first. You find out you share interests in songs or some of the same repertoire, that you sing in similar styles or you can sing in harmony. And after that you ask them: where do you play?” Keelaghan said.
Keelaghan experienced the benefits of that kind of musical networking early in his career after meeting Stephen Fearing at the Jasper Folk Festival in 1986. The pair bonded over their shared love of the music of John Martyn and Greg Brown and were soon comparing notes on their own careers. Keelaghan was based in Calgary and touring extensively in Alberta. Fearing was living in Vancouver and primarily touring British Columbia. Over the next few years the pair continued to share information ferociously and expanded their respective touring circuits by an entire province in the process.
On Sunday, September 17, Keelaghan will share that story and many other professional lessons and strategies at Summerfolk’s final Music Biz Tune Up Workshop of 2017. Musicians of all ages, stages, and genres are invited to join him from 1-3 p.m. at the Suite Spots in Owen Sound to learn firsthand about networking through the art of the jam.
“I hope that they take away some of the stuff that I didn’t know the first time I went to a music conference or when you’re just in the course of things,” Keelaghan said. “Like: have business cards printed and have them with you, make sure you have good publicity materials with you at all times, and learn how to jam. Learn songs by different people so you can go in a number of directions and that increases your ability to connect with people,” he added.
Registration for the workshop is $20 and can be done online or at the door. Keelaghan will deliver a shortened version of the workshop again on Saturday, September 23 as part of Summerfolk’s Music Biz Tune Up Conference as well. Interested musicians can find more information at Summerfolk.org.