Via Karen on the Jason Webley list I subscribe to, some aggravating news concerning my favorite of the Seattle summer music festivals, Folklife. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, I had to miss the festival this year, and so I have not had a chance to round out the news from Karen.

She tells of Folklife’s new-this-year policy of harassing street performers should they choose to sell CDs direct to the public rather than via the Folklife store, a policy which resulted in the ejection of my friend Jason from the grounds of the Seattle Center, where the festival was held.

Apparently, the stepped-up enforcement was taken in response to the festival’s ongoing economic woes, and was intended to rectify lost revenues associated with control of CD sales via the Folklife store.

Naturally, street performers such as Jason are reluctant to separate CD sales from performance – doing so would effectively end CD sales for the performers. I personally think direct CD sales take very little away from CD sales in the Folklife store. This ban, just like the big media keiretsus attempts to ban analog to digital converters, simply results in a smaller pool of interested consumers and performers, shrinking the market, in the end killing Folklife itself.

No word at press time as to the size of the RIAA donation Folklife has clearly accepted. It seems kinda dumb, actually – the street performers represent, in many cases, the most organically active, non-preservationist venue in which folks can see and hear non-commercial music performed by, well, folks.

Anyway, it seems pretty clear we can kiss Folklife goodbye. Karen thoughtfully provided the address of the sponsoring organization’s directing officer, which I reproduce herein in the hopes that venomously polite correspondance will be directed toward it:

Michael J. Herschensohn
Executive Director
Northwest Folklife

4 thoughts on “Disheartening news

  1. Hi, Mike–just wanted to clarify one little point (something I didn’t know myself until a street performer/violinist showed me the official Folklife rules for street performers): actually, Folklife’s policy that performers should not sell their own merchandise on the street has been in effect for a number of years now; it’s just that ENFORCEMENT of this policy is WAY up from what it has been during previous years. Not only festival staffers, but Seattle Center event staffers, CSC (Contemporary Services Corp, a private national company providing event staffing at Seattle Center events) staffers, and even Seattle police were involved in enforcement of the Folkstore-or-the-highway policy during the festival this time around. Anyway, just wanted to clarify that this isn’t a new policy (sorry if I gave the wrong impression on the Jason Forum); just a new level of enforcement of the old one. A NEW policy is what both performers and Folklife need to hash out ASAP, in my opinion, in order to prevent a state of big-time alienation and loss of goodwill toward Folklife by performers and their fans/supporters…

    See you Saturday, I hope?


  2. I happened to be rushing through Folklife on Saturday to meet up with Murph and Juli when I came across Mr. Webley wowing the crowd. I was in a rush, so I only was able to catch two songs. Jason was performing right outside the CD store (could this have had something to do with the enforcement, or was it groundswide?), so I went in and bought a JW CD. Much recommended.

    Anyway, can you post a link or the details of the incident? My initial reaction is that you’re overreacting a smidge (mostly based on the idea that while JW is a wonderful street performer, that label no longer holds while he’s performing inside of festival grounds, especially if he’s performing directly outside of a store whose rent and sales covers a lot of the administrative costs of the event), but I’d like to hear some more info.

  3. Karen:

    I knew about the policy prior to hearing about Jason’s unfortunate experiencfes, but not about the stepped-up ennforcement.


    Karen wrote a detailed account of what she saw (an organized sting operation carried out against Jason), but I don’t think she’s posted it to her website yet.

    I suspect other street performers had similar experiences and so I hope there will be some coverage back home. I’ll keep eyes out.

    Jason has a new CD coming out on June 1, btw. Looks like I’ll have to order it online, though!

  4. Ackk! Jason’s guestbook is down! And he’s down in Oregon somewhere! Maybe the Folklife staffers are hacking/hexing his website! Yikes!!


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