Folk Alliance International (FAI), a 501(c)3 and the foremost global nonprofit for folk music, will present a convening of some of the music industry’s leading authorities and creators to address the ability of folk music to galvanize and catalyze movements to advance our world, at its 36th Annual Conference February 21-25, 2024 in Kansas City, MO. FAI has confirmed the International Folk Music Award (which are part of the conference) upcoming recipients and Best of 2023 nominees as well as the conference keynote presenters. In addition to the IFMAs and presentations, over 2,000 artist showcases will also take place under one roof.
Lifetime Achievement Awards will be granted to four-time GRAMMY Award-winner, thirteen-time GRAMMY nominee, and writer of a #1 Billboard Hot Country Song chart hit, Tracy Chapman; Chilean songwriter and activist Victor Jara; and McCabe’s Guitar Shop, which has been hosting concerts in Southern California for over 50 years. (The Elaine Weissman Lifetime Achievement Awards are presented each year to honor the cultural impact of legendary folk music figures: one Living, one Legacy, and one Business/Academic.)
The People’s Voice Award is presented to an individual who unabashedly embraces social and political commentary in their creative work and public careers. This year’s recipient is Alynda Segarra (of Hurray For the Riff Raff, which has released nine albums).
The following are the finalists for the 2023 Album, Artist, and Song of the Year:
Album of the Year
Amatssou – Tinariwen (Wedge Records)
City Of Gold – Molly Tuttle and Golden Highway (Nonesuch)
False Lankum – Lankum (Rough Trade)
Stand in the Joy – William Prince (Six Shooter Records)
Welcome to Whatever – Rainbow Girls (self-release)
Artist of the Year (sponsored by the Folk Americana Roots Hall of Fame)
Song of the Year
“Changes” written by Joy Oladokun & Dan Wilson, performed by Joy Oladokun
“Keep It On A Burner” written and performed by Margo Cilker
“Tears Run Dry” written by Abraham Alexander, Ian Barter, Leo Stannard, performed by Abraham Alexander
“The Returner” written by Allison Russell, Drew Lindsay, & JT Nero, performed by Allison Russell
“Workin’ On A World” written and performed by Iris Dement
Among the Album of the Year nominees are 40+ year Tuareg group Tinariwen, whose album Amatssou was named the #1 Global Music album of the year by MOJO Magazine; 2023 GRAMMY Best New Artist nominee Molly Tuttle and Golden Highway; The Guardian’s #1 album of 2023, False Lankum, by the Dublin, Ireland band; William Prince, who has opened concerts for Neil Young and did an NPR Tiny Desk Concert in 2023; and Bodega, CA trio Rainbow Girls.
Artist of the Year nominees are Billy Strings, whose most recent album Me/And/Dad hit #1 on the Billboard Bluegrass Chart, #1 on the Billboard Emerging Chart, and #37 on the Billboard Top 200; Turtle Island, Canada’s Digging Roots, an electrifying husband-and-wife duo of the Anishinabe Onkwehonwe nation and two-time JUNO Award winners; Guatemalan singer-song Gaby Moreno, who has earned four GRAMMY nominations and is based in Los Angeles; Madi Diaz, who has opened concerts for Harry Styles and about whom Rolling Stone said, “Get ready for the year of Madi”; and beloved trio Nickel Creek, consisting of Chris Thile, Sara Watkins, and Sean Watkins.
Song of the Year Nominations come for Joy Oladokun, who was profiled by CBS This Morning last year; Margo Cilker; son of Nigerian immigrants in Greece then America, Abraham Alexander; the legendary Iris Dement; and longtime collaborators JT Nero and 2022 IFMA Artist of the Year Allison Russell with Drew Lindsy.
(Final nominees for Album, Artist, and Song of the Year are compiled from US, Canadian, and international “best of” annual industry and media lists in addition to the year-end Folk DJ Charts. Award winners are determined by FAI’s voting membership. Winners will be announced at the International Folk Music Awards on February 21, 2024.)
The IFMA house band will be Virginia’s The Steel Wheels, founders of the Red Wing Roots Music Festival.
All conference attendees will have access to attend the IFMAs.
For The Rising Tide Award (sponsored by Levitt Foundation), FAI will tap Guatemalan songwriter, vocalist, and activist in defense of women’s and indigenous people’s rights, Sara Curruchich, who is the first musician to use Kaqchikel language of her people in popular music for an international audience. The Rising Tide Award was launched in 2021 to celebrate a new generation (under 30) artist who inspires others by embodying the values and ideals of the folk community through their creative work, community role, and public voice.
FAI has also announced the recipient of the Clearwater Award, Spirit of Folk Awards, and inductees to the Folk Radio Hall of Fame. The Clearwater Award is presented to a festival that prioritizes environmental stewardship and demonstrates public leadership in sustainable event production and this year will go to LEAF Global Arts Festival. The Spirit of Folk Awards will go to Lead Belly Estate’s Terika Dean; artist from the Métis Nation of Ontario, Amanda Rheaume; Jim Fleming, founder of the booking agency Fleming Artists; and FAI’s own Jerod Rivers, who has served in the organization for eleven years in a number of roles, presently as Conference Director. The Spirit of Folk Awards are presented to honor and celebrate people and organizations actively involved in the promotion and preservation of folk music through their creative work, their community building, and their demonstrated leadership.
Newly minted Folk Radio Hall of Famers include Folk Alley’s Linda Fahey; forty-plus year veteran Jan Vanderhorst; Mountain Stage founder Larry Groce; Bob Sherman, whose “Woody’s Children” show graced NYC’s airwaves for nearly 55 years; and Celtic music ambassador Brian O’Donovan. The Folk Radio Hall of Fame was established to recognize radio DJs who have made an outstanding contribution to the preservation, promotion, and presentation of folk music, and who have demonstrated and inspired leadership in the broadcast field.
In addition, FAI has confirmed keynote presenters at its 2024 annual conference:
Five-time GRAMMY Award-winner Noel Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul and Mary; Two-time GRAMMY Award-winner and Latin Grammy nominee Lucy Kalantari; and President and CEO of the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA), David Israelite.
FAI will present three full days of thought leadership, interactive discussion, and best practices related to the alchemic power and transformative force of music to create meaningful change in the world, connecting artists with worldwide listenership. Among Folk Alliance International Conference firsts this year are a Wellness Summit, and a Legal Summit. The Black American Music Summit (BAMS) and a summit with partner International Indigenous Music Summit is also set.
Other confirmed speakers include:
- Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, Tom Paxton
- Two-time Grammy Award nominee, Country Music Association Award winner, and Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famer, Beth Nielsen Chapman
- Anna Canoni, granddaughter of Woody Guthrie and Vice President, Woody Guthrie Publications, Inc.
- Multi-Juno Award nominee, Shakura S’Adia
- Tony Award Winner John Gallagher, Jr.
- Richard James Burgess, President & CEO, American Association of Independent Music (A2IM)
- Stephen Parker, Executive Director, National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) and named to Billboard Magazine 40 Under 40 in 2023
- Brandi Waller Pace, Founder/Executive Director, Decolonizing the Music Room
- Entertainment attorney powerhouses Peter Strand, Matthew Wilson, Brian Rosenblatt, and Janine Small
- Clinical Associate Professor at New York University Judy Tint
- Ashley Shabankareh, Director of Operations and Programs, Trombone Shorty Foundation
- Elizabeth Stookey Sunde, Founder and Executive Director, Music to Life
- Marah Czap, of Yep Roc Records
- The Tennessean’s Marcus K. Dowling
- Michelle Solomon of Pandora
- Songwriter Livingston Taylor
- Professor of Environmental Justice at the Yale School of the Environment, Gerald Torres
For complete conference programming, head here.
The live, in-person presentations will take place during the conference February 21-25, 2024 at the Westin Crown Center Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri.
Past FAI keynote speakers have included Valerie June, Margaret Atwood, Mavis Staples, Rhiannon Giddens, Judy Collins, Al Gore, Billy Bragg, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Graham Nash, Ani DiFranco, and more.
The conference’s theme in 2024 is Alchemy: A Transformative Force, showcasing the power of music to provide the change needed in the world. Previously announced are the over 150 Official Showcase artists who will perform at the conference.
Spotify’s official playlist of Official Showcase artists:
Among the artists announced to be performing Official Showcases are:
* Bodega, CA’s Rainbow Girls;
* JUNO Award nominee and multiple Maple Blues Award winner Matt Andersen;
* Arkansas’ Willi Carlisle, who performed at Newport Folk Fest
* Jolie Holland
* Powerhouse vocalist, intrepid songwriter, and drag queen Flamy Grant, winner of 2023 Kerrville New Folk Competition;
* Canadian-Grenadian “star in the making” (Folk Alley) Kaia Kater, who will have a new album in Spring, 2024 on Free Dirt Records
* Olive Klug, who found success on TikTok and whose songs reflect their experience with queer identity and the struggle to establish adulthood in unprecedented times
* Tony Award winner John Gallagher Jr., star of Broadway’s American Idiot, Spring Awakening, and the upcoming Avett Brothers musical Swept Away
* 2022 International Folk Music Award Song of the Year winner Crys Matthews
* Memphis’ Amy LaVere
* The Steel Wheels
* Livingston Taylor, writer of four Billboard Top Forty hits and subject of a 2019 PBS special
* IBMA Momentum Vocalist Award winner AJ Lee & Blue Summit
*Hit songwriter Bruce Sudano, who wrote the GRAMMY-nominated track “Tell Me I’m Not Dreamin’ (Too Good to Be True)” as well as songs for Michael Jackson, Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire, and his late wife, the GRAMMY Award-winning singer Donna Summer
* Three-time JUNO Award Winner, Connie Kaldor
* Austin’s Gina Chavez
* New Orleans’ Handmade Moments, who incorporate alto sax, bass clarinet, sousaphone, mandolin, guitar and beatboxing and were subjects of the documentary Busking, which screened at dozens of film festivals around the world
* Justin Adams, frequent Robert Plant collaborator, & Mauro Durante
* English singer John Smith, International Folk Music Award-nominee with over 100 million Spotify streams of his music
* Jorge Glem, Venezuelan virtuoso cuatro player, and Sam Reider Present Brooklyn-Cumaná
* Memphissippi Sounds, a blend of North Mississippi hill country blues, Memphis blues and soul, rock, and hip-hop featuring Cameron Kimbrough, grandson of blues legend Junior Kimbrough
* Three-time Scottish Traditional Music Awards Live Act of the Year winners Skerryvore
Major Sponsors and Funders:
Folk Americana Roots Hall of Fame
TRO Essex Music Group
Grassy Hill Entertainment
Kari Estrin Management, Consulting and Radio Promotion
Music Export Memphis
With public support from the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency and the Neighborhood Tourist Development Fund of Kansas City, Missouri, the Kemper Family Foundations, and Martin Guitar Charitable Foundation
More About The Theme
Folk Alliance International’s 2024 Conference theme Alchemy: A Transformative Force explores how changes in culture alter the ways we make and share music, which, in turn, transforms lives and changes the world. The power of alchemy can manifest, for example, when an artist processes their individual pain into words and vibrations that connect and comfort listeners. The alchemy theme invites us to lean into processes of discovery and experimentation and to think about how we nurture the sparks of creativity that light fires of change. The conference will explore the idea of alchemy and transformation as it relates to:
* the power and transformative force of the creative process, and its cultural influence, to alter the world and effectuate meaningful change
* new frontiers in technology to provide a path to transformation
* resilience and innovation in business
* the important chemistry between artist and audience
More About the Conference
Official Showcases feature jury-selected, tour-ready musicians representing diverse cultures, languages, and sounds. These thirty-minute sets are performed on full production stages. Private Showcases turn hotel rooms into listening rooms. These performances are more intimate, often without any amplification, and turn each floor of the hotel into its own festival.
The conference and showcase performances will be held at the Westin Crown Center Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri, USA.The Folk Alliance International conference also offers various networking and mentoring opportunities, including Peer Sessions (for agents, labels, festivals, and artists), speed meetings, artist mentorship meetings, summits, and Affinity Group sessions for communities including BIPOC, LGBTQ2IA+, Women, Folks 55+, Folks with Disabilities, and more. Founded in 1989, and governed by a 21-member board of directors, Folk Alliance International (FAI) is the world’s largest membership organization for the folk music industry and community. Its mission is to serve, strengthen, and engage the global folk music community through preservation, presentation, and promotion.