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An interview with Al Kniola from WVPE (FAI Tip #6)

2016 February 3
by Mike Vial

I’ve been playing in South Bend regularly over the last year, and one of my favorite moments during my commute is crossing into Michiana, getting to WVPE’s broadcast radius.

WVPE is one of those NPR stations that we shouldn’t take for granted, with unique programing between the nationally syndicated favorite NPR shows.

Al Kniola has been hosting one of those unique programs since 1995, the Back Porch. This month, I interviewed him, seeking tips for songwriters attending Folk Alliance.

MV: Al’s what’s the most important event at FAI songwriters should attend other than their showcases?

AK: For Folk Alliance, the number one priority for artists is to attend the Folk-DJ Reception, usually on Thursday, the first full day of the conference. Have bunches of your CD(s) on hand and don’t be shy about approaching every single DJ in attendance, introduce yourself and give them an airplay copy.

MV: What if you don’t have professional CDs replicated for a new record yet?

AK: If you don’t have any CDs to distribute, make an EP on a CD-R and bring a bunch of them. Don’t forget a business card or one-sheet, especially if you don’t have good liner notes in your CDs.

MV: What about digital releases?

AK: Don’t count on passing out download cards; few DJs will bother with them.

MV: Gotcha. It sounds like the Folk DJ reception is essential.

AK: If you don’t do anything else at the conference, don’t miss this event. It is tailor-made to get your music into the hands of the people who can play it on the air or Internet. At last check, there are 48 media people registered for this year’s conference. Meet every one of them. A handful of showcases to a handful of people does not come anywhere close to the opportunity you have at this reception. Did I say “don’t be shy”? ;!)

MV:Thanks for that nudge to be friendly! As an artist, I need to remember it’s OK to be direct–just not pushy–to remember that we are here to build some relationships. What else should we be doing?

AK: Otherwise, find every opportunity to showcase, including hallways, elevator lobbies, wherever. The object is to be seen and heard as much as possible. Don’t waste your time and money going just to hang out with your pals. Work at it!

MV: I’ve already emphasized this in other blogs, but I’ve found the networking opportunities with other like-minded artists was an initial reason to attend.

AK: Networking with your fellow artists is invaluable. And a lot of venue people attend the conferences, too. They’re looking for new people to book. Meet as many as you can and give them a CD, too.

MV: Do you think DJs will ever switch to a digital system, with streaming and digital singles becoming more popular in the country, pop, and hip-hop markets?

AK Part-time DJS (that’s all of them), unpaid (that’s most of them – not me, however) don’t have the personal time and money to download everything that comes out. And no one has staff to do it for them.

MV: Gotcha. My friend Anthony Spak–actually a former student from my teaching days–is now the music director of Oakland University’s radio station, and he told me the same thing. He showed me the music library at WXOU. I can see why that album format is still embedded in this process.

AK: We tell artists and labels that, if they want airplay, we need hard copies, or we just don’t play those people. Their choice.

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Read Al Kniola’s bio here, and listen to the Back Porch online at WVPE or your radio dial on Sundays from 7-11 PM!


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