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folkmusic Frequently Asked Questions

Rev 5.0b, January 2002

Copyright 1995-2002, by Kara Longo and Alan Rowoth.
All Rights Reserved.
The latest version of this file, enhanced with hyperlinks, should always be found at:

Visit folkmusic's home site,, at

Not responsible for financial loss, wasted connect time, pointless car trips, lovers' quarrels, meteorological events, or supernatural manifestations inspired by the use of information herein contained. Always confirm information independently before acting.

This Is A FAQ File

FAQ is an acronym for "Frequently Asked Questions." Its intent is to describe the folkmusic mailing list and what is discussed there, to provide a jumping-off point for further investigation, and to answer questions that most new readers will have.


New American Folk Music discussion List

folkmusic is a moderated discussion list dealing with the music of the recent wave of American singer/songwriters. List traffic consists of discussion, reviews, album release info and other information on artists like Shawn Colvin, Mary Chapin Carpenter, David Wilcox, Nanci Griffith, Christine Lavin, The Bixbys, Dee Carstensen, Dar Williams, Richard Shindell, Cosy Sheridan, Hamell On Trial, Susan Werner, Dave Nachmanoff, Buddy Mondlock, and others of their ilk.

Membership to this discussion list is free of charge and open to all interested individuals or organizations.

The list began in 1991, most of those posts are not currently available online, but we have been archiving list postings since May of 1999 at

Subscription Instructions

Note that the name of this list no longer contains an underscore. We used to be folk_music, we are now folkmusic. Check your web links, many pages linked to us, some of those links may not have been updated.

All list subs, unsubs, digest/nodigest/nomail options are now set via a web interface.
Set your browser to

To post a message to the group send it to:


All other questions, requests for information, etc., should be sent to the moderator at The list moderator is Alan Rowoth.

What is a Mailing List?

folkmusic is a list of email addresses maintained with a "list server software. Each address on the list receives a copy of each message sent to the list. folkmusic is a moderated list. This means that a human being, the moderator or an assistant, reads each message and forwards appropriate ones to the list. Postings which don't follow the list posting guidelines will be rejected with an explanation notice, except for obvious SPAM which will just be discarded.

For more about mailing lists and how to use them, visit Liszt at Liszt is a searchable database of thousands of mailing lists from all over the world. It includes lots of easy-to-use features and information for people who are very new to the use of mailing lists.


What is the difference between digest and single messages?

Many people prefer to subscribe to this list in "digest" form. This means that all of a day's messages are combined in a single email message with a table of contents.

Due to network traffic and other factors, digests aren't received at the same time each day or even at the same time by all subscribers. It's not unusual for digest posts to be separated by more than or less than 24 hours. Occasionally, two digests may arrive on the same day. Be sure to subscribe to the folkmusic digest if this is your preference.

What if I change my mind?

All list subs, unsubs, digest/nodigest/nomail options are now set via a web interface.
Set your browser to

How do I change my address?

All list subs, unsubs, digest/nodigest/nomail options are now set via a web interface.
Set your browser to

We want you to stay around, but if you know you will lose access to your account, or if you no longer wish to be on the list, please do unsubscribe. If you have trouble with any of this, please send a note to the folkmusic moderator, Alan Rowoth, at and he'll try to help.

How do I set the list to NOMAIL when I'm going to be away?

All list subs, unsubs, digest/nodigest/nomail options are now set via a web interface. Set your browser to Since the list is fully moderated, you are not required to be a member of the list to post a message to it.

Okay, so I have a subscription? Now what?


"Lurking" is slang for reading without posting. There's nothing wrong with it, especially when you're new to an email list. It's a good way to get a feel for the kinds of concrete information that readers are expecting to see. You're never required to post to an email list to be a welcome member of the group.


Because folkmusic has hundreds of subscribers on several continents (more than many lists you may have already seen,) we don't generally ask new subscribers to introduce themselves. You're welcome to, though, and we're especially interested to know that you're here and how you fit into the music community if you're a working performer, agent, promoter, venue operator, deejay, student activities person, or work in a music-related field. Some of the most interesting information on folkmusic comes from performers and other professionals who generously share their unique perspectives and watch to see what interests readers.

What happens when I post?

There are several possibilities. This is a moderated list, that means each message is read by a person who can choose whether or not to send it on to the general readership. Things that may happen to your post:

  • It will normally be forwarded "as is" to the list. Occasionally the moderator may append a comment. His comments usually are intended to keep the conversation on-topic, but he also may add his perspective as a music professional and a knowledgeable fan of the genre.

    Your text will not be altered, except for an occasional spelling correction. Partial messages will not be posted, so off topic content may result in your entire message being rejected. Read the submission guidelines carefully.

  • If your message is a response to an earlier post, and the info is more of interest to the original writer than the readership at large, the message may be forwarded to that writer, rather than the entire list. (In this case, the moderator will usually let you know that he's done this.)

  • Your message may be returned to you because it's off topic or clearly more appropriate for one of the more industry oriented lists, FOLKDJ-L, FOLKVENU, or FOLKBIZ. You will receive a rejection notice if this is the case. Due to the volume of off topic messaging, the rejection is a form letter. Please reexamine your post carefully to determine why it did not meet submission guidelines.

    Obvious spam (mass emailing of unsolicited advertisements) are rejected without notice to the sender, since spammers use replies to confirm that addresses valid, and to target them again.

  • You may receive a direct answer from the moderator or an online correspondent if you've asked a specific question they can answer. (Especially if this covers information already covered in prior list discussions.)

Because the list is hand moderated and the listserv software only runs at certain times each day, distribution to the list can take hours or even a couple of days. Couple that with the knowledge that many people only check their mail once every day or so, and you'll see that time sensitive information should be posted well in advance. Posting with 72 to 96 hours of lead time is probably the best insurance that your message will reach list members in time for action.

To whom should I respond?

The original writer of the message that interested you is often the best choice. If your response is of general interest to most readers, it's appropriate to reply to the list.

So what is "On Topic?"

The best way to get a feel for that is to read for a while and see what's going on. On-topic discussion includes:

  • Album release info.
  • Reviews of concerts and recordings.
  • Info on where to find more info, including WWW page announcements.
  • "VCR alerts" of upcoming national TV and radio exposure for on topic artists.
  • Spotlight posts to highlight new artists and venues not yet discovered by the list membership.
  • Table of Contents and other info on national singer/songwriter oriented publications.
  • Discussion of the Folk Alliance and regional folk organizations.
  • Press releases concerning frequently discussed topics.
  • Member summarized polls that show listener trends or summarize groups of resources.
  • Questions of broad, general interest. (Not questions whose answers would interest very few readers.)
  • Postings relating to House Concerts and Musical Ecotourism, two topics of activism on the list.
Our main focus is North American singer-songwriters of the genre that is frequently described as "New Folk," or "singer-songwriters," or "that stuff that your record store never knows how to bin." Performers of interest might show up in the "folk," "country," or "pop" sections of your record store, but their music is generally of an acoustic bent.

There is never a clear definition of what fits; for example, you'll often see discussion of a figures like June Tabor or Richard Thompson, who aren't known for their writing or their North Americanness or their newness on the scene, but they've had a lasting effect on American musicians. Generally, we discuss performers who are nationally or regionally popular in North America, and we give much notice to newer, up-and-coming figures. Performers who aren't touring at least regionally would best be discussed in local community forums, not on folkmusic. We're most interested in performers whose concerts can be seen by, and whose recordings can be bought by a large number of readers.

Your best bet is to lurk for a while to get a feel for what everyone is discussing.

I get it. I think I'm ready to post.

Your message is especially welcome if it's on-topic and follows a few practices that make it easy for a large number of people to handle quickly. We're a huge group of people, and few of us carefully read each message. Many of us also must pay for each email message we receive, and for the connect time and phone usage it takes to read them, so it's a matter of courtesy to keep things manageable. These are good rules of thumb:

Use a brief, descriptive subject line, and include dates and locations wherever possible, such as "REVIEW: Jim's Big Ego at Passim" Subject lines like "Hey, Check it out" or "FOLKMUSIC DIGEST #455" don't let the recipient know what to expect. If your message asks for information, your subject line should end with a question mark.

Keep in mind that most people don't read email messages if they're more than a few screens in length. Do you really want to include all those lines? Break for paragraphs every 4 or 5 lines, even if it doesn't make sense rhetorically. Short paragraphs are easier to read on computer screens than long ones. And stay away from that caps lock key, PEOPLE INTERPRET ALL CAPS AS SHOUTING.

It can be confusing when people refer to their favorite performers solely by their first names. (Does "Chapin" refer to Tom or Harry or Mary? Who is this Iris that I've never heard of in my country? Isn't Nanci that old American comic strip? Who the heck is this Shawn guy?)

Be aware of format issues like line length and strange characters that your software may insert into your email.

Use a line length of no more than 70 characters, and do use hard carriage returns, regardless of how your software wraps lines. Otherwise, your message my look fine in your mailbox, but in my mailbox, it will be chopped into lines of irregular length that are hard to read. Read and compose in a monospaced font like Courier or Monaco. This will give you lines of text that are spaced to fit monitors and printers in ways that are standard among computer users and software vendors.

Some combinations of software (i.e., composing with a word processor and exporting to email software) insert strange characters into email. These won't always be visible to you as you read your message in your mailer, but will send a garbled and hard to read email message to others. This is especially likely to happen when working across platforms (say, composing with a Mac word processor, stuffing your text into your mouse, and pasting it to the UNIX mail application your ISP provides.)

The surest way to avoid writing in an imaginary language is to compose email only with your email software. If you must use multiple applications, mail a test message to a friend before mailing one to many strangers who may not appreciate the beauty of the Cyrillic alphabet.

You may have to tell your mailer that your language is US English. Avoid characters that don't regularly appear in English, chances are, the list's software and readers' software won't support them.

If replying to a message, you may want to "quote" a sentence or two from the original posting to reference your reply as well as the original poster's email address. As:

>Subject: Spontaneous Gardening Accident
>And then he just burst into flames and was gone.

followed by your reply. In no case should the quoted material exceed the length of your reply. Quote only the bare essentials to make your posting clear. When in doubt, delete.

Please don't bother to reply to the list unless you have some actual content to add. If someone asks about LadySlipper records, don't post "They are great, I have their phone number around here someplace." Take a minute, look up the phone number and tell us, "They are great and can be reached at (555) 555-1234. I especially love that new Ani DiFranco album - Up Up Up Up Up Up". Contact phone numbers and email addresses greatly enhance the value of the information posted to the list.

Content costs. Someone pays for every byte. Our messages are distributed and replicated far and wide, all over the world. That's very cool, and it requires that we restrain ourselves from giving in to the impulse to post a message that says nothing but "Me too!," no matter how heartfelt. It's also just annoying to put time and effort, maybe money, into reading a message that turns out to be just empty calories. We have this enthusiasm in common, but we pay for the privilege of expressing it.

What's "Off-Topic?"

  • Just about any post over 3 or 4 screens in length, unless packed with vital info.
  • Concert information that belongs on Musi-Cal (more info below)
  • Blatantly commercial messages that could be interpreted as hype.
  • Messages that must begin with an apology for wasting bandwidth. If your message begins with an apology for wasting bandwidth and posting to too many forums, you are, in fact, wasting bandwidth and posting to too many forums. You're probably generating bad feelings about the subject of your message.
  • Virus "alerts" or political announcements without essential on topic content. Be aware that virus alerts are often hoaxes, and are forwarded by well meaning newcomers to the net.
  • Petitions or chain letters of any kind.
  • "Yellow Pages" requests for phone numbers and email addresses for individuals (Try the Ultimates, )
  • Where can I get a good steak dinner?
  • Requests for lists of song titles containing the word "cheese." (Try Alan's page about finding song copyright owners, song titles, and more, )
  • "Ditto!" posts affirming large blocks of quoted material but adding no substantial content.
  • Where can I buy that hard to find record album that I've been searching for everywhere? (Alan has a great page about finding albums, it's at )
  • Messages of interest to only one reader, personal messages to individuals.
  • Discussion of music easily classified as metal, house, etc.
  • World music, most music originating outside of North America or sung in languages other than English.
  • Traditional folk, filk, "old timey," and bluegrass forms.

(Before you slam us, yes, that's a lot of great music, yes, it's folk, yes, there's a lot of overlap with those audiences. We just can't cover everything with one list.)

So, it's on topic. What about?...

Some things come up again and again, and can never be resolved or even treated with truly new or interesting discussions. We have stopped trying to come to consensus on these purely personal issues. Here's a sample, with definitive answers:

Q: What is folk music?
A: About this long, this wide, and in my favorite color.

Q: Is Joe Singer really folk? Is the saxophone a folk instrument?.
A: And she tried to imagine what the flame of a candle looks like after it's been blown out...

Q: Who's better, Joe Singer or Bob Crooner?
A: Stir until mixture has a smooth consistency.

Q: Why do fans lose interest when locally popular performers achieve wider recognition?
A: How was I supposed to know, she looked eighteen to me.

Some postings are strictly verboten on folkmusic

  • Bootleg recordings or unauthorized merchandise of any kind.
  • Gossip.
  • Private details or conjecture about public figures' personal lives.
  • Blatantly commercial messages.
  • Adjective-ridden hype and flowery press releases.
  • Angry slams at what you don't like. (Tell us what you do like, we're not looking for bad stuff, we're looking for good stuff.)
  • Flames, namecalling, or general rudeness.

WHAT happened to the Artist and Venue Schedules?

We used to publish any and all artist and venue calendars to the list. It was easy to see that by the spring of 1996, each daily digest would reach an unreadable length of several dozen pages or more. So, in early 1995, the decision was made tofind a more efficient and focused way to distribute this important information. An ideal solution was found in a free service called Musi-Cal.

Accessible via WWW or email, Musi-Cal is an electronically searchable database that allows users to view customized concert calendars with links into artist and venue WWW pages.

folkmusic will still post some information on music festivals, house concerts, and some concert series, but ALL calendar information should be posted to and retrievable from Musi-Cal.

In general, we will no longer be posting artist or venue calendars to the folkmusic list. On topic material may be rejected if there are concert specifics included in the postings. Point to Musi-Cal.

For more information about Musi-Cal, send a message to concert@musi-cal.comwith the body "help" or direct your WWW browser to

What if I have a specific question, right NOW?

Try searching our home WWW site, . This encyclopedic, searchable reference contains a wealth of information about all aspects of folk music. Point your browser at:

Is there other cool Folk Music stuff out there?

Yup. This is the tip of the iceberg. Some of the more popular folk-oriented lists include:

These are just a few of the music lists on the net. To find others, consult or Myra K. Wong's List of Musical Mailing Lists.

Looking for a place to hear great live music near you, or in a town you'll be visiting? From, you can read about and search databases like Musi-Cal, Pollstar,, and Billboard Magazine's TourSearch.

For performers interested in developing a strategy for establishing a presence on the Internet, one approach is outlined in a WWW page Alan created for a workshop at the 1995 Folk Alliance conference and has presented at numerous other conferences. Feel free to use it and please send him suggestions on how he can make it better. It's located at

For radio stations carrying folk programming, consult Jeremy Butler's Folk Radio database.

Find lyrics and tabs for thousands of public domain folk songs in Dick Greenhaus's Digital Tradition database.

To find the writer of a song, see Alan's Finding Copyrights FAQ.

For links to information about licensing copyrighted material and paying royalties, contacting performance rights organizations like ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC, and their Internet resources; and music publishers like the Harry Fox Agency, see Alan's homepage.

Alan's homepage also has links for finding albums, books about the music business, Internet resources for guitarists, sheet music, musicology, MIDI, finding phone numbers, and promoting successful music events. There's other info there too, he updates his page regularly. He's caffeine free, but he sleeps about 10 minutes per day.

In General

Welcome to folkmusic. We're here to spread the word about how to find great new music and info. Don't forget to spread the word in offline ways, too: support live music in your neighborhood, ask your favorite record store to carry your favorite music, volunteer at a coffeehouse, help your local public radio station, design a tee shirt.

folkmusic FAQ Rev 5.0/ / revised January 2002

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