Results are in!

by nicole on May 29, 2012

153 of you sweltered through the Folk Fest Artist Survey and made it out alive. And I thank you. Now you’re wondering how everyone fared. And to be honest, I am still wondering myself. The data is a tad overwhelming and will likely need to be broken down into a few posts. Anyone who would like to see the raw numbers can contact me directly (nicole dot braseth at gmail dot com) as I’m happy to share.

Let’s start with the easy stuff, demographics. Disclaimer: I only used stats from responses that went through the whole survey – to keep the artist stats fair (as they were listed alphabetical, that would’ve given preference to the first few pages of artists).

In hindsight I would’ve asked for location, but at the time I was trying to be cheap and not pay SurveyMonkey anything (thus limiting my questions). So many regrets (since I ended up paying to see all of your responses anyhow- only the first 100 are free!). 

Now, on to the good stuff. In my previous post, I stated that there were over 200 unique artists to play Calgary or Edmonton in 2010 and 2011. Of those, 90 artists weren’t recognized by 80% of the respondents. Most of those were Calgary Folk Fest (63 vs. 27) artists, which makes me think that more Edmonton Folk Fest go-ers took the survey than Calgarians OR it would make me suggest that those in Edmonton stating their love of discovering new acts should consider Calgary ;) (teasing of course).

Next I looked at how many artists all of our respondents would pay to see outside of a festival. There were 4 EFMF artists and 8 CFMF artists who scored over 30%. Then looking at the “I would travel to see this artist if they weren’t playing in my town” (which shall be referred to now as “travel”) scores, the Avett Brothers (CFMF) scored highest at 18.8%, followed by Ben Harper and Relentless7 at 18.1% (EFMF). In descending order the artists came in as follows: Blue Rodeo (12.4%), Van  Morrison (11.4%), Michael Franti and Spearhead (11.3%), City and Colour (10.7%), Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros (10.7%), Sarah Harmer (10.7%), Joel Plaskett (9.5%), Dan Mangan (8.7%), Corb Lund and the Hurtin’ Albertans (7.3%) and Stars (6.7%).

Then I looked at the people who self-identified as members of our little club (myself included, of course). 15/29 actually finished the whole survey, so I will consider those the TRUE club members :D . We’re a diverse group from age to musical interests but the thing that really connects us (and should be obvious) is a love of music and a passion for discovering it. Not to toot our own horn TOO much, but I like to think we’re a smidge ahead of the curve. Breakdown of some of our results:

Draw (30%+)     Own Show (30%+)    Travel (30%+)

EFMF:        26 artists                          10                                      2

CFMF:         24 artists                          11                                       4

Notable artists to mention (scoring 50%+ with the club):

EFMF (7): Van Morrison, Edward Sharpe, Jakob Dylan, Sarah Harmer, Jeremy Fisher, Lyle Lovett, Noah and the Whale.

CFMF (8): City and Colour, Dan Mangan, Joel Plaskett, Michael Franti, Stars, Avett Brothers, the Head and the Heart, Timber Timbre.

So according to these, within the club the numbers are pretty evenly split, which isn’t surprising given the strengths of the debates we’ve had online AND in person.

Folk Fest’s Future
Combining the two biggest age categories we get the under 35 set, or as I’d like to suggest- Folk Fest’s FUTURE. 90 of the 153 respondents fell into this category. A few interesting things- a few of the more “traditional” folk fest acts were very polarizing- basically as many people loved them as didn’t. Those falling into that were Lyle Lovett (sorry @beckaswan!), Blackie and the Rodeo Kings and Blue Rodeo. But those that took the survey were generally kind- only two artists received distinctly negative rankings from our futurists (Not a draw 30%+): Buffy Sainte-Marie and Jimmy Rankin.

Artists that scored over 30% in both the “draw” and “pay” categories (in alphabetical order): Andrew Bird, Ben Harper, Blue Rodeo, City and Colour, Coeur de Pirate, Dan Mangan, Joel Plaskett, Edward Sharpe, Library Voices, Michael Franti, Sarah Harmer, Stars, the Avett Brothers, Van Morrison.

Artists that scored over 30% in just the “draw” category: Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, Brandi Carlisle, Calexico, Colin Hay, Corb Lund, Deer Tick, Gord Downie and the Country of Miracles, Gipsy Kings, Jakob Dylan, Jeremy Fisher, John Prine, KT Tunstall, Noah and the Whale, Scenic Route to Alaska, the Head and the Heart, the Levon Helm Band, The Swell Season and Timber Timbre.

Conclusion (for now): Obviously there’s tons more to look at (on the docket: what the hipsters think!) and this has only fueled my interest in surveying (what if we surveyed the same audience with artists that HAVEN’T played our festival??, for example). If you’re curious for the outcome of a specific query (artist or demographic specific), contact me or leave it in the comments… I’ll do my best to answer what I can!


{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Rebecca May 29, 2012 at 10:58 pm

Oh poor Lyle.

Awesome first take on it Nicole – I can’t even imagine how ridiculous that data is to go through. Not any gigantic surprises in there from my end. I’m looking forward to what the assholes think (as I deemed myself among them. Per usual.)


Tanya C. May 30, 2012 at 9:00 am

Cool survey work Nicole! It’ll be interesting to see more.

I will say I’m a little surprised at the Buffy negativity. I’ll admit to being a little older than the “Future” although not by much, but I have to say seeing her play was a defining moment for me. She’s a pretty significant folk icon. Maybe I’m just that bit older enough that still identifies with the Folk as protest era and also remembers her form Sesame Street. ;-)


nicole May 30, 2012 at 9:11 am

Well I suppose we have to take it in stride… The response is “…They are NOT a draw for me”. It doesn’t ask if you’ve seen them before (and therefore can cross them off the folkfest bucket list) and it doesn’t ask if you like the artist even a little bit; Buffy and Jimmy just aren’t a draw for the Under 35 set. It could be chalked up to semantics. I’ve already been told that I am a bad scientist ;)


aaron May 31, 2012 at 12:23 pm

I don’t think Buffy has the same level of general appeal and casual fandom that some of the other headliners have, which hurts her in a survey like this. But you’re right, she’s iconic, and because of that, to a handful of under-35, she’s a significant draw. I’m in my mid 20′s, and the biggest EFMF draw for me of the last few years was Wanda Jackson, so there are definitely exceptions to the old artist/old audience rule.


nicole May 31, 2012 at 12:53 pm

Absolutely, Aaron. But of course, you are an anomaly. ;) I think there’s a huge misconception out there as to what people like me WANT out of a folk fest. And when Terry Wickham tells the world that he could book “hip” acts or “good” ones- that offends me for the reason that I don’t think hip and good are mutually exclusive, and I’m surprised he sees it that way. I’m not looking for EFMF to break ground for bizarre genre-smashing artists– I want to see acts that I also think my parents would appreciate. The biggest surprise to me at last year’s CFMF was how much my mom liked the Head and the Heart. But then, why shouldn’t she? We’re not talking Skrillex here.


Tanya C. June 7, 2012 at 1:15 pm

I don’t think Terry thinks they are mutually exclusive I just think he prioritizes them in the order of “good” over “hip” and with the view of booking the best, will not book for the sake of being hip. (I don’t want to put words in his mouth but that’s my take on it).

It’s tough sometimes for people to understand the mechanics of booking a festival. It’s more than just “make an offer, if they say no throw more money until they say yes”. There are so many variables that can affect whether or not an artist can come. For your example of The Head and the Heart – the festival has tried three years in a row to get them and due to a variety of things they haven’t been able to come. They even said themselves on twitter this year, they’d love to come but have a personal commitment at that time – a family wedding I think. Civil Wars – having a baby/not touring after 1st weekend in August… Mumford and Sons won’t play a “folk” festival… and the list goes on…


nicole June 7, 2012 at 1:33 pm

Do you happen to have an example, Tanya, of someone he would consider “Hip” but not good? I’m curious who falls into that (it’s quite possible I would agree).

The hip vs. good comment was a poor choice of phrasing in my opinion– and on the other side of it, how about all the acts he has booked that now think they’re not hip? ;)

I love being able to have these conversations, and I appreciate the insider perspective :) It’s nice to know that the festival has tried for some of the example artists I’ve thrown out there… I do get it’s not easy making all of these elements come together… but when the process isn’t transparent, it’s very easy to come to the sorts of conclusions that I come to. Is there a programming mandate? Objectives? I realize that demographics aren’t counted of those that attend (we asked), but is there a target demographic?


Tanya C. June 7, 2012 at 1:19 pm

Oh – for transparency sake, and I hope I don’t regret this, yes, I work for the festival. I’m the one who deals with the Twitter and other social media/web content stuff plus some other weekend specific stuff.

I hope you won’t worry about me being on here. I love how passionate you guys are about music and you have a lot of good stuff here.


nicole June 7, 2012 at 1:43 pm

I have no worries about that at all. I think you do a great job with the social media stuff, by the way. If you want to see the passion in person, we’re meeting on Sunday :) Open invitation. We’re probably more polite in person too ;)


Tanya C. June 7, 2012 at 3:15 pm

To be honest I can’t think of a specific example off the top of my head of the type of act that would fall under that but something we often discuss is the staying power of an artist. Sometimes the hip new thing has one great album or one “hit” single but in the grand scheme of folk music, won’t really be remembered. I think he really tries to find people who will mean something in the history of folk music when it’s all said and done.

We all understand that musical tastes are subjective; 100 people could book the festival and you’d get 100 very different weekends. But he’s pretty plugged in to acts that are making it on the world stage, not just North America, and bringing in the “best of the best” whenever we can. I also often tell people that it’s not a “beginner” festival, ’cause it’s not really. So there’s a balance between that and trying to bring that sense of discovery that everyone enjoys.

I’m honestly not sure we have a “target demographic” – at least we wouldn’t want to think narrowly about that (which is why we don’t record it). Maybe that’s naive? Or hippie like? ;-) It’s a family event… for whatever that’s worth.

I’d love to come to a meeting sometime but I can’t this Sunday. Next one? :-)


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