Issue 26 10/2003

The FolkWorld Editorial by Michael Moll
Folk music with image problems?

A while back one of the most important folk and world music magazines around, Folk Roots, decided to scrap the "folk" from its title, and to create with FROOTS a new brand, with the idea of taking the magazine away from the cliche folk scene. No more wooly jumpers, but cool innovative international music. The content of the magazine has not changed, and indeed still covers folk music. Does the brand "folk" have image problems then? It seems so, if you go by the trend of folk events trying to get rid of the folk label: Both the International Folk Festival Tilburg and the Tanz&Folk Fest Rudolstadt decided this year not to use the term "folk" anymore.

The 13th version of the German Rudolstadt festival, one of the biggest Folk and World Festivals in Europe, saw the "Tanz&FolkFest" disappear from its posters. A new "Corporate Identity" has been created - TFF.Rudolstadt is the name of the new brand, with dot and without spaces inbetween. FolkWorld's reporter Tom Keller wondered in his review: Are they ashamed of "Tanz und Folk" (dance and folk) in this hip world music times? ... TFF could mean, depending on how you read it, "The german ethno roots Fusion dance & music Festival", or: Tortur Für Folkmuffel (Torture For Folk misery-guts).

Meanwhile, also the Dutch International Folk Festival Tilburg, after its third version of the high profile winter folk festival, decided to become more trendy by deleting the "folk" from its title - the next festival will be called "Route 04" instead! The festival struggled during recent years with low visitors numbers. Part of the blame has now been given to the fact that "folk" has the wrong image. It was argued that festivals with a similar programme, but without the term folk in the name, were more successful than Tilburg. The hope is that without the Folk brand, media is more likely to announce the festival, and therefore more audience will come. Apart from the title, the musical scope of the festival will also be broadened. Still the focus will be on European folk and roots music. I wonder if experiments like the "Route" re-branding might not turn away some folkies of the audience, not catching the imagination of folk fans. I will be interested to find out if this strategy works out.

Is folk really that boring and out of fashion? Even if this is the case - I wonder if it is the right strategy to find a new way to describe the old music. Wouldn't be the better approach to change the image of folk music? At least then we will not confuse all those who love their folk music as it is!

FolkWorld is not following the trend to take out the word folk from its title - FolkWorld is a brand that hopefully carries the message that folk music is cool and trendy - as folk music, and under no other label!

Your FolkWorld editors.

P.S. There is also one festival that took the step back, taking in the name "folk" again - the January Folk Festival in Norwich will be called "folkbeat" again, additional to their brand "No04".

Back to FolkWorld Nr. 26


© The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld; Published 10/2003

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