Hi Folks,

We're starting planning for 2006 and beyond right now and we want to make some changes to a variety of programs and want feedback in hopes that some folks will come up with interesting ideas that we haven't thought of.

The biggest change I see coming is a new way of looking at and dealing with Local Chapters. We've struggled for years to keep chapters active and productive, but with only a couple of exceptions, they all come and go and start and stop and coordinators come and go and disappear and get burned out and members start off enthusiastic and then get distracted and attendance at meetings or events drops and so on. In the last few months we've had quite a few major coordinators "retire" and want to hand the chapter off to someone else, but haven't even had a good candidate to take the reigns. So, we obviously need a change. We want to stop wasting time on things people aren't interested in and we also want to become more proactive on a lot of issues that affect us all which we could make a difference in politically for our members.

So.. that said, I've been brainstorming a new approach. Here's some thoughts I have so far. This isn't a new policy, it's just open brainstorming as a starting point for a new system. I appreciate your thoughts or feedback (especially from those who have been to a chapter meeting or event in the past).

Here's the start of an article I am working on about this (it's not finished). Let the feedback begin!

Shortly after we started Just Plain Folks, we launched local chapters so members who had met during Roadtrip events could continue to get together even when we weren't in town. As much as I think the Internet and email are a valuable communication tool, there's nothing better than face to face interactions with other folks in your own area now and then. Over the past 8 years we've had over 100 different cities with chapters at one point or another which have lasted varying amounts of time with varying levels of success. Our oldest chapter is Los Angeles, but we've had long runs in cities like Buffalo, Nashville, Phoenix, Tampa, Minneapolis and others. We originally though that local coordinators would be in charge for a year or so and then someone else would step up for the next year and so on, but the reality has been some folks have done it so long that no one else has really even considered stepping up to take the reins. We also noticed in pretty much every city (except perhaps Tampa and Buffalo) the interest level comes and goes in every city and after 6-9 months, coordinators are struggling to keep people involved. That's a problem that has been the same not only in the US Cities but also in other countries where we've had chapters. So what is the solution?

I think we need to shift our focus from a repetitive monthly system of meetings, showcases, workshops and networking events to finding ways to make an impact on specific issues, opportunities and special events in a larger area around the US and in cities outside the US where we have an active membership. Here are some ideas I have for this new approach, but I am open to your input as well. With all the brain power of our collective 38,000+ members, I bet there's a lot of great and productive ideas out there.
1. I'd like to have JPF volunteer representatives in every US Congressional District and in each capital city around the world where we have members. These folks would replace our traditional chapter coordinators. Rather than having to spend their time planning events, hosting meetings, securing venues for showcases etc.. they would focus on a smaller number of special events and spend a lot more time communicating via our website message boards, their local politicians, other music organizations and companies and the media.
2. These Representatives would be responsible for 4 events per year instead of 12 like the current coordinators. We would also emphasize finding a variety of local members to help with each event. The Representatives aren't supposed to do all the work, but help coordinate all the help and support that is available. The 4 event types would be as follows:

Event A. A yearly member showcase. These shows would resemble our JPF Roadtrip showcases at local venues where anyone who is an area member would be able to attend and perform a song or two (depending on numbers). These events have always been successful in both chapters and Roadtrip tours, but with the growth of our org. membership, we can no longer make it everywhere even once every 2 years as we have in the past. So instead, we'll have 1 official JPF showcase no matter what in every home city of each representative and then we'll supplement those with Roadtrip Showcases during the tours we can do. The stakes for these showcases will be much higher in that we'll select a "Winning" performance at each show as voted by the local members to represent that performer for consideration as Live Artist of the Year and a feature performance slot at our Just Plain Folks Music Awards Show, which has grown to be the largest music awards in the world. (And 26,000 of you have already entered something this year). No JPF fees would be involved.

Event B. A yearly networking party. This is a simple dinner/networking gathering of all interested area members who come out and meet and greet each other. If someone can host this at a large home, that is great, otherwise it could be held in any number of public facilities or restaurants. We had a recent Central Indiana Networking Party/Dinner that we hosted at our home here in Indianapolis last month as a test and it worked wonderfully. By having a night (especially if it can be held at a home) where folks can be more casual and friendly, I think networking is more effective than at a venue or during a showcase concert. No JPF fees would be involved (unless the local members elected to pitch in for food).

Event C. A yearly workshop with a speaker and a panel in each city. This would be a free workshop and the topics would include the state of the music scene in your region as well as an educational topic chosen by the local members. No JPF fees would be involved, though if the local members elected to bring in a paid speaker, that would be at their discretion upon approval from us. We would help set up a Q&A panel from our contacts in the music industry and could also likely find speakers for most locations.

Event D. A Music Awards Voting Session. Our awards have grown to historically large proportions and we've always utilized active chapter members to act as peer judges. We'd like to create a specific meeting/event where we handed out voting discs and discussed the voting process, how it worked etc... so we can expand the voting. We're working on ways to expand the fan voting process, but to keep it even (we use 3 segments, industry, fans and peers) we want to expand the peer voting as well. These voting session meetings would only happen in years where we're having an awards show (for example in fall of 2006).
3. The representatives would also be our active voice in political issues that affect the music community. We will not be looking for people of a specific party, but instead we will be issue oriented and hope to find people who can support specific issues, regardless of which US political party (or other party in other countries) supports or opposes the issue. We have members pretty much everywhere, and we think it's time we took advantage of the diversity and grassroots power of our entire membership to help us be vocal on issues such as Health Care for self employed musicians, songwriters and music professionals, having our voices heard and counted on issues involving the FCC media regulations (i.e. radio payola, ownership limits, low power FM radio etc..), and also in having active voices to work with the local representatives of the PRO's (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC in the US and the international PRO's as well) and someone to represent us in any other music or arts related issue in key cities and political districts. It's important that we are non partisan and issue oriented and it's also important to me personally that we have divergent opinions and view points represented (in the US for example, we want a mix of Republicans, Democrats and Independents) so we can view issues openly and with less political based bias.
4. We would have a discussion group for the Representatives to actively discuss issues and form positions and opinions on where we want to stand as an organization. This might include occasional conference calls or online chats.

The key responsibility for these representatives would be communication. Actively and often. So instead of a coordinator worrying each month about getting a venue or house to host an event.. and getting a sound system or a good turn out for a showcase etc.. their real skill and requirement is to be our eyes and ears and mouthpiece in their community.

Do you think we can find people in each Congressional District to do this?


Brian Austin Whitney
Just Plain Folks
Skype: Brian Austin Whitney
Facebook: www.facebook.com/justplainfolks

"Don't sit around and wait for success to come to you... it doesn't know the way." -Brian Austin Whitney

"It's easier to be the bigger man when you actually are..." -Brian Austin Whitney

"Sometimes all you have to do to inspire humans to greatness is to give them a reason and opportunity to do something great." -Brian Austin Whitney