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A special message from Al

August 9, 2004

When we launched, none of us imagined how quickly folk music fans would find Folk Alley and grow it into a community of more than 17,000 listeners - in less than a year!

I really love Folk Alley, and from the dozens of letters we receive each week, I know many of you do, too.

That said, Folk Alley now faces one of the biggest challenges of its young life.

Until now, Folk Alley has been financed with three pillars of support:

1. You, our listeners.
2. WKSU-FM, the nonprofit public radio station in Kent, Ohio, that employs us and produces
3. Grants from the Corporation of Public Broadcasting (CPB).

This combination of funding has kept Folk Alley free and available to everyone, which was the overwhelming opinion of a listener survey we conducted several months ago.

Unfortunately, CPB has decided to reject any internet-based proposals, including a grant request we made earlier this year. The loss leaves Folk Alley without one of its all-important pillars.

Folk Alley is and will always be a non-profit venture. It's a labor of love for everyone who works here. But it has real costs.

Along with asking my small but dedicated Folk Alley team to brainstorm a solution, I thought, let's ask our smart, folk-loving listeners!

So I'm asking.

What are your ideas and suggestions on how to raise the operating support that we were hoping to receive from CPB? Working together, I know we can come up with solutions.

Post all of your ideas to this blog. Don't worry if your idea sounds crazy. Given that we are working with very limited resources, we're looking for creative ideas.

If you are connected with an organization or company that might work with Folk Alley as a grantor or a sponsor, post a note to this blog or email me at

I know that, together, we can figure out how to keep Folk Alley going for all of us.

Al Bartholet, General Manager

Posted by Al Bartholet at August 9, 2004 9:40 AM


al, i recently discovered folk alley and love it! i read your note and would love to help but not sure how big to think. how much money are you talking about? thousands? hundreds of thousands? more?

thanks for a great service.

Posted by: Paula Clark at August 9, 2004 6:56 PM

A series of benefit shows across your listening base would be a good start . Many of your listeners are also performers, and are thus in a unique position to help by donating skills to the cause. If even a few hundred could gather in venues under the Folk Alley banner over the next few weeks, it would raise both funds and visibility.

Any takers out there?

Posted by: Jim Pipkin at August 10, 2004 12:43 AM

How much you are you looking for - the way you wrote your note it's an open question.

I am a board member for the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival in Okemah, Oklahoma - we have an annual festival that the only expense to the participant is parking for the night venue @ 'Pastures of Plenty' -$10 a car!

We raise $ in many ways, knowing the scope of your request would help with the suggestions - a bake sale won't do it, but $300 chances for a new car might! In other events we have raised over $40K by selling simular chances (since it's Oklahoma we sold chances for a new truck!)

Great station - great music!! Good Luck!!!

Posted by: John Robertson at August 10, 2004 9:07 AM

I am sorry to hear about your funding 'challenge'. I think your partnership with Amazon is a good thing. I do not know how difficult it is to get "rights", but taking merchandise a step further...I would love to see the Kent State Folk Festival recordings available for purchase. On many occasions I have heard a song from a past show, and wish I could have the whole recording! I would buy "Kent State Folk Festival Highlights"...or the whole Ruthie Foster Show (and half a dozen others!). Just a thought.

Posted by: Shannon McDaniel at August 10, 2004 9:10 AM

I think we the listeners need to step up.

On the short term
If each one of the 17,000 listeners out there donated $15 (less than the price of a concert ticket) in the next 2 weeks we would raise over a quarter of a million dollars.

Maybe Folk Alley could organize a "campaign" to track our progress in replacing the grant amount from the CPB.

On the long term we the listeners need to write, e-mail, or phone the CPB to let them know that Folk Alley is a viable public service that just happens to be on the internet.

Posted by: Steve Merkling at August 10, 2004 9:58 AM

Here is a link to let the CPB know that you are grateful for their past support of Folk Alley and hopeful of their continued support of Folk Alley.

Posted by: Steve Merkling at August 10, 2004 10:21 AM

First, as other listeners have said, how many shortfall $ are we talking about for the current fiscal year & the next? Please post that on the site now.

Next, not knowing the up-front website modification cost, what's involved to provide only the basic sound quality for free, & require a minimum membership that covers the cost of providing the better-quality sound? A 1-time free-listen per email address of 90 minutes could be provided so that potential members could hear how really good the sound is. Folk Alley is virtually unique in offering the top-quality sound option to broadband users - and for free. This is too generous. We made our donation, partly in recognition of the obvious cost to listen to hi-quality sound.

Also as others have said, artists need you as much as you need them. So go after them for donations, on a continuing basis. This is not payola, it's survival.

Have you talked with XM & Sirius? Those would be good revenue streams, no matter how low a fee per listener that you could negotiate.

Thanks for your great station.

Posted by: Barry & Marla Richler -Toronto at August 10, 2004 10:46 AM

Along with many others, I am able and willing to make an additional contribution to keep Folk Alley on the 'net. I also believe Steve Merkling's link to the CPB website was a great idea. If all of your listeners send feedback to CPB and even (possibly?) suggestions of diverting their own funding for public broadcasting, I can't believe it wouldn't have a major impact... but then I might be naive! Peace.

Posted by: Dana Sutton at August 10, 2004 12:03 PM

I would love to help and will contribute as much as my pitiful graduate school budget will allow. I will subscribe to XM or Sirius when I have the money; however, I listen to Folk Alley because it's affordable to me now. Like other respondents, I would like to know what kind of money you must have. Thank you for providing this great music!

Posted by: Steve D at August 10, 2004 2:01 PM

i'm all for flooding cpb with letters etc letting them know that its a new world and radio broadcasting isn't just am and fm anymore -- it took the internet to give me access to a station that i can listen to all day without once wanting to switch the channel!! also, yeah, the artists you play are getting a lot of exposure from you-- mabye its time to put out an open call to them for a little kickback -- i'm thinking about donated songs to put together on a cd and then selling it or offering it as a premium(a la public radio's world cafe) for donations. i'm sure that a lot of artists out there appreciate you just as much as the rest of us!
good luck!!

Posted by: jennifer toth at August 10, 2004 3:49 PM

You know most folk artists are signed by a small group of record studios that benefit greatly from the exposure to a 17,000 and growing audience. Could it be possible to write to them for support? Especially since you are already providing links for people to purchase them. Maybe if you could provide direct links to them instead of through amazon and you could get a commission directly from the record company.
Please keep it free and not through one of those services there are many out there who just cannot afford to pay a mandatory service fee.
I tell people about this site all the time! It is wonderful

Posted by: Betty Loy at August 10, 2004 5:20 PM

As a faily new listener to it pains me to hear of your troubles. As for suggestions, check out This is a small bluegrass-roots station in East Tennessee that actually started out broadcasting from a camper trailer. They've grown to have an real uptown studio (without wheels) and broadcast on the web. All this through donations and underwriters. They have fund raisers a couple of times a year during whcih listeners can receive premiums in return for a donation. The premiums include concert tickets, CD's, apparel and even window stickers and license plates. I'm sure the folks at WDVX wouldn't mind you contacting them - they are a great bunch. I'll do my part with a donation of luck.

Posted by: Steve Patterson at August 11, 2004 7:54 AM

I have attempted listening to many internet radio stations and find that folk alley is beyond reason, the best. I will be sending what I can as soon as possible. As did Steve Patterson, I will suggest contacting a radio station, WNCW, Spindale NC at 828-287-8080. They have come a long ways in 10 years and should be able to help you- they are great people. Marshall or Greg would be best. Other than that, I think the approach of Sy Syfranski, of The Sun magazine from Chapel Hill would be the best bet. He simply asked if each member could donate a certain amount of their cash- in his case, it was like $100, but yours would be far less, and a little time in writing the funding agents. Check it out- it works- premiums cost money, advertising detracts from listening enjoyment. Listeners like myself just need to step up- remember the old days when PBS couldn't get a buck? It is the same thing- we should not enjoy something for nothing. Thanks again. I will drop off of my soap box now!

Posted by: nancy rainey at August 11, 2004 8:47 AM

Hi Al,
Wow, what a great site this is. I love it. I believe that benefit or fund raising concerts might be a good idea. They wouldn't have to be in major cities either, but maybe smaller towns with the proceeds raised going to I also favor the suggestion that if each member would contribute towards the cause I'm sure that would help too. Please let us know what you are up against monetarily, since that will help with the "brainstorming" process. Thanks again and keep up the great work!!!

Posted by: Lewis Kline at August 11, 2004 11:06 AM

Im a truly sorry to hear of Folk Alley's funding troubles. I am a new-ish listener but Folk Alley has recently become one of my most listened to things, replacing even my iTunes collection.
I have told CPB this and hope that being a non-US citizen will make them realise what a great service FA provides to the WORLD.
As a student and with the back exchange rates we have I am unable to make a big contribution but am willing to send what I can spare.
Think big. The world will support FolkAlley given a chance.
I suggest for a start everyone mentions Folk Alley in all their email, blog and messageboard signatures.

Posted by: Daniel Truslove at August 11, 2004 11:11 AM

I thought I would give you a few points in response to the Blog and let you know some of our plans for the near future. First, I'm grateful for the immediate response, there are a number of very thoughtful ideas. The main point to keep in mind here is the $ issue- how much does it cost to maintain FolkAlley? The estimate for next year's budget is $175,000 and that is due in part to our need to hire a project director for the service. We're trying to wrap up the remainder of this year's budget, basically we need to raise $27,000 by the end of September, just in time to celebrate our first year anniversary!

The other point here is that we have a very small staff and currently not one person's time is 100% dedicated to Folk Alley, so unfortunately we're limited by what resources the staff can donate to FolkAlley and still keep WKSU running. Some of the fundraising suggestions are very interesting and creative and we will explore every idea that is presented to us, but the question remains how can a small staff finish the year with $27,000 and then move on to a budget of $175,000 for next year? Quite a challenge, I know, but I'm certain that working together we will find a way to make it happen. Folk Alley belongs to you and in the end it will be you, our listeners, that make Folk Alley a viable service.

In the end it's up to all of us to use our creativity and our resources to keep this service one that we all enjoy and want to share. We'll continue to explore ideas and continue to look to all of you to participate in the process. Thanks again, and please keep the ideas coming! Al

Posted by: Al Bartholet at August 11, 2004 11:19 AM

Someone mentioned raffles. Not a bad idea, but not so good for the short-term. Also requires items to be raffled. It might be useful to ask artists and performers for donations, an old instrument (Bob Dylan's banjo), an item of clothing, whatever, for a raffle, or perhaps an auction. Possibly you could partner with E-Bay if the donations pile up.
Tell your story through the folk/roots/whatever listservs. For example, I found you through Maplepost, the Canadian folk/roots listserv. The folks there are very fine, and would take an interest (I think) in your plight. There are numerous other such, both here in the US and elsewhere.

Posted by: Larry Waldman at August 11, 2004 5:14 PM

Corporate or Foundation sponsors, listed prominently on the web site, or flashed at the beginning of a song (a show) is using techniques pbs likes.

There must be Foundations and/or Corporations interested in the Folk Alley listener base, and interested in preserving folk music as a heritage.

And, of course, pbs always has there annual listener fund raisers. They always bring performers on board to help who have been prominent in programs during the year.

How about folk performers who have had the benefit of Folk Alley exposure?? Selling there CD's with part of money for Folk Alley?

Posted by: Fred Constantine at August 11, 2004 8:59 PM

Folk Alley is a unique musical phenomenon and must continue. I for one would be willing to contribute more. Now for what may be a silly suggetion. Allen Chartok and WAMC (public radio out of Albany NY ) manage to raise $600,000 during every quarterly fund drive, usually in less than 7 days. Contact . Maybe they would even join WKSU in a joint venture. Thanks and good luck.

Posted by: Joe Kames at August 11, 2004 9:00 PM

A couple of ideas:
Create sampler CDs and sell them on the website. You could focus samplers to different types/tastes of folk music. Labels such as Signature and Festival (Canadian) have done this in the past. Great way to listen to a lot of new music without investing in individual CDs.

Create unique CDs -- sort of like WorldCafe, but perhaps of out-of-print or rare recordings.

Posted by: Stessa Cohen at August 11, 2004 9:28 PM

Tom Flannery & Lorne Clarke, two of the brightest songwriters on the scene today are posting up a new original song each week- all free!

a perfect companion to Folk Alley since you can burn free cd's (they enc ourage it!) to listen to when you are not on-line.

Posted by: Bonnie Flett at August 11, 2004 9:46 PM

I agree with the XM or Sirius route.

I think the key is to communicate with your contributors. If you need money NOW, let us know. In any case, keep listening free, because that's the spirit of folk alley in my opinion.

What I would really like to see is a way for us to download the individual songs we like right after we hear it. Charge $1 each. That may be technically a problem settin up, but I would sure use it and spend too much money buying individual music. What a great CD it would make though! :)

Posted by: ROBERT ADJEMIAN at August 12, 2004 8:51 PM

Hello Al,
First I'd like to thank you and all the folks who make Folk Alley happen. What a year it's been and if it continues to grow as it has can you imagine what having a few million listeners would be like? I have no doubt this is possible because what music lovers want is the most soulful, touching, creative, heartwarming music possible and Folk Alley provides exactly that! I think all of the suggestions listed so far are good ones and it might very well take a combination of several of these to make up the shortfall in funding. In the longrun perhaps this funding problem has a silver lining because do we really need an unreliable and politically fickle funding source? So whatever it takes to keep Folk Alley going strong by all means lets do it!
I'm disabled and my social security disability income is mighty meager but that does not mean I will fail to financially support this great program with what I can give.
Also, here's my rather humble idea in regards to putting Folk Alley and the need for additional funding more in the public eye. One of America's favorite forms of announcing to the world what we like and believe in is none other than bumper stickers, T-shirts, decals and patches! So how about a blitz of Folk Alley publicity the low tech way? (Several websites even allow readers to print off their own from downloaded files). Never underestimate this common form of information! As the song goes, ....."the other day I saw a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac".
One more thing, special thanks to the folks at WKSU for recently setting up the repeater station WNRK in Norwalk, Ohio. Our reception way out here in Huron County before was not what could be called consistently good but now a lot of north central Ohio country folks can learn about Folk Alley and enjoy excellent crystal clear programming especially folk music with Jim Blum!
Again thanks for providing us "folkies" such beautiful music!

Posted by: Scott Rumsey at August 20, 2004 6:30 PM

I have a beautiful new cd to sell How can I do that on folkalley?

Posted by: Paul Carter at December 1, 2004 2:02 PM

I have a beautiful new cd to sell How can I do that on folkalley?

Posted by: Paul Carter at December 1, 2004 2:02 PM

I have a beautiful new cd to sell How can I do that on folkalley?

Posted by: Paul Carter at December 1, 2004 2:02 PM

I like Stessa Cohen's idea of FOLK ALLEY SAMPLER CDs!
NorthSide samplers introduced me to the astounding world of Scandinavian Folk, and at a price that is "cheaper than food". I found myself seeking to buy CDs from the various artists featured there.
Could FOLK ALLEY not do something similar? Combine this with % of CD profits from individual artist's sales dedicated to FOLK ALLEY, and it may be a win-win situation for all of us!

Posted by: JL Braswell at March 20, 2006 4:41 AM

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