Blues societies = blues nazis???
Tue Nov 23 00:59:33 EST 2004

"The reason I used the term "Blues Nazi" is that I heard it come out of the
mouth of someone involved in a conflict with a blues society recently. In this
case I think they meant that someone from the society was forcing their
outlooks on others. The outlook wasn't about musical tastes but about business. They
felt that some blues society members were using their positions in the
society to affect their business."

Anyone so motivated to become active in a blues society is going to be
passionate about their music. When you add to the mix that some of those members are
going to be musicians, club owners, local promoters, etc. who may feel that
they have to protect their own interests, then that passion becomes a
minefield. Add a few out and out 'characters,' and you have headaches now and some
really funny stories to tell years from now. I bet every Blues Society has had
internal conflicts over business interests, and I could write a long post
detailing the ones I know from limited experience. Ever been to a board meeting at a
club where one of the board members has been banned for life? Ever have a
'fired' newsletter editor start a rival newsletter? Ever have two board members
argue over which of two bands (each of which is led by a son of a board member)
should get a gig? Ever seen a board member approach a touring band with his or
her resume in hand? I have.

I think the key thing--and a difficult one--is to draw into the society
leadership people who don't have a professional stake. I'm not saying that every
musician, club owner, radio DJ, fest promoter, etc. is an evil person who should
be banned. Their knowledge and skills can be invaluable. But there should be
a balance. If you have too many pros in the leadership, there is going to be
at least the appearance of something fishy.

If the society is going to hire a local band to open up a fest, for example,
and the band hired happens to be fronted by the society president, you know
there is going to be bitching by every other band in the area (as if any band is
going to get rich playing blues). The people who hire bands should be people
who are smart but don't have stakes in a band. I know that some societies
decide in advance that that year's society representative to the IBTC is going to
get a paying gig or two. I think that is a great idea--it makes the decision
process transparent, and allows any band a chance. Of course, there can be
griping about how the contest was judged.

Likewise, a society can try to move its meetings and other events around to
different clubs, so that one club owner doesn't appear to 'own' the society. I
think there is always going to be some people who try to take advantage no
matter what you do, so maybe the best thing is to keep a sense of humor and
remember that roller coasters are more fun than merrygorounds.


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