Donations grant fans access to folk unlocked virtual festival February 22-26, marking official launch of the fund

Today, Folk Alliance International (FAI), a 501(c)3 global nonprofit based in Kansas City, launched fundraising for The Village Fund, a grant program for folk artists and independent music industry professionals experiencing financial hardship. The Village Fund’s name is inspired by the rural origins of various folk music traditions, the urban villages that expanded the folk audience, and the recognition that folk music forms one global village of fans, artists, and industry professionals alike.

FAI has committed $25,000 from its reserve and hopes to raise an additional $75,000 in public support for the fund in order to initially distribute 200 grants of $500, with plans to continually replenish the fund. The Village Fund will open applications in April for FAI members and those who have participated in FAI events over the past three years. A simple “financial need” verification process will place all applicants into an eligible pool, and recipients will then be drawn by lottery. Strategic priorities will be addressed as part of the process.

Donations to the fund opened January 19, 2021 and a public kick-off event will provide donors “fan access” to the Folk Unlocked showcases, a virtual music festival taking place February 22-26 with over eight hundred hours of performances. Donors will have the exclusive opportunity to see and hear folk music legends as well as emerging talent. Organizers describe it as an opportunity to discover “artists you’ve never heard of but will never forget.”

The lineup features artists from all over the world, including GRAMMY-winning zydeco artist Terrence Simien; GRAMMY-nominated Mississippi bluesman Cedric Burnside; NBC’s The Voice winner and singer-songwriter Sawyer Fredericks; legendary #1 songwriter Jim Lauderdale; Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominees Los Lobos; GRAMMY-winner Keb Mo; all-female mariachi band and Latin Grammy winners Flor de Toloache, and stars of the documentary film 20 Feet From Stardom the McCrary Sisters, who “seize and hold the spotlight,” according to the New York Times. Donors to The Village Fund also gain access to the International Folk Music Awards (IFMAs), with nominees including some of the best of the current folk scene and Lifetime Achievement Award nominees Leonardo “Flaco” Jimenez, Gordon Lightfoot, and Melanie.

Access to 800 hours of showcase programming as well as the awards announcements is a minimum suggested donation of $20 towards each $500 grant amount The Village Fund will provide:

Two-time GRAMMY Award-winning solo artist and member of I’m With Her and Nickel Creek Sara Watkins said, “The Village Fund will offer support to the folk musicians who have themselves supported us with their music and art for so long.”

GRAMMY Award-winning artist, and former FAI Board member, Dom Flemons stated, “We are a community of creative entrepreneurs reeling from the pandemic, so announcing The Village Fund is a welcome relief for many.”

In preparing to provide grants through The Village Fund, FAI conducted its second study of artist and industry need during the COVID crisis, the first revealing dire and pressing loss of income as well as food and housing instability among a startling number.

Folk Unlocked has been called a festival of festivals, with artists from all fifty states in the U.S. as well as Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Egypt, England, Finland, France, Germany, Guyana, India, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Ivory Coast, Mexico, Mongolia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Scotland, Senegal, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, United Kingdom, and Wales are set to perform, over 30 countries in total. In a dramatic closing party, artists have been paired with counterparts across the globe for a Global Music Marathon.

Of a prior, in-person event produced by FAI, the Wall Street Journal said, “There were countless examples of folk as a valued element in the contemporary musical landscape… To wander the poster-festooned hallways was to be greeted by traditional folk in all its iterations, experience its transporting powers, and be welcomed into its world.”

Folk Unlocked Spotlight lineup.

FAI has called on partners from around the globe to provide pre-recorded concert performances that will be featured as Spotlight Showcases, promoting a diverse array of export-ready and established talent. Each spotlight stage will be a one-hour set of multiple performers with a live chat feature so artists can directly interact with the audience while they watch.


Folk Alliance International (FAI) was founded in 1989 to connect folk music leaders aiming to sustain the community and genre. The leading international voice for folk music, FAI is an arts nonprofit and NEA designated National Arts Service Organization based in Kansas City, Missouri, USA. FAI is also a member of the Alliance of Performing Arts Conferences (APAC) and the Performing Arts Alliance (PAA).

The organization’s expanded global network now includes more than 3,000 members, a worldwide community of cultural sector entrepreneurs and leaders that includes that includes artists, agents, managers, labels, publishers, publicists, media, and festival/venue/series presenters

FAI defines folk broadly as “the music of the people” (reflective of any community they are from), and programs a diverse array of subgenres including, but not limited to Appalachian, Americana, Blues, Bluegrass, Celtic, Cajun, Global Roots, Hip-Hop, Old-Time, Singer-Songwriter, Spoken Word, Traditional, Zydeco, and various fusions.

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