Fast Folk Musical Magazine
Fast Folk was founded by Jack Hardy in 1982, its mission to document serious, non-comercial songwriting in the U.S. During the fifteen years that the combination recording and magazine was published, over 600 writers and 2000 songs were captured first on LP, then on CD, and distributed across the country and around the world. Most of these writers and songs were unknown then and most remain so today. But some of today's top songwriters first recorded on Fast Folk: Suzanne Vega, Michelle Shocked, Lyle Lovett, John Gorka, and Shawn Colvin.
When it first came out, most singer-songwriters had no other way to record their songs or get them to radio stations. Good recording equipment and studios were prohibitively expensive, as was pressing and packaging vinyl LPs. Only full-time, professionally touring artists could justify the costs and make it profitable. With the advent of digital technologies, the cost of making and distributing radio-quality recordings has plummeted. Many artists who are just beginning to perform in public already have full-length CDs to hand out and sell. Most independent labels put out their own compilations of new music and some public radio stations even use them as membership premiums. Thematic compilations are also common these days. The result is that Fast Folk no longer fills a unique niche in the musical eco-system, at least not in the form of the CD/Magazine.
After a final attempt to revive the legendary Fast Folk Musical Magazine in the late 1990s, long-time editor Richard Meyer and the board decided to retire it for good. Meyer then entered into negotiations with Folkways/Smithsonian to find a home for the magazine's 100+ past issues in the archives. All back issues are now once again available - many for the first time in almost 20 years - as CDRs. There are also several compilations planned, the first of which "A Community of Songwriters" was released in February 2002 in time for Fast Folk's 20th anniversary. The merger promises to keep these historic recordings safe and to make them available to the public far into the future.
Perhaps an on-line MP3 version of Fast Folk will arise in the not-too-distant future, bucking the re-commercialization of folk music and spreading important new songs as fast as they are being written. Stay tuned here to find it.
Here's a complete index to back issues of the Fast Folk Musical Magazine.*
*This cross-referenced database used to be maintained by Steven Alexander. As far as I know it is no longer available there.
Hugh Blumenfeld, Editor