Emergency fundraising for a major performance: can it be done?
August 17, 2006 3:55 PM   Subscribe

So, a huge flock of very famous singing Bulgarians is about to show up on my continental doorstep... How do I put together a non-pocket-busting concert in a major city on what amounts to virtually no notice? Fundraisers-on-a-dime, rest assured, there's

For the better part of a year, I've been playing, in that fantasy-land sort of way, with the idea of bringing the Eva Quartet to the U.S. for a concert in Boston. They're an elite subgroup of the internationally-renowned Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares, who require virtually no introduction to folks who are savvy with "world music" and the like.

On a lark, I e-mailed their manager about setting up a show a few weeks ago. "Not a problem," he said, "the whole choir will be in the U.S. in November." I sat on the idea for about two weeks, figuring there was (probably) no way on earth I could pull together a full show containing that many Bulgarians in three months. Because they may just be the greatest musical thing on Earth, however (and because I'm a life-and-limb-risking bastard that way), now I want to try.

The positives:

I have a background in music-industry networking, promo, advertising, events coordination, etc., so I'm not afraid of getting media coverage, dealing with radio, getting CDs out to the right people, staffing the venue, and working the circuit with the community to spread the word. That part's a piece of cake.

In terms of finding an audience for this particular group, the Bulgares are still regarded as one of the most transcendent musical experiences extant and, as such, still command an impressive international following. They could easily fill one of Boston's medium-sized venues (e.g., the Tsai Performance Center). Although they played New York in March, even Google can't recall the last time they set foot in Boston.

And, amazingly, their tech rider is remarkably economical.

The negatives:

I'm doing this entirely by myself. And what I'm not great at, personally, is raising a cool (let's just overpitch) $40,000 to mount, from the ground up, a show that will land in Boston sometime just after Thanksgiving. The two biggest challenges, as I see them:

- Finding a venue large enough to hold the entire Mystere Des Voix Bulgares (approx. 50-70 women), that isn't already booked through the next two years; and

- Landing commercial, university, media, corporate, cultural, and/or individual sponsors who haven't already given away their kitty for the fiscal year.

I can imagine all sorts of interest once a show like this gets rolling, but I don't have the trust fund or the high-net-worth sponsor to lean on for ground-level cash in the meantime.

What say you, money-savvy MeFites? Too long of a shot?
posted by mykescipark to Work & Money (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Have you talked to the World Music people about something impromptu? I'm sure they'd love to offer something like that as a last-minute thing if they could.

I would *LOVE* to see them (the whole group or the smaller one), so I hope you can work something out.
posted by briank at 4:14 PM on August 17, 2006

Yeah, the World Music people told me they only book shows roughly a year in advance. I didn't get past the cold call, basically.
posted by mykescipark at 4:16 PM on August 17, 2006

Have you called upon the local parish of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church? They might happy to host an event, or at least bring some audience members in. Have you contacted any Slavic language departments of any of the very wealthy schools in the Boston area?
posted by Sara Anne at 4:25 PM on August 17, 2006

You could try contacting the Music Performance Trust Fund. By terms of the Fund, events that it sponsors are typically free to the public, but they encourage co-sponsors with full credit, and are often seen as a stamp of approval for other corporate sponsors. My experience with them is that they are fairly quick to respond, and will generally favor requests which use local AFM musicians in the pit, or on stage. But I do know that they have co-sponsored events where no AFM players were present, so I'd approach them, and see what they say about your Bulgarians. And I'd contact the Bulgarian embassy about cultural exchange program funding (scroll down to the bottom of Culture page for info about Daniel Pearl musical memorial Oct 1 - 10 for an example of some tie-in, although I don't know any details), while I also worked on trade out deals for lodging and meals for the group, which could vastly reduce your expense guarantees.

They are a really interesting group, and I hope you can get a show together. I would think you should be able to get something together in Beantown in a couple of months time, but you might also want to check with some of the local critics and commercial promoters for any advice they may have about such an unusual act, and possible venues (maybe the Boston Conservatory Theatre?). Basically, you're taking on a nearly full time job for the next couple of months, if you can do it. Good Luck!
posted by paulsc at 5:23 PM on August 17, 2006

These folks are a lot more famous than you might imagine, I've been listening to them since the 60's. The local university had them on one of their schedules and it was sold out. I don't know how they advertised it but the word hauntingly beautiful acapella music comes to my mind. Advertise in the local alternative paper and get some articles published in the arts section of your the newspaper a couple of weeks ahead of time. If I see you in Seattle I'll be there.
posted by ptm at 7:39 PM on August 17, 2006

Try contacting the program director at one of the local college stations - WERS comes to mind. Many of them sponsor concerts at local venues, and would also have an easier time securing on-campus performance spaces (e.g. the Emerson Majestic).
posted by FreezBoy at 7:46 PM on August 17, 2006

Myke, I just sent an email to the address on your homepage--I passed along your question to a friend who's the AD of a venerable Sephardic music group in Boston, who had a couple of thoughts.
posted by staggernation at 4:09 AM on August 18, 2006

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