One of the weekend’s must-read stories was the Wall Street Journal‘s profile of Armed Forces Entertainment (AFE), the Pentagon-run organization that books bands to perform at overseas military bases (AFE is not to be confused with the USO, which is a non-profit group; it’s also not to be confused with AFI, for that matter). Musical acts that perform on AFE tours tend to be little-known regional groups that can appeal to “mixed military crowds,” and AFE recently stepped up its efforts to find them:
Last week, AFE went on one of its biggest recruiting missions yet. Fifty AFE staff members and affiliates descended on the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, a major industry event. Last year, its first time at the festival, AFE sent five representatives, who manned a table in uniform. This time, they opted for civilian clothes to blend in. Also part of the strategy: never using the word “recruit” with bands.
During the four-day event, the group approached hundreds of bands and handed out metal dog tags that doubled as business cards. In the evenings, they moved quickly from one bar to another to check out acts.
The artists that meet the military’s criteria don’t get much in the way of compensation–in fact, they don’t get paid at all, aside from a $75 daily stipend, and $1,500 worth of merchandise to give away. But the xposure helps: One AFE favorite, Cinder Road, is now opening for Chris Daughtry. We can only hope that AFE managed to catch Mickey Avalon at SXSW, and that he’ll be sent out of the country for the next year.
Rock in a Hard Place [WSJ]