The month of December can be a miserable time for college students. As undergraduates manage a whirlwind of final projects, papers and exams, the bait of an upcoming break teases them.
Clint Bowman pulls double duty at N.C. State, where he's a junior in the college of management; he also works as the local music director of the university's WKNC 88.1 FM. This year, the 20-year-old has taken on a third task. His new musical nonprofit, Artists Like You, will stage its first concert in Raleigh, at the dive bar Slim's.
Bowman's project aims to promote North Carolina folk artists to new, young audiences. Bowman himself isn't some lifelong devotee to folk music. He was a fan of The Avett Brothers in high school, but when he attended the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island last year, he discovered a fresh enthusiasm for the music—and turning new people onto it.
"A lot of people hear folk music and think, 'Wow, that's really good,' but a lot of them don't think it's coming out of their own backyard," Bowman says. "I'm hoping that people come to Folk Friday and connect with the artists."
Bowman imagined the project last December as a final project for an arts entrepreneurship class. The professor told the students to create a hypothetical artistic venture and an accompanying business model to drive it. The concept aims to use a small series of concerts to expose artists who don't have the backing of a label to new fans. Bowman presented his feasibility study at semester's end, and his professor encouraged him to pursue the idea.
"I didn't have anything else planned for the summer," Bowman says. "I wanted to do something that I was more passionate about than an ordinary summertime job."
Over the summer, Bowman hosted North Carolina singers Alexandra Sauser-Monnig and Brett Harris in Jamestown, near his hometown of High Point. A second show with Charlotte bard David Childers followed at the Haw River Ballroom.
"Folk" is a loose term for the Artists Like You shows, as the songs have ranged from Sauser-Monnig's haunting Appalachian ballads to the jangling acoustic rock tunes of Paleface. He headlines the upcoming Slim's gig. Greensboro's Shiloh Hill shares that bill. The group's guitarist, Nick Wes, suggests that Bowman's idea offers a possible network of mutual promotion.
"It's really sort of a selfless thing for him to do with his time," Wes says. "Anything that we can do to promote his thing and help other musicians do the same, that'd be great."
Bowman still has a year and a half left in school, but he's already plotting ways to move that mission ahead for Artists Like You. He's eyeing venues like park amphitheaters for future shows. Wes says he hopes Bowman expands operations across the state, where so much American folk music has its roots.
For now, Artists Like You fits fiscally beneath the umbrella of Fractured Atlas, a New York nonprofit that helps small, arts-centric start-ups with essentials like tax IDs and organization. But Bowman's vision for Artists Like You is already evolving. The current model is based on artists getting exposure from a single show, with a rotating cast of performers that never repeat. Bowman hopes to move to a for-profit model that allows growth and provides long-term support for artists, not unlike a label or booking agency.
"A lot of artists need a third person to speak for them and represent them," Bowman says. "This is an opportunity for them to get that third person."
Bowman's balancing act has been—and will likely continue to be—a hustle, but he's not sweating it too much. Remember, the semester is finally over.
"It's been a real juggling act between school, working at the station and doing Artists Like You," he says. "But I've been able to do it just fine."
This article appeared in print with the headline "Soundly sourced"