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Written by Ramsey Brown.
Many artists and musicians dream of one day being on stage and performing in front of thousands of people. Performing at a music festival is a great way to become seen by the masses and showcase your talent to music lovers from around the globe. A common misconception among musicians is that you must already be a large headlining artist in order to get put on a festival lineup. Well, we’re here to tell you that this isn’t true.
The vast majority of music festivals are intended for all kinds of artists, big or small, and of multiple genres. You don’t need millions of records sold in order to play a festival, you just need the right tools and information to help get you there. If you are a dedicated and talented musician with hopes of one day performing for thousands, you’ll want to keep on reading this article.
We’re going to provide you with the steps you need to take to find music festival performance opportunities and how you need to go about applying for them. Through these huge events you will be able to make yourself known in the music industry and play in cities all across the world.
Playing at a music festival isn't as simple as applying, getting accepted, and showing up for the event. There are many steps you must take before your application even gets seen or considered. If you are a serious musician whose wanting to take your career to the next level by performing at a music festival, check out these main points below to better your chances of success:
In today’s world that we live in, becoming noticed or famous in the field of music majority of the time starts on the internet. More specifically, social networks. Artists as big as Justin Bieber and The Weeknd began their stardom online and more often than not musicians willy rely on social media to make their talents known.
Instagram has become the favorite social network for artists looking to increase their visibility without having a big budget for it. By uploading daily stories, posting videos of you singing or composing music, organically interacting with fans, sharing new music, creating contests, or anything else you may do on social networks, this gives you greater visibility and higher chances of being noticed by a music festival organizer or promoter.
Before getting booked at a festival, the organizers are going to want to see how you perform on social media. If you are interactive with your followers, it may be likely that you will be interactive with the crowd at your show. You don’t need multi-thousands of followers to become noticed, but you do need to be well liked by the ones you do have.
A good low cost marketing strategy is to have an open profile on Instagram (investing a little money monthly in advertising) and a YouTube channel linked to it where you upload your songs with good quality videos. The internet rewards the use of its resources and the more social networks you use and combine with each other, the more visibility you will have. The more visibility you have, the more likely you are to be seen by those responsible for seeking out fresh talent to play at music festivals.
As we’ve discussed in previous articles, networking is a very large and important part of making it in the music industry. When it comes to getting a music festival gig, getting in touch or noticed by the right person is key. By attending meet-ups, concerts, nightclubs, parties, and obviously music festivals, it’s likely that those who are booking the events will be in the same room as you. Strike up conversation with people and ask questions to friends and colleagues about who is in charge of booking, because those are the people you want to get to know.
Take any and every networking opportunity that you can find. You never know who you will end up meeting and what kind of impact they can have on your career. A great tip for finding out who the festival booking agents and promoters are is to research and find them online. Follow them on LinkedIn and see if you have any similar connections who could potentially put in a good word for you. When the right time arises, don’t be afraid to share your demo or music with these people. Even though event organizers tend to be extremely busy and often never listen to the music sent to them, you’ll never know if you don’t try!
Before you start filling out applications like crazy for all the big music festivals to be held this year, you should first investigate which festivals are the best for you. You need to factor in the genre or style of the festival and if it aligns with your own. Also, it’s beneficial to research what type of artists have performed at the festival in the past. Target those festivals who have had artists whose size and style is similar to yours.
Once you have done your research and have found some potential festivals you would like to play at, make a list of them all and jot down notes about each different event. You’ll want to include details such as who or what company is hosting the festival, event dates, application deadline, submission URL, fee to apply, and the organizer's contact information. Make note if you have applied or not and if you have been accepted or denied. Stay organized!
Also, it's great to shoot for the stars and hold yourself and your music to a high standard, but be reasonable with yourself when it comes to finding music festivals to play at. If you find that your festival applications are continuously being denied, then you may be aiming too big. Start off with smaller or local festivals and eventually you will work your way up to larger more mainstream events.
Now that you've made a list of your target festivals and which ones best fit your style, you’ll want to begin creating a stand out application to send in. Of course you need great music, but you also need a great submission in order to win over the festival promoters and bookers. Things to include in your application are:
Bio: An artist or band bio needs to be included in your submission application first and foremost. Your bio needs to be interesting, attention grabbing, and tells what makes you or your band unique and festival worthy. Keep it short and sweet but detailed of your best and most impressive features. If you are unsure on how to write an artist or band bio, check out our guide to writing a winning music bio here.
Professional Photos: If you are a professional musician or looking to become one, you will undoubtedly need professional photos in order to be taken seriously in the industry. No matter how great your music is, if you don’t have professional and clear pictures, it’s very unlikely that you will be accepted to play at a music festival. Investing in high quality shots of you and your band will prove to be extremely valuable and beneficial in your music career. You’ll want to include these photos in your application, along with some live action shots to show the festival organizers how you appear and look on stage.
High Quality Live Performance Videos: The best way to prove to a festival that you can put on an amazing live performance is to submit a video(s) of you actually performing an amazing live show. It’s important that these videos and the audio along with it are high quality. You don’t necessarily need to spend thousands of dollars on videography, but you also don’t want to send in a video taken on a camera phone. Make sure the video captures your stage presence and the crowd's reaction and your interaction.
Social Media: As we already discussed, your online presence is extremely important in this industry, especially if you are wanting to get booked at a festival. Festival organizers want to know you have a decent following and can sell tickets, so try and get your numbers up and include it in the festival application. Include links to your Instagram, Twitter, Spotify, and any other relevant social media platforms that give an indication of your work and the fan base that follows you.
A great way to get your social media numbers up quickly is by hiring out a promotion or marketing company. At Omari MC, we personalize marketing campaigns for each specific artist in order to help them reach their unique career goals. If you are wanting to grow your fanbase and increase your social media engagement, check out our promotion services in greater detail here.
Once you have all of the information above gathered, you’ll want to include it all in a great looking electronic press kit, or EPK. EPK’s essentially prove to whoever is reading it that you are professional and you are serious about your music career. Once you’ve got your press kit together, you can easily have it on hand to send out to festivals when applying for them.
Also to note, festivals normally book out many months if not a year or two in advance. Keep an eye out early on for festivals taking applications to better your chances of getting accepted to play.
The next thing you should do before trying to play at a music festival is to read the application conditions, because not all festivals are the same and your profile may not fit their conditions of registration. For example, there are festivals that are classified by musical genre or by the number of members that make up the musical group. As we mentioned above, find festivals that are in your specific genre. If you are a country artist, you’ll obviously want to steer away from applying for EDM or hard rock festivals.
There are also festivals that only admit local artists or don’t accept musicians from other countries. Therefore, it is worth your while to look up the conditions of each festival and analyze them carefully before you bother to submit an application. You will save yourself valuable time and possible disappointment if after a few months you receive a rejection letter. Each festival is unique and different, as well as each artist, so you will have to invest a decent amount of time researching and analyzing the festivals near you and find out if your application is valid to perform at them.
Trying to perform at a festival has some unattractive aspects to it, and the administrative side is one of them. The most important thing for a musician is always his or her music, but when it comes to festivals there are more things to take into account before submitting an application. You must think about travel expenses, accommodation expenses, food, preparation of visas (if it is necessary to have one to enter the country where the festival will be held), luggage, transportation for equipment and instruments, and other details when applying for a festival.
Some festivals will provide you with these necessities and others will not. Take into consideration if your out of pocket expenses of playing and getting to the festival will be larger than what the actual festival is going to pay you. Beforehand, find out what the festival's accommodations are and what you will be required to provide yourself. Whether you are part of a band or a solo artist, it is essential to evaluate all of the fine print details to know if you are truly ready to perform at a festival or if you still need time to work and develop.
Once you have your social media up to par, have created your EPK, and have made a list of the target festivals you are wanting to perform at, you’ll then need to go through the actual application process. Most music festivals will have their submission linked to their website, but occasionally you will be required to go through third party sites like Sonicbids in order to apply.
Be aware that it could take months for a festival to accept or deny your application. The best thing an artist can do during this time is to just sit back and wait patiently. Do not continue to contact the festival organizers and blow up their email or phones asking if you’ve been accepted or not. If you pester these people, it’s likely they could deny you for that simple reason.
If something significant happens in your music career while the application process is still going on such as getting signed to a record label, or you’ve recently had a high profile press release or interview, then you may want to contact the festival and let them know. Only reach out with information or news that could positively affect the decision of you getting accepted to play the festival. Other than that, sit back and play the waiting game.
If you don’t get accepted to play the festival of your dreams, don’t get discouraged. Just remember that there is always next year and use the time to hone in on your craft and become even better than before. Take any live performance opportunity that comes your way, whether it’s a local bar or at a wedding. Every performance you have will ultimately make your stage presence better and make you a stronger musician. Also, the more you play the more visibility it will bring you, and hopefully word of mouth gets around to a festival organizer which will increase your chances of getting on the lineup next year.
Music festival gigs are highly sought-out and there is heavy competition between artists trying to make it on the lineup. With these tips mentioned above, you will definitely be more prepared and better your chances of becoming accepted. In the meantime, continue updating your social media and interacting with fans and other industry professionals alike. If you want to succeed and shine more than the others, you will have to make an effort. It is the only key to success, both in the world of music and in any other sector.
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