Festivals are fun to play and offer new listeners the opportunity to discover you. How do you get into music festivals? Breaking in could be easier than you think, if you follow these 8 tips.
1. Network, network, network. This is always good general advice in the music industry. Take time to build relationships with other bands, booking managers, promoters, radio hosts, bloggers, etc. You may be able to get leads on festivals before the general public, or learn about opportunities you weren’t aware of.
2. Be newsworthy. If you’re doing a good job promoting your gigs and music and building your following, festival organizers will take notice. Even better is if you’ve got something interesting going on, like an album release or your first international tour. Put effort into getting your stories in the press.
3. Get to know the festival. While you could outreach to every festival you can find, your time may be better spent by identifying which ones best fit your music and career trajectory, and focusing on those. How do you know if the festival could be a good fit for you? Look at the lineup for past years. What genre is the promoter emphasizing? Are there solo acts or bands? Is there a common theme amongst the
performers? Which of the stages would you fit into? Is the focus on touring acts, or local bands? What’s the audience demographic and size that the festival draws? Figure out where you fit, and put the most energy into those.
4. Start with community festivals. If music festivals are too big of a step for where your band is at right now, a good place to start would be to try to get into festivals that are local town events. Focus on the region you currently live and playout in, where you’ll have name recognition. There’s likely to be a plethora of festival themes like strawberry, garlic, chili, hot air balloon, the fire department, and charity walks. It’ll build your biography and demonstrate to others that you’re capable of playing to larger audiences. It can also directly lead to invitations to perform at other events.
5. Be awesome and get invited back. Once you get into a music festival, make a great impression and you may be invited to play again next year – perhaps with an even better time slot.
6. Don’t procrastinate. Some festivals begin planning for the following year shortly after the current festival is done. Booking can start with offers to repeat artists, and then onto new acts. Not all festivals begin planning a year ahead, though. Make sure you’ve done your homework to see when the promoter will be focusing on reviewing submissions. For example, many summer festivals will start taking submissions in January/February. Start early with your research and outreach, and keep following up until the festival has formally closed for submissions.
7. Apply to competitions. Sometimes the only way for a lesser known act to get considered is through a competition. Some festivals host their own songwriting or performance competitions. Others take submissions via Sonicbids. Consider signing up for Sonicbids.com and using that as your electronic press kit if you’ll be looking for regional or national festivals.
8. Don’t overdo it. If you’re playing too many shows in a small area, that could cause listener fatigue. There may be less interest in you compared to a band who is not overplayed. If you’ve saturated one market, focus on expanding into a new one the following year.
Now that you’re armed with 8 ways to get into music festivals, start your research and planning! Get out there and amp up your promotion and networking too! And don’t give up if your efforts don’t pay off right away. Be persistent. Good luck!
And if you’re in the Connecticut area and want the inside scoop on important festivals right here, be sure to sign-up for the Blue Crane Music mailing list at www.bluecranemusic.com to get subscriber-only insights and my reviews on key music festivals in CT!