Why Play at a Music Festival and How Can You Stand Out? Part 2

In part one, we explained how an artist can benefit from playing at a music festival. Throughout this blog, we will discuss the ways in which an artist can stand out when submitting an application form to music festivals.

The music festival scene is highly competitive. The larger the profile of the festival, the more competition there will be. It’s not uncommon to see as many as 1000 submissions for a small and medium-sized festival and upwards of 20,000 for larger international events. Here are some tips on how to overcome those odds and make your submission work in your favour.

Research

Research is key. Before even trying to apply, you need to know the basic information, for example what genre of music is a festival known for? Don’t apply to any music festival that will have you. It’s the same as sending your music to every promoter or label in town. Regardless of the kind of music that they work with. Narrow your search and settle on a few target festivals that you would like to play.

Deadlines

Keeping a track of deadlines is crucial. Getting the application in on time is one of the biggest obstacles artists face when applying. Create a calendar to keep track of the submission deadlines, so you don’t miss any opportunities. Late applications may be rejected and could paint you in a bad light. Also remember that, especially for bigger festivals, organisers look at securing headline acts up to 3 or more years upfront and once that’s done, they will start to fill the other slots with up and coming talent. So don’t leave your submission till the last minute.

Ready for submission

After doing your research, it is now expected that you know what to submit. Each festival is likely to have its own submission requirements – make sure you are aware of them. In most cases, you should have prepared a description of who you are and have your music ready. Your description should include your name, the genre of music you play, a quick summary of the band and any highlights of your career.  Remember to keep it short and accurate – don’t send your whole biography and stick to the submission requirements. Check out our previous post on how to create that perfect EPK. If you have previously performed at other festivals, do mention this, as it showcases your experience.

Pitching your music

This stage is crucial for your application. Make sure your music is professionally recorded and of high quality, you want to represent yourself well. For most submissions if not all, you will need your recordings in a digital format and before you send anything, check the requirements for specifics. However, the recorded music might be just a part of your application. Even if someone loves it, there’s no guarantee that your live performance is great. That is why festival promoters are more interested in your live performance as they look for artists that have a proven track record of drawing in a large crowd. Having a good quality recording of you playing live is likely to eliminate the risk from the festival’s perspective. Making it easier for you to get booked.

Social media presence

Nowadays, social media presence is key in building your music career. Many promoters and agents will explore your social media to see how serious you are about your career and what your fan base looks like. Your number of followers is not the key to getting booked, however, it can make a big impression. A higher following usually shows that you engage with your audience well and that you’re committed to promoting yourself. Before applying to a music festival, get your social media numbers as high as you can and most importantly – show activity. Do not let any promoters see that your last post was made a couple of years ago.

Networking

Networking is key in the music industry. Before making your submission, you might want to create a list of people working for the festival that you are looking to apply to, and try to establish a relationship with them. If you struggle to find those contacts, you can invest a small amount of money to get access to a directory such as The Unsigned Guide. Resources like this list thousands of contacts that get updated regularly. Also, remember that networking happens everyday and the more you get out there playing shows or going to festivals as an audience member, the more people you will meet.

Starting small

Don’t be afraid to start small. Applying for large international festivals at the beginning of your career is likely to be unrewarding, as the competition is huge and you lack the experience. Start researching smaller festivals that are happening in your local area. This will give you a better chance to put a festival appearance on your resume and gain more live experience. In the future, the more you make a name for yourself, the more festival promoters will be interested in booking you. Any live performance will also give you a chance to grow your fanbase and network. Also, look out for special booking opportunities, like contests in which the prize is an appearance at a festival.

Looking at the competitiveness of getting booked at a music festival, it may discourage you to even consider applying. Don’t lose faith. Remember that rejection is an inevitable part of the process of applying. Keep gigging and making music. Every step forward in your career will get you closer to your goal.

By Magdalena Wysocka

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