How to Get Festival Bookings
Thinking about applying to perform at a music festival this year? Festivals across the country are looking to book music acts now. Read on for our top tips on how to make festival organisers book you.
How to get festival bookings: As you become a more established act, you’ll want to start playing to bigger crowds, that’s where festivals come in. Festivals are a great way for you to showcase your talent to a wider audience. With some research, preparation and a few tricks up your sleeve, you can secure those summer bookings.
Festivals come in all sizes from a glorified buzz word for a local village fete to expansive infrastructure the size of a City, they all mark an opportunity to get you and your music heard.
When you research the festivals that you want to play at, find out how the acts are booked and invest some time into getting your press kit ready. You’ll find that you’re soon able to secure those bookings, play to a larger crowd and start to climb the ladder of success.
When do music festival applications open
Festivals are planned up to 18 months in advance, starting with securing headline acts and filling the rest of the schedule to provide all-day entertainment. These filler slots are given to festival regulars with a smaller following and to new, upcoming acts.
The slots are competitive and with many now being advertised on social media, it’s common to see over 1000 acts apply to even the smallest of festivals. Larger events have upwards of 2000 applicants. Considering festivals have any number of slots from 15 to 500, you have to be well-prepared to get your application considered.
With lower slots being filled last, think about looking for these opportunities at showcase festivals, such as Brighton’s Great Escape and Liverpool’s Sound City. Around the new year, festivals will release their headliners and main line ups and it’s around this time that they are looking to complete the remaining slots on their stages.
Music festival submissions
It’s very important to know your market and how you position yourself in the industry. Large festivals may cover a variety of genres, but smaller ones tend to be more niche. Different genres will have different expectations from their artists before booking them.
EDM DJs and artists have a great choice of festivals that you would love to play at, including Creamfields, South West Four and MADE. Keep working your way up through bigger clubs and events and you should be able to raise your profile enough to get on these festivals.
Bands should be expected to look at rock, metal and indie festivals, such as Truck, End of the Road and Download. It helps if you have a track record of touring, an established fanbase and live session videos to help you with your application.
If you are a hip-hop artist then there are some great festivals within this genre that you should be aware of, such as Wireless, Lovebox and Field Day. You might be able to get slots here after collaborating with other artists that have played these festivals. At the very least, they will have some advice that could help you.
Apply to perform at music festivals
Put yourself in the festival planner’s shoes. If you’re receiving 200 emails every day from people eager to play at your event, are you going to open every one of them and check out every bio and link? It would probably take you longer than the time you have to plan the entire weekend.
With 20-75% of submissions are rejected instantly it’s important to spend some time researching the basics, having a professional press kit and thinking of a way to stand out.
Some of the reasons your application will get immediately rejected are:
- Applying for a festival which doesn’t feature your genre of music. If you’re an Abba tribute artist there’s no point asking Download festival to consider giving you a slot.
- You haven’t played a festival before and can’t demonstrate that you have a following. How do you get booked for a festival if you need prior festival experience? Frustrating of course but if you have the right tools in your kit you can convince anyone to book you. Read on!
- Not sending the information they request. If you don’t have it, get it!
- Your pitch is weak. Read up on how to pitch to a booker and think of ways you can grab their attention from the get-go.
Music festival booking agents
For the bigger festivals, many artists get booked on through live agencies that have connections with key promoters in the festival circuit. Promoters will often try and fill their slots through these agents rather than deal with hundreds of independent artists.
This is because if promoters were open to independent artists then they would have to do their research on the act and their history, as well as sort out the contractual agreements. This is so much more work than they are capable of doing alongside running the festival so respected booking agents come in with their roster, make the pitch and sort out the little details.
Some of the biggest booking agencies include 13 Artists and Coda. If you look at their roster, then you will see their acts dotted around over festival billings across the world. A booking agent can be a game changer and get you playing in front of thousands over a single summer.
These agents will not appreciate being harassed to come to your shows and sign you. The best way for you to get their attention is to be unique and exceptional at what you do. Their agents will always be looking for the next great act so keep working hard, network and they will find you when you’re ready.
How to get booked at music festivals
#1 Stand out
Work on your performance and be polished before you consider submitting an application to a festival. This might mean acknowledging you’re not quite ready yet, which is difficult when you’re wanting to get out there and show the wider world what you can do.
Work on your stage presence, festival promoters want to know that you can entertain a crowd and keep them engaged in your performance. As well as building up your following with gigs, attend open mic nights where you can ask for constructive criticism from your peers.
Talk to your audience between tracks, tell funny anecdotes about the song, wear something outrageous, jump around – do whatever it takes to make your performance entertaining and you’ll be an appealing act to get booked at festivals.
#2 Do your research
Before you start sending emails to everyone you’ve ever heard of in the music festival industry, do your research! Find out which festivals you want to play at and read their websites carefully to find out how and when to apply. Compile a spreadsheet or database with details such as event dates, artist submission dates and email addresses.
Also, check whether there’s a fee and consider whether you have a realistic chance of getting booked before parting with your money. You then have a list you can visit each year without having to trawl through the sites again. Put them in your calendar and set an alarm to get your application submitted in time.
Use online resources to find out the booking contacts are. Check their social media and see if you have mutual friends. If so, ask to be introduced! A personal recommendation goes far and even if it’s just a mention of your name it might give you an advantage when applying. If they run other events you can get to go and check them out.
#3 Start small & local
This is the best place to start so if you have little or no experience playing at other festivals it’s going to be a hard task getting the larger national events to consider your application.
Smaller events in your area are more likely to book local talent, so you’ve got a higher chance of getting booked. Most smaller festivals will only book local artists, the Kineton Music Festival in Warwickshire being one of them, this gives artists a great opportunity to build a bigger following so check out what’s going on in the towns around you.
A person needs to hear your name numerous times maybe as much as 100 times before they see you as a credible artist! Smaller festivals allow you to create a buzz so work on getting everyone in your local area wanting to see you, become the name on everyone’s lips. In turn, this leads to increased press coverage, more photos and video footage to add to your press kit.
Check out The Festival Calendar to find the 2019 festivals you can apply for.
#4 Get ready
Keep your Electronic press kit (EPK) up to date with photos, press releases and working links of your performances. Get professional head and performance shots taken along with having a good quality video of live performances. Upload tracks to sites like Soundcloud and Bandcamp so that they are easily accessible from a link in your EPK.
Your website and social media platforms should be in harmony with each other in order to present a professional image. Social media presence is paramount to building your music career and helps when trying to get booked anywhere as it’s often the first place an agent will check you out on. If you don’t have many followers look at investing in ways you can increase the numbers.
If you need photos or other material for your EPK and don’t have the budget to hire a professional, then consider putting a shout out on social media. You might be surprised at how many people will be happy to help you out for free in return for putting their logo on the photos or a credit slide at the end of a promo video.
You’re applying to play live at their festival, so send them your live videos. Show them exactly what they can expect if they decide to book you for their festival.
Again, keep the email approach easy on the receiver’s eye, hyper-linking the sentence with your video link helps to keep it tidy.
#5 Applying in style
If you’re fortunate enough in being able to meet a festival booker in person be prepared with a business card and a way to make an impression. A great example of this is an artist who went to a local festival as he’d seen that the organiser of a larger event was attending.
He waited until the organiser went to the bar and made his strike, after a brief introduction he handed the organiser a business card along with a packet of Irn Bru Humbugs. He hung around and helped to pack up at the end of the day. Guess who got booked for the larger event? It only took a small amount of effort and a packet of sweets for the organiser to remember him again.
If you don’t have the luxury of a personal introduction you will have to submit your application via the formal route. Bear in mind that festival organisers receive hundreds, if not thousands, of requests for slots.
Send your press kit with some information about gigs you’ve played, who you’ve worked with and any awards you’ve won. Tell them what’s in it for them if they book you – remember that they want to sell tickets so will be thinking in terms of benefits.
Keep it brief, it’s not a job application. Don’t include irrelevant information such as you’ve got 3 GCSEs or that you spent 6 months in Thailand. Your bio should include information such as:
- Your story as an artist
- How it’s relevant to the festival circuit
- What your music sounds like
- Who your key influences are
- What the most relevant highlights of your career are
If you struggle with putting a bio together, check out various freelancer websites. You can get one professional written for a very low cost.
Think about a way to follow up on your application so that your name is heard again. Maybe send Irn Bru Humbugs in the post!
If your application isn’t successful don’t give up. Keep working on your performance and try again next year.
- Remember that festival organisers receive hundreds of e-mails asking for slots at their festival, so make sure you’ve looked into the festival you’re applying for. Do research into each stage and find which one suits you best. That way they’ll be aware you’ve done your research and they’re likely to give your music a listen.
- As always keep the email concise and to the point, two short paragraphs should ensure that it’s not quickly looked over, you don’t want to be one that a busy promoter will look at that later but never does.
- Also, don’t send attachments, especially ones that are big files as you could potentially aggravate the festival promoter before they’ve even listened or looked; a simple hyperlink to a YouTube video can do the job just as effectively.
Some festivals have attained legendary status over the last fifty years and the industry is currently booming. 1969’s Woodstock is still talked about today and events such as Glastonbury, Burning Man and Coachella are on the bucket list of thousands.
Millennials consider it a right of passage to go to at least one major festival in their lifetimes with others making it a ritual every summer holiday throughout their college years. Local festivals are eagerly anticipated as they are opportunities for all ages of the community to get together and sit in the sunshine.
With social media now playing a huge part in selling the festival experience, events are attracting larger crowds year on year and sponsorship deals provide eye-watering amounts of funding for branded arenas and headline acts. Getting onto a festival stage is one of the most attainable ways to get your live show in front of larger crowds and build your audience for future tours and releases.
Let us know what festivals you want to play at, if you have played any festivals and how you got booked for it.