Ah, the coveted festival spot. Can you picture it? You take the stage, hundreds if not thousands of fans screaming your name, eagerly awaiting the moment you rip into your first song. You’d play to a crowd full of people who either know all the words to your song, or can’t wait to learn them, and by the end you’d find the audience swarming to your merch booth to learn everything they can about you.
It’s kind of a musician’s dream isn’t it??
Believe it or not, getting a spot on the festival circuit—while it takes planning and hard work—isn’t actually as impossible as it might seem.
So how can you get closer to that dream?
Build that network!
I know, you’ve heard this one a million times, but it’s worth repeating, because not only will it help you when it comes to getting on that festival stage, but it’s pretty crucial advice for just about every area of the industry. The more relationships you build, and the stronger they are, the further you’ll get in this industry. Is it nepotism? It sure is. But you might as well make it work for you, because it’s not going anywhere.
Pay attention to your fans
First of all, you should really want to pay attention to your fans and be engaging with them regularly anyway. That said, if you struggle with what to post and how to get them engaged on social media, you’re not alone.
But if you want to be taken seriously in the music industry, you really do have to get serious about your socials. It’s a non-negotiable.
When it comes to festivals, having an active audience shows promoters that not only do you take your career seriously, but that the demand is already there and if they book you, not only will people show up, but they’ll be excited, they’ll share, they’ll tag you (and the festival) on social media, and it will grow not only your visibility, but the festival’s. Remember, this is a business, you can’t expect anyone to just “take a chance” on you because your music is great.
Invest in a high quality EPK
Having a professional EPK is important no matter what you’re going after, but when it comes to something that’s relying on your stage presence as much as your actual sound, you can’t really skimp on the hi-quality, professional video of your best performance, or the well-written bio that adequately tells your (very compelling) story and the press you’ve received. Likewise, you’re going to want those promo photos to look like a professional took them.
Give yourself plenty of time
Most festivals are booking earlier and earlier these days—at least 6 months in advance— so you want to make sure you’re giving yourself tons of lead time and researching festival opportunities well in advance of that 6-month lead time.
Quick tip: put together a spreadsheet that contains all your research. Things like the festival name, the city it’s in, contact name, the application due date, cost, and a column for when you’ve reached out, followed up, and any other important notes. This will help you stay organized and help you hit those important deadlines.
Be open to all opportunities
You might want to play SXSW in your first year as a band, but that might not be in the cards just yet.
Remember that all of the music industry is made up of stepping stones, and while you might want to leap from point A to point Z, it’s not likely to happen, no matter how much you complain about it. Ignoring those stepping stones and refusing to consider the things that can help you grow as you go is a sure fire way to get… nowhere.
That doesn’t mean your dream festival won’t happen, it just means that you should be open to all opportunities and consider any that truly align with your brand and vision. You wouldn’t believe how many seemingly small opportunities can lead you to the people and prospects that can completely change your career.
Angela Mastrogiacomo is the founder and CEO of Muddy Paw PR, where her artists have seen placement on Alternative Press, Noisey, Substream, and more, as well as the Co-Founder and Director of Community and Events for Music Launch Co. She’s also the owner of music blog Infectious Magazine. She loves baked goods, a good book, and hanging with her dog Sawyer.