Music festivals sit in a very special place in the hierarchy of gigs that a band can play. There are so many reasons why bands covet festivals. There is a huge crowd at a festival that is already primed for new music. A big stage with amazing sound and lights is at your disposal for you to fully display your performance prowess. There are so many different and complimentary acts whose fans could become your followers. There are people from all over the country (and sometimes the world) who you would have probably not been able to reach without the festival. Plus, there’s so much fun to be had.
No wonder it’s become one of the most competitive spaces for bands. So what should you do to get that coveted slot?
Are you even ready?
The first question you must ask yourself is whether you are prepared for the challenge. Playing a festival stage is very different from playing in a bar. Organisers and festival programmers know this and one of the things they look for is stage presence and performance prowess. A band that doesn’t inspire that confidence will get rejected outright. Engaging a huge audience, commanding a big stage, getting your people skills down pat, and looking amazing while doing all that is what festivals look for in acts that they hire. And the band’s popularity helps sell the tickets.
So, if you haven’t proven yourself on all these counts, it’s time for you to work hard at building on these before you pitch for that festival slot.
The right choice
The festivals that you enjoy as a fan aren’t necessarily the ones that are right for your band. Think of it from the festival’s point of view: is the band in the genre that we program, are they prepped for the size of stages and audiences those stages command, do they fit in with the rest of our programming?
Many of these answers can be gauged from the festival’s previous years’ line-ups. But the long and short of it is that if you aren’t pitching to the right festivals, you’re wasting your time.
Questions of money
Festivals in India are still in a somewhat nascent stage with only a few holding down stable sponsorship deals. This means that can’t pay a lot of artists. This also means that sometimes they will expect you to manage your own travel and accommodation. Is the festival then an economically viable option for you? The question is not a simple one because in your journey as a band, you won’t always weigh opportunities by how much money you will earn. Being part of a line-up with some of the best bands in the country (or abroad) could outweigh the money it pays. The festival’s own reputation could also swing the decision for you to place money second. But you should be able to afford it.
Pitch it right
We already talked about stage presence and keeping audiences engaged. The band bio and EPK is the place to prove it. Make sure there are more than two well-recorded live videos in there. Have at least a partial list of the best venues that you’ve played. Professionally shot photographs are a must (place all your heavy files in an online locker and send the links). Your social media links and audio recordings should be in there, too. Put in the news clippings of any media coverage you’ve got.
But keep it all neat and concise. Lengthy EPKs and bios are complete turn-offs.
Other things to keep in mind:
– Your social media followership will help festivals decide in your favour. Even if the numbers aren’t big, the consistency and manner of engagement with your fans matters a lot. Before you apply for a festival slot, make sure your social media channels are buzzing with activity.
– Small festivals are alright to start with. Till you’re noticed and accepted by a big festival, it works as something more to put on your resume and used to create video and audio content for your band.
– Look for contests or band competitions that have festival slots as prizes.
– Whatever you do, DO NOT pay to play at a festival. Just don’t.
Do you have your own creative strategies to break into the festival circuit? We’d love to hear from you and learn, as would our readers. Share it with us in the comments section.