How To Get On To The Music Festival Circuit

There’s no doubt about it: because of the increase in popularity of music festivals landing a gig at one (or two or three) is one of the best ways to get your act in front of bigger crowds. So you should want to know how to get booked at music festivals so it can be you up there on that stage in front of the screaming masses.

In general, most festivals start their lineup planning months ahead of time by securing their headliners and then they start to fill the holes in the schedule with local and/or regional, up-and-coming acts — sometimes it’s acts they’ve never heard of before — and the larger the festival’s profile, the more competition there is for these slots. And be fully aware that there could be as many as 1,000 other submissions competing for 20 or so slots on a small/medium-sized festival lineup and up to 20,000 for the larger, high profile and international fests that could have up to 400 spots.

Now don’t get discouraged. A majority of these submissions are rejected instantly because they didn’t follow the rules during their submission. You can avoid that by understanding what festival programmers want to see on the applications. Here are some basic points:

• Don’t apply to a festival that is not a style/genre that fits your own style/genre or if you’ve only played shows in your own town and/or haven’t released a pro-level recording. You’d be amazed at how many acts fail at researching the events they are applying to. Do your homework and only apply to those festivals that are a good fit. Also, if you’ve only been playing at the local bar for tips and haven’t recorded anything, you are just not ready to play with the big boys yet and need to get some more experience under your belt.

• Don’t apply to a festival if you don’t stand out.

Specifically, you need to have great songs and put on a memorable live performance. Remember it’s your live show that festival promoters are interested in so make it stellar — that can move you up the list — but be honest with yourself and if you’re not there yet then spend some time writing and rehearsing and keep booking those gigs in small venues a little bit longer.

Part of standing out is having a solid Social Media presence. This is key to getting booked at music festivals as most will go straight to your online presence. It shows them how serious you are about your success and what your fan base is like.

• Don’t apply to a festival if you don’t have pro-level recordings and live audio/video samples.

It doesn’t have to be a full album or even an EP — just a handful of pro-quality tracks can work. Live or Studio doesn’t matter, however, what does matter is that these tracks are easily accessible somewhere online (like Soundcloud or Bandcamp or embedded into your website) so they can be streamed and/or downloaded. You should also have physical copies set aside for those few festivals who still want a CD/DVD.