Make Your Band More Competitive For Music Festivals

Festivals—long a favorite summer pastime in Europe—have now taken firm hold among US music fans as the places to see new music. Naturally, that leaves even more bands asking to get on the bill. Getting booked to play a music festival is extremely competitive.

To get a foot in the door, you'll have to do some work. This is not going to be easy—if it was, everyone would be doing it—but you can get yourself on stage in front of festival crowds. Get your band booked for a music festival with these tips.

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Practice Your Stage Routines

Cheering fans at a music festival
 Robert Daly/Getty Images

You and your band are ready to play at a festival. But before you go and book yourselves in one, ensure that you really are ready.

This isn't an affront to your music or how good you might be—you should be ready for the unique demands of playing a music festival.

If you aren't very experienced yet on the live circuit, then you may not be ready. Playing a festival is a different beast than playing your local club, so promoters usually look for bands who have a proven track record of commanding a crowd and putting on a solid show.

In festivals, you need to have your stage presence on point—something that only comes with practice on stages. 

You'll have the best chances of succeeding in getting booked, and slaying your set if you do the groundwork of building your stage presence and show first. 

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Play the Right Festivals

You may not want to play just any music festival that will have you. That's akin to sending your music to every promoter, label, agent, and so on in town, regardless of the kind of music they work in.

Instead, narrow your search and settle on a few target festivals that you would like to play. Of course, the festivals in question should welcome your genre of music, but make sure they tick other boxes, too.

For instance, are there stages suited to bands of your size? Would you be able to travel to the festival if your expenses weren't covered by your booking fee or as part of your deal? 

If you don't have an agent, does the festival welcome submissions directly from musicians? Don't waste energy chasing festivals that aren't a good fit for you, even if they happen to be festivals you enjoy as a music fan. Get in where you fit in, and you'll get booked much easier. 

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Set a Calendar

Believe it or not, one of the biggest obstacles musicians face when applying for festivals or other events is simply getting the application in on time.

Do not apply to gigs late. Don't miss deadlines. Create a calendar of submission deadlines to all of the festivals you want to play so the opportunity doesn't pass you by. 

If you missed the deadline, you can't usually apply anywhere else. You might technically be able to find a way to do so, but don't expect it to get you booked. 

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Prepare Your Submission Materials

Every festival will have its own submission requirements. You should consider preparing an artist bio, some music, some professional photos, and a video of the band performing.

You will also need some decent quality recordings to show off your sounds. When it comes to submitting your music, bio, and so on, submit exactly what is requested—no more and no less.

Your bio shouldn't be a book. If they're not giving you an opportunity to tell how many shows you've played, don't cram the information in there.

Their formula is in place for a reason, and deviating from it is a good way to ensure your music doesn't get listened to at all.  

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Get Your Social Media Ready

Promoters do tend to look at how many social media followers a musician has as an indication of whether or not to book them. This makes it important for you to do your diligence and ensure you are marketing yourself.

A large number of social media followers isn't the same thing as having a large number of seats filled, but it does say something about you as a musician.

It means you engage your fans and that you're committed enough to promote yourself, which hints that you'll work hard to promote your show and give your fans a good show.

Before you apply for a music festival, get your social media numbers up as much as you can and most importantly, get active on your pages. If your last post was two years ago, you might want to get a flurry of activity going before you apply.  

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Don't Be Afraid to Start Small

Does your town have a festival that hosts live music? Sometimes, the best festival to start your festival career is at a hometown festival.

While it may not be Glastonbury or Bonnaroo, it is is a chance to put a festival appearance on your resume and get used to the style of playing live. It also allows you to work on your performances.

Performing small at first helps you market your band through word of mouth and social media as your band will garner reviews from your performance.

You can let your followers know you'll be performing. After the event, you can all post videos or chat with each other about the performances.

The more performances you can get your band, the more festival promoters will be interested in adding you to their bill. ​

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More Dos and Dont's For Getting Booked at Festivals

Be on the lookout for special booking opportunities, like contests in which the prize is an appearance at the festival

Be wary of paying to play at a festival. The organizers will want you to buy tickets to resell to fans with little or no compensation.

Non-profit festivals may be good exposure for your band. While not receiving compensation, it is a live performance experience opportunity for your band.

Keep the faith. It's competitive out there. That doesn't mean that you don't belong on the stage. Keep gigging and making music as you keep working on getting a festival slot.

Every show, every song, every new fan is a step closer to your goal.