This article will specifically go into detail with points from the “Meet the Festival Bookers” panel, right from the festival bookers mouths, about how to get booked on a festival.
Industry Vs. Consumer Festival
But first, I wanted to write a note about the difference between music ‘industry’ festivals and music ‘consumer’ festivals. Industry festivals take place to celebrate local talent and provide them with learning, business and promotional opportunities curated by the festival organizers. Consumer festivals, however, take place for consumers to watch all the hottest commercial artists (depending on the festival) over one night or weekend and there generally aren’t any educational components or specific business opportunities curated by the festival organizers. The biggest difference for artists, is that you don’t get paid to play industry festivals. Instead, the festival organizers fly influential people into the city, have them speak on panels and have them watch you perform and hope that something comes out of it. With consumer festivals, you most certainly get paid, and you play in front of dozens of thousands of people. The speakers featured on today’s topic are festival bookers for both industry and consumer festivals, and you can find their bio’s at the bottom of this article. Read on to hear what they have to say…
What the Festival Buyers are looking for
- Song quality
- Performance quality (they need to see you live or live recordings)
- Live energy
- CD’s are great but they’d rather see you live
- How much press you’re getting
- Are you willing to tour
- Where are you in your career right now (they try to get a good picture)
- Social media presence and followers
- Something unique that makes you stand out from everyone else
- Versatility (depending on the festival – eg. Can you MC and do a childrens act?)
What not to do
- Leave blank spaces in your festival applications
- Get the festival buyers name wrong in the application or email “Dear Festival Booker”
- Submit applications to festivals that don’t book your genre
Is genre important?
All festival buyers interviewed said that they book MOST genres! Even the “Folk” Festivals.
How much weight is put on ‘Noteworthy’? For example: Having won a Juno Award
- Having an award helps, especially a prestigious award
- However, just because you’ve won an award, it doesn’t mean tickets will sell because of you
How do they assess if a band is going to sell the festival tickets?
- Focus on which venues you’ve played and if those sold well
- For new bands, they don’t expect you to sell tickets, the headliner will create ticket sales
- Focus less on social media followers because it can be an unrealistic depiction
- Even a good home-town buzz is great, if you’re selling out one show a month that’s great
- Bands that place value on themselves, that don’t play too often in the same town
What about artist fees?
- The industry festivals don’t pay bands (because these festivals provide business opportunites instead by flying in music industry professionals from around the world)
- As an artist, be honest about your fee and what you want to charge, the buyer will most often come back to you with a counter offer
Email writing tips!
- There’s a fine line between being a pest and being persistent
- If you’re emailing the buyer regularly, you need to be emailing for a specific reason, updating them with something they might need to know, such as what you’re now up to
- Give each email a few weeks, and be polite each time
- The festival buyers are not trying to ignore you, they just have to prioritize their emails
- Write a long subject line with specific information!
- In the email body, write a bit about your tour history and list a few venues so that they booker can go contact them
- In the body, also write your upcoming strategy and why you want to play the festival
A note on reputation
- Industry people, especially buyers, remember if you’re a dick and they’ll go out of their way to tell people about it (I’ve witnessed it)
- There is a ton of networking between festival bookers and venue bookers and they’ll refer you to each other if you’re great
- When festival bookers are looking to book you, they will go and ask the venue bookers that you’ve recently played at to find out the low down
- Keep being a nice person, and you will keep being recognized for it
- Approach festival buyers at conferences – get to know them
- Some people don’t have CD drives anymore – make it easy for them to listen to your music such as sending links to YouTube and SoundCloud