So, you’ve been gigging around in the local bars and maybe done a small tour up the islands to Barbados and St. Lucia but you’re ready to take your career to the next level. You’ve got a handful of original tunes, a few hundred thousand streams of your latest release, and a small but dedicated fanbase who can’t seem to get enough of what you’re doing, maybe it’s time to step into the big leagues and play some international music festivals and showcases. Taking this step can seem intimidating but it’s simpler than you think! Let’s look at some of the key steps on how to apply to music festivals and showcases.
PERFECT YOUR LIVE SHOW AND GET NOTICED
Music festivals and showcases are a great way to gain exposure and usually the ticket to more touring and collaborative opportunities. Because of this, there is a lot of competition for festival slots for unsigned acts and even fewer for independent acts to showcase. At these events you’re not just selling your music, you’re selling yourself, your brand, and especially your live performance. To stand a chance of getting a spot, your live show must be memorable. To get your show where it needs to be, play live shows regularly to improve your chops and stage presence. Make sure and highlight what makes you unique and don’t let your show just be 45 mins of you standing there singing motionlessly into a microphone.
Before getting booked at a festival or showcase, the organizers are going to want to see what your stats and interactions are like on social media. If you are interactive with your followers, it may be likely that you will be interactive with the crowd at your show. You don’t need hundreds of thousands of followers to be noticed, but you do need to be well-liked by the ones you do have and you need to be engaged with your fanbase.
Networking is a huge part of being successful in the music industry, not just for getting booked at festivals and showcases. By attending meet-ups, concerts, nightclubs, parties, and obviously music festivals and conferences, it’s likely that those who are booking the events will be in the same room as you. Take any and every networking opportunity that you can find. You never know who you will end up meeting and what kind of impact they can have on your career. There are hundreds of virtual conferences and meets up in the music industry and thousands of social media groups so choose the ones that align with your brand and start meeting people. Platforms like Clubhouse and Twitter spaces have huge communities and networking on these platforms are easier than ever.
TARGET THE RIGHT FESTIVAL OR SHOWCASE
While it might seem that applying to every festival or showcase that is open might seem like a good strategy of getting booked, being selective is a much better approach. You need to take note of the genres or style of the festivals/showcases and also what types of artists have performed at previous versions of these events. Target the festivals and showcases that have had artists of similar size and style as you.
Start your research four to six months in advance, and target festivals and showcases that are likely to book your genre of music and artists with your fanbase size. Find out where artists similar to you have performed, and search festival directories for opportunities. Once you’ve found several showcases and festivals that seem promising, do some digging on the smaller acts that have been selected in the last couple of years. Are they based in the same city/country as the festival with a big local following? How strong is their social media presence and engagement? Do they have press coverage? Are they signed to an indie or major label, or are they completely independent? Try to identify any trends among previously selected bands/artists for your target festivals and showcase, and see how you measure up in comparison to help determine if it makes sense to submit an application.
PREPARE YOUR SUBMISSION AND PRESS KIT
A professional-looking, well-maintained EPK right on your artist website signals to festival and showcase promoters that you have your act together and that you’re serious about your music career. A great press kit should include –
1. An amazing Bio – Write a musician bio that is concise, attention-grabbing, and highlights what makes you impressive and unique. Your bio here should be short and sweet, hitting on relevant points such as other showcases and festivals or shows you’ve played. As live music is only now coming back, be sure to include live-streamed performances with numbers to show your draw.
2. Professional Photos – No matter how good your music is, you still need to present yourself in a professional way. High-quality photos are essential in solidifying your online presence. You should also include a couple of professional live performance shots to help the promoters/organizers envision you on their stages.
3. High-quality Live Performance Video – The best way to prove to a festival or showcase that you can put on an amazing show is to submit a few videos of you actually performing an amazing live show. It’s important that these videos and the audio along with them are of the best quality. You don’t necessarily need to spend thousands of dollars on videography, but you also don’t want to include a video taken on a camera phone. Make sure the video captures your stage presence and the crowd’s reaction and your interaction.
4. Press Links and Reviews – Interviews or reviews of previous performances or even music releases can go a long way in helping you book a spot at a showcase or festival. To keep your press kit concise, use a quote from each review or interview that brings across a sense of your performance chops, then include a link to the full article.
5. Social Media and Streaming links and Statistics – Promoters will often check out your presence on social media, or your activity on streaming services. These numbers can indicate that you’re an artist willing to put in the work to build up a solid fanbase and might sway the way you’re perceived for a festival slot. Don’t just include the links to these but have a nice concise summary with your most impressive stats.
PAY ATTENTION TO THE REGISTRATION/APPLICATION PROCESS
Your EPK is usually just one step but every festival/showcase will have different requirements and processes in their application. Make sure and read the information carefully and prepare all the necessary documents prior to submitting it. Familiarize yourself with each target festival’s specifications in advance so that you can budget your time and resources accordingly, and avoid any delays when the deadline comes around. If you don’t submit it properly, your application may be rejected without a look.
SUBMIT AND FOLLOWUP
After you submit your applications, it’s time to play the waiting game. Do not harass the event organizers with emails asking if you’ve been booked, especially if they specified in the submission process to not contact them about it – it’s a sure way to get blacklisted. The one exception might be if something significant happens in your career after you’ve submitted the f application. This could include booking another major festival gig, a high-profile review or interview, or securing an opening slot for a well-known artist. Then, you could send a follow-up email to the festival/showcase letting them know. Also, make sure to update your press kit accordingly.
Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get booked at a music festival or showcase after submitting your first few applications. These kinds of gigs are very competitive. Ask to be kept in the loop of other opportunities. Just because you didn’t get the gig this year, doesn’t mean you won’t in the future, especially if you continue to show that you’re an up-and-coming artist with great music and a growing fanbase.
Focus on perfecting your live performance, building your fanbase and network, and play as many shows at bars and other small venues while you work your way towards securing a festival/showcase spot.
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