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How to get a festival gig

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by masterFlash, Mar 3, 2010.

  1. masterFlash


    Jul 6, 2009
    Does anybody have any advice\tips on getting festival gigs? I recently joined a celtic rock group. They've been together for 5 years and play a lot of bars and irish events but supposedly haven't been able to crack into the festival scene. So I thought I throw it out to everyone here to see if yall had any insight.
    Thanks in advance.
  2. kcamsdog1387


    Jun 22, 2009
    Seacoast NH
    AFAIK, it depends on the festival. There are a few out my way that do different things. Most require at least a demo to be sent out. Sometimes they will have you play a show before the festival to see how much of a draw you bring. And that decides if you play. Do a search of festivals in your area and see what they require to play. Should be pretty easy.
  3. I've only experience with small festivals. Basically, they look for local popularity, how active you are and how well you draw. Usually those have equal focus on music as WELL as art/craft, market and other entertainment. Just find the right people, have a demo and be real friendly.
  4. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI

    Michigan Festivals and Events. I played some pretty sweet (Bay City Fireworks Festival) and a couple of weird (Fish Fly Festival) when I played with a band that were members.
  5. skidrawk


    Jan 21, 2007
    Space City, TX
    Booking Agent.
  6. We did a few benefit gigs that drew important people in the townships we performed in. We were approached after the benefit to perform for the town we had just played in. I had tried through a booking agent, who booked mostly large events like these but, they are sit in their office smoking all day kind of people in my experience and could not get them to come out to a local show to hear us. So you give them a demo and they say yeah anyone can sound good in the studio ( which is not true )! Anyway that is why we invited them out to the live show duh! Luck and exposure.
  7. jakelly


    Nov 8, 2009
    A city near me has a festival that I imagine lots of bands would like to play. I tried to get my former band booked. The city did not decide on the acts though. They hired some arts foundation, or council, whatever it was called. I took the arts people a promo pack, even though it was far too late to be considered for last year, but I thought maybe it would be good to turn it in and get our name in the mix for this year. AFAIK, they haven't called the band yet, and its been 7 months since I gave it to the arts people.

    Also, if you can hook up with a good booking agent, and he/she likes and has confidence in the band, you might get some showcase gigs through them, and lots of fairs/festivals choose acts this way. At least that's what I've heard. They usually have showcase events several months in advance of the fair/festival season.
  8. Floridabwoy

    Floridabwoy Supporting Member

    Sep 18, 2008
    Jacksonville, Fl
    It all depends on who you know. We play festival gigs almost exclusively, and all bookings come from promoters that we know.
  9. Mulebagger


    Dec 12, 2007
    poppin in the corn belt
    Endorsing Artist: Zon Guitars, Tsunami Cables, DR Strings, GK
    I've played in the Des Moines Arts, Wine, and World Food Fair Festivals. Also played the IA State Fair and a bunch of other outdoor large gigs. Typically, it's with this popular singer in the area. The band was never that great because they are always picking up and dropping members like laundry. They also sing the same old stuff and some rehashed covers, but they get the gigs.

    I think if you get to know some members of your city's planning and events coordinators or basically get to know the right people, you will find yourself with a ton of these type of gigs.

    I've never felt that the talent of any band I've been in has directly led to any gigs. More like being in the right place at the right time or knowing people.
  10. slyderhodge


    Oct 24, 2007
    Floyd, VA
    Associate Engineer: Mountain Fever Studios
    I'm pretty well acquainted with the owners of a production group that does 3 or 4 festivals a year as well as help out on some of the bigger festivals (bonneroo & all good). For their own festivals they find upstart bands via applications that are sent in a year ahead of time. The deal with them is that they won't pay any band that applied to play at the show. In other words if they aren't looking for you then they won't pay you. This isn't a bad thing. I had some friends that started out as a "free" band and played their festivals for 3 years. Before they knew it they had more than quadrupled their fan base. They did get screwed over in year 4 because they thought that since they had a bigger draw than some of the paid bands then they should be paid as well. They got the boot, but then they started getting booked at other festivals because of the fan base they had, the one they built up playing for FREE at local festivals.

    But as far as getting into a festival as a free band... great press kit, great demo (live recordings are great) letters of reference from club owners who are in the know, Facebook pages with 1000s of fans (even if they're your cousins), a professional-looking up to date website, marketable band photos and any other kind of schwagg.
  11. Well, if you are looking at festival gigs this summer you are probably screwed. Most festivals have already booked the headliners and are now pursuing the other acts (who have already sent in their press kits/demos). In the past, my band has played some festivals in the UP (Porcupine Mountains and the Marquette Blues Festival). We got a call from the Marquette people a couple of weeks back. At that time, they were finishing up with the national acts and were working with their budget to start booking the local/regional bands. March is a late start to begin searching for summer festival gigs. I suppose there could be a cancellation or something but you need to get your press kit/demo to the promotors in December or January. I am talking about festivals that have national acts to headline. Obviously, if you are talking about a local festival that books local bands, you probably still have some time but I'd get on the ball if I were you.

    They need to have this kind of lead time because of the national acts touring schedules. They have to find out who is available when and how much it will cost them. They need to sew up the headliners before they can determine how much they can afford for the supporting acts. It doesn't matter how good you are if the festival slates are filled.
  12. Floridabwoy

    Floridabwoy Supporting Member

    Sep 18, 2008
    Jacksonville, Fl
  13. masterFlash


    Jul 6, 2009
    Thanks everyone. There's seems like a lot of good advice in these responses. I'm going to use all this and come up with a action plan for our next band meeting. I definitely believe a lot of it has to be 'who you know'. So networking, networking, networking :)
  14. Richland123


    Apr 17, 2009
    I not only play in one of the top bands in my area, I also own a marketing, event management, and concert business and I am also on several large festival entertainment committees. In addition, my current band usually headlines 15 to 20 large festivals in the region each year. The festival circuit can be tough to crack and keep in mind they are one gig a year shows. However, they are usually high profile shows that pay well and you can almost be guaranteed an audience and good promotions. Also, if you do a good job, you can be a go to band each year for a festival as well as get the word around that you are suited to perform for other festivals.

    Rule #1 - Never play a festival gig for free. Once you get a reputation for doing free festivals, everybody will want you to play for free. Believe me, the festival people do talk to each other. Heck, I am involved completely directly and somewhat directly with about 20 festivals and I know who gets paid what. Also, the majority of festivals that are known to have very high end bands view bands that offer to play for free as not being very good.

    There are several types of bands that get hired for festivals depending on the type of festival and the listening audience. Variety, family oriented, rock, oldies, classic, country type bands get looked at first and foremost. No hard metal, no rap, no foul language, no drunks on stage. Specialty bands (such as all Irish, all country, all blues, all bluegrass, all polkas, etc.) fit into cases where they might appeal to a certain audience and certain festival (e.g., ethnic festival).

    Most festival committees do not have musicians or people who know the business booking bands. A promo package should include a CD (prefeably a live undoctored CD and if you can have one from a festival already that is even better), a bio, logo, photos, show schedule, etc. Never list your price in a promo package. You want the opportunity to negotiate and speak to somebody. Always follow up a promo package mailing with a phone call. With committees, things normally have to get to the decision maker, be presented to the committee, and voted on. Most festivals book their bands 6 to 12 months in advance of the event. To get your foot in the door, offer to play early time slots in the morning or afternoon, headliner opening slots, secondary stage slots, etc. This will get you in so they can see how you do.

    Keep in mind that these are normally multiple band shows and require being prompt (show up early, start on time, and take very short or no breaks depending on the show length), professional, and proper appearance and demeanor. Find out if there will be a sound company for all acts or are you required to provide your own sound. Always, and I repeat always, provide a very detailed contract with terms agreed upon by all parties. Provide all advertising materials such as digital photos, bios, etc. as soon as the gig is booked.
  15. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    My band has been playing local festivals since we started out last year. This is an area we really feel is where our music shines over say bars etc. We have 3 in the books so far this year with several more waiting to hear back on.

    I find most by doing searches online or city searches for arts/rec depts etc. I also remember several of the big festivals in my area and apply there. We use a combination of EPK or sending Cd etc. Larger music only festivals seam to use Sonicbids which i am not a fan of. Remember like others have posted the type of music you do is important. If your a hard rock,metal,rap etc you cut your chances way down. World,roots, blues, jazz etc help you get gigs more "family friendly since thats what they want attending festivals ..family's...not moshers.