5 things you’re doing that will not help you to play a festival
Of course, it is no secret that most of the contracts or agreements of collaboration between artists and festivals are conducted through offices and managers of such offices, but we will not deny that there are also events that have directly managed the inclusion of artists who are independent in their programming, sometimes initiated from a first contact by the band.
No, we do not have the magic formula that will put you on the posters of all the festivals this summer, but every day we see many hapless attempts to achieve this in ways that would only lead your proposal to the bin… and we will give you a few key points to bring them back. What, of all the things you’re doing, are boycotting your chances of getting to perform at a festival?
1. Showing up without having well informed yourself about the event
Searching for some basic information, like where they are held, on what date they take place and what musical line their programmers follow will save you a lot of useless correspondence that will waste your time and wear down your efforts.
- Don’t write to festivals if you don’t know where they are, or without checking that they are indeed where you thought they were. No joke, every year we receive material from Colombian groups that write to a festival in Santander (Cantabria, Spain) intending to play at a festival that they believe is in Santander (Bucaramanga, Colombia), despite the fact that both the website and social media relating to it clearly shows the location.
- Don’t write to festivals that have a closed set. The 23rd of July is probably the worst day of the year to make a proposal to a festival that begins on the 24th, even with an “in case any artist drops out” or “in case you want to keep us in mind for next year” (sic): unfortunately, if the festival has to make a last minute change of line up, it is beyond doubtful that they will open the mail to see if any group has suggested their inclusion that morning, and when the entire organisation is overturned, in order for the gig to go well, each and every one of its members has more important matters to attend to than the notice of a group that offers such an opportunely to play within 12 months. Check out the dates of confirmations and announcements of previous editions and become a calendar of future contacts.
- Do not write to festivals without taking into account what styles their line up covers. It is surprising the amount of heavy metal groups that send their dossier without breaking a sweat to appointments in which the hardest thing they bring to the stage sounds like Vetusta Morla, or classical music violinists trying to place themselves between Los Suaves and Hamlet. Far from thinking that they should just open their eyes, the festivals will discover in seconds what you’ve probably done: sent your information on a massive scale to a list that you found without any screening. Not only your contact/materials/proposal will go into the bin, but you will demonstrate your unprofessionalism to someone from the industry to which you offer your project. Take a little more care!
2. Directing your correspondence to the wrong person or in the wrong way
It is extremely tempting to put “festival” in the search box on Facebook and send the same message to all the resulting pages, right? Well, sorry to tell you that those Social Media Managers are not the scouts of the 21st century. While they can of course detect audiences and transmit new demands or trends among the public to the festival, it is not them who are going to get you a pass to fame.
- Do not speak to festival organisers using your generic contact address and drop your first musician-who-wants-to-play-in-the-festival rant or even worse! friend-manager-of-musician-who-wants-to-play-in-the-festival. Introduce yourself briefly and ask to whom you can direct an artistic proposal, and if there is a specific time limit or an agreed way to do so. At some festivals, you can be directly addressing someone from the management of the festival, but in most flowcharts the person receiving your mail does not have any say over programming. Let’s put ourselves in the best case scenario: they give you the name and address of a person responsible for booking, and you submit a proposal. If the person in charge of booking never contacts you, please do not harass the first person who dealt with you with a “listen, are you sure the correspondence was ok?”, “You can ask him if he has heard the single and what did he think?” Of course you must keep track of who you have contacted and when, and you can be interested once a reasonable amount of time has passed since your communication, but always try to communicate with intelligence and common sense.
- Do not send attachments that are not requested by the social media. When in the first three seconds of conversation you have sent a biography, a press release of your latest CD, 4 links to Youtube videos and a set of 21 photographs to a festival (we don’t know why, but this complete kit, including 21 high-resolution photographs, is a sample of what we have received by Facebook Messenger this week), your receiver will be clear that you are making a copy/paste. In the best case scenario, you will also be given a copy/paste response — there are many who do it every day — and in the worst case scenario, you will be marked as spam.
- Do not send attachments with the correspondence that are not requested by anyone. It is never a good idea for someone starting the day to discover 20MB messages from strangers in their inbox. It is unlikely that the next thing that they are going to do is pick up the phone to hire you. State your proposal and make your contact information clear in case they want to ask you for additional information and include direct links where they can listen to your music.
3. Send your proposal without personalising your message… or personalising it wrong!
OK, those responsible for festival programming know you’re not just writing to them, but that does not mean you should demonstrate to them that you have dedicated minimum attention to each message that you have written. If your band does not sound good to them and in the first line of the correspondence you have referred to them by the name of another person or another festival -at least 30% of communications that arrive come with this oversight — you have just convinced them to click “delete” before reaching the second line of the text.
4. Using an inappropriate tone in your communications
To the attendees, festivals may seem to be an oasis of magic, music, freedom and crowns of flowers in their hair, but don’t forget that the artists and the promoters are working. Take advantage of the connections you have (have you previously spoken with someone from the organisation in a professional meeting or at the showcase of another artist? Use it to enter your message), but when you communicate with them do not forget that at this time you’re looking for an employment relationship. That does not mean you have to be impersonal or cold, but do not overdo it in any of your statements: neither in euphoria because they have invited you to a second contact… nor much less to demonstrate bad manners, disappointment or disagreement in public or private posts if your proposal does not fit or you do not receive any feedback in the end.
5. Be realistic
Sorry, but at some point he had to drop the bucket of cold water. If your music has so far not managed to attract the attention of the public, of the specialised media, of a record label or a management office (cases in which it probably would have been the promoter of the event who would seek you) maybe you still don’t have what it takes to not attract the attention of a festival programmer as well, but you will get the chance to build a good rapport with him.
You should think about whether playing at festivals is what best suits you to focus your efforts on, or at least to approach them especially toward the festivals that feature scenes or specially designed spaces for local and emerging artists, and to review open competitions, the prize of which is to play at the festival.
The main thing for a festival to hire you is that the two of you come out winning, because you’re providing something that it needs — you have an interesting fan base in the area and you sell a significant number of tickets, you present an incredible straightforward proposal that will attract public attention even thought they don’t know you…- and that something that you want — the potential exposure to a new collective. Measure what you can give in terms of what you ask for, and if you get the feeling that the festival would have to do you a favour to squeeze you into the poster… remember: you are looking for an employment relationship. Keep working!