Posted: 20 August 2019

Updated: 01 March 2022

How to get yourself booked at a festival.

Read time: 5 mins

Whether it’s wading through muddy fields, sleeping in a damp tent or praying that the portaloo isn’t too unbearable—there’s something about festivals we just can’t get enough of. As if getting woken up by the sound of distant riffs isn’t fun enough, some of us want to be the ones rousing the crowds with a mid-morning set. So, with the dream of playing a festival burning in every budding musician’s mind, how can you get yourself on the line-up?

Be ready

Playing the 11am slot to a slightly worse for wear audience might not seem like a big deal but at every festival there are hundreds if not thousands of artists competing for this very opportunity. To stand a chance against these other acts you need to ask yourself if you’re ready to play a festival. Festival promoters want bands that can command an audience, so it’s important that you’re already gigging regularly and drawing in a steady crowd. While you’re not expected to hit the capacity of a headliner, nobody wants to book you to play an empty field.

It’s also worth remembering that festivals are a commitment. Do you have time for extra rehearsals? Are there potential clashes with study deadlines or family events? 

Follow instructions

Don’t give promoters an excuse to put you in the ‘no’ pile because you didn’t follow the application instructions. If there’s a webform to fill out, make sure you use that rather than emailing or messaging on social media. If they ask for an email, send it to their listed contact, don’t just spam every inbox you can find. Also make sure you provide all the content they ask for. If there’s something you don’t have, for example, a video of you playing live, this could be a sign that you’re not ready to play this particular event. You should also be wary of sending more than they’ve asked for. Sometimes it pays off and other times, you just end up annoying an already overworked promoter.

Go digital

Whether it happens at the beginning of the process or when they’re making the final cut, promoters are bound to look you up online. A strong social media presence isn’t the only factor in their decision but it definitely swings the odds in your favour. And it’s not just a numbers game. Promoters will also be looking out for clear branding, interesting visuals and regular posting.

It might also be worth creating an easy to access electronic press kit so all your key information is outlined in one place. While it’s important to positively sell your band, try not to overexaggerate your achievements. Remember that if you’re successful, the images and bios you’ve submitted may be used on the festival’s website or promotional material, so don’t say anything you wouldn’t want repeated. 

Sign on the dotted line

Before you send off your application, remember to read the terms and conditions. In the UK, ‘pay to play’ operations are trying to be phased out of the industry and as a general rule you should try to avoid any festivals that charge you to play or even apply.

If you’re lucky enough to get booked, you’ll be presented with a contract to seal the deal. Some of the key things to pay attention to are the performance date, the stage and whether travel or accommodation costs are covered. Its also worth finding out about when you can announce the news on social media and if you’ll get any passes for friends or family.