Industry news & advice blog

How to get a festival slot. Essential advice from festival bookers at The Great Escape, Liverpool Sound City, FOCUS Wales, Folk On The Dock, Tramlines & more

We chatted to a number of festival bookers to get their essential advice on what they're looking for from festival applications, and what you can do to stand out!

ADAM RYAN, FESTIVAL PROGRAMMER, THE GREAT ESCAPE
The Great Escape is an international festival which attracts 16,500 festival goers and 3,500 music industry delegates from across the globe every year. Playing TGE is a great opportunity to get yourself in front of new audiences who can help open many other doors for you.

“Don’t rush your application: Don’t leave registration until the last minute and end up submitting something that doesn’t do your band justice. Take your time compiling your info to ensure that it is something that represents your band well.

Your tracks: Keep things simple. We don’t need to hear the last 3 albums you self recorded at home and your experimental period which is hard to play live as your harpist works weekends. Only include links to a few tracks that best represent you and your current direction. Try and make sure the sound on your included tracks is of a good quality, things don’t have to be high tech but a clear recording is definitely essential.

Artist Bio: Again, keeping things to a minimum is best. Inspirations, influences, previous shows played and upcoming dates are useful information to share. The drummer’s favourite type of food or how the band met aren’t so important. Try to keep it short and concise, or you risk losing your reader.

Press Shots: I personally hate band press shots and from my experience they just get posted up on office walls and ridiculed (not in the TGE office of course). That picture showcasing your mum’s hairdressing skills while you lean against a wall might seem like a good idea but they tend to date quickly. Just a simple, decent quality photo that best represents your band/artist is all that is needed.

We receive a huge number of applications each year so make sure you are using your application to prove to us why you stand out from the rest.”


Apply to play here.


NEAL THOMPSON, CO-FOUNDER, FOCUS WALES
An annual showcase for the Welsh music industry, FOCUS Wales will celebrate its 8th anniversary this year. It welcomes exciting emerging acts from around the world to play at a jam-packed programme of events held across Wrexham.

“We have around 2,000 applications every year from bands from around the world wanting to play at FOCUS Wales. Standing out in a large number like that for a band or performer can be difficult.

Bookers want to know what your band is all about in the shortest time possible. So I'd always recommend having a good quality video of a live performance of a song that really says what your act is about. It saves their time and gets you ahead of the pack.”


NICK OTAEGUI, PRODUCTION/ARTIST BOOKING MANAGER, LIVERPOOL SOUND CITY
The award-winning metropolitan festival of live music takes over a wide variety of interesting spaces to deliver the very best breakthrough acts and major names both from across the UK and abroad. Liverpool Sound City also hosts independent record label parties and showcases hand-picked by a panel of acclaimed regional, national and international curators. Here’s a breakdown of their process in selecting artists to play and what they look for.

“Firstly we have a listen to all the artists, along with the rest of the team, so it’s not just one persons perspective. We look to see how established an act is, how hard-working in terms of setting up their own shows, releases etc. Proactivity is easy to pick up on a band’s social media. So if they are not active and pushing things on there, it’s doubtful they are as committed as they should be.

All in all a combination of great music, strong identity, hard working and proactive online presence is what we’re looking for. Sometimes some acts just naturally stand out and grab your attention too!”



MARINA BLORE, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, FOLK ON THE DOCK 
Folk On The Dock festival attracts 90,000 people to Liverpool over August Bank Holiday weekend and promotes the best of Folk, Roots and Acoustic music across several stages, free and ticketed events.

“In any application, get your personality across and explain what's different about you. It's not always about experience, if you are a great performer with a new sound, we are interested. Get professional photographs, good quality tracks to upload and apply to the festivals that are relevant for your music. I get a lot of submissions from Jazz, R&B and Rock musicians that are just not relevant for our event. It's just a waste of everyone's time and also shows a lack of dedication to ensure an artist's music is being heard in the relevant place.

We are interested in hearing from artistes who have a unique vocal sound, as well as inspiring songwriting and musicianship. An artiste with a refreshing sound and image enables festival programmers to offer the audience a more diverse offering. Make sure the performance isn't self-indulgent, you are playing to a huge crowd and your music has to get from the stage to the back of a crowd and spark emotions in people with songs that the audience can relate to.”


Apply to play here.


BOOKING TEAM, SONDER FESTIVAL
 
Sonder aims to be a platform for up and coming unsigned acts, as well booking more established bands for headline slots. Dedicated to filling the Manchester based festival with new music, Sonder don’t want to recreate Madchester sound of the 90s, but bring new exciting talent to the Northern Quarter.

“When booking bands we do need to ask ourselves will the band sell tickets, as an independent funding the festival has to be a consideration. Bands and solo artists that are constantly playing in the city centre and playing gigs for free will genuinely struggle to pull a paying crowd, in this case we genuinely can’t afford to book them. Bands need to think about other gigs they are performing as overplay decrees your value as a band.

The whole team at Sonder works hard on creating a quality festival and we work hard to promote and support, not only the festival, but all of the bands that are involved with us. We will promote bands’ latest single releases etc through our social media, but we want to know the bands we book are going to do the same. We want bands that we can see are active on Facebook and Twitter and working on building up their fanbase.

Lastly, we want to book bands that are basically just amazing! We want bands that are exciting and unique. Bands that can get the crowd pushing to the front of the stage, or singer songwriters that can silence a room before they have even got to the first chorus.”


Apply to play here. 


BOOKING TEAM, LAKEFEST

Since its first event in 2012, Lakefest held at Eastnor Castle Deer Park, has been all about introducing their audience to new music and building a new fanbase for emerging artists.

“Do have a strong and positive online presence, do stay original, do submit live and studio videos with good acoustics, do remain likeable in communication and on video, and finally do entertain us!”

Don’t submit poor-quality recordings, don’t give any indication that you may be difficult to work with, and don’t send a track if you know it won't grab our attention; first impressions count!”


Apply to play by emailing [email protected]


SARAH NULTY, DIRECTOR, TRAMLINES
  
Tramlines aims to showcase the best music, food and drinks and cultural experiences that Sheffield has to offer. With multiple stages across the city, 2018 will see the urban festival celebrate 10 years.

“We always look at social media following & previous posts when we’re dealing with a new band. If possible provide a link to all your information in one place. Private messages on Facebook etc can be an inconvenience, so make sure you stick to the application rules.”

Applications to play open in February. Keep an eye out here. 


DANIEL MAWER, HUMBER STREET SESH
 
Located around Hull’s marina, Humber Street Sesh has drawn crowds of more than 30,000 in previous years. They aim to programme over 200 original bands and acts across 16 stages over the 2 day event.

“Provide a good quality image, a succinct biography, as well as appropriate links to your music. When writing your biog, you don’t need to give us a long history of how you all met, your favourite movies and what your favourite fruit is (strawberries if you’re asking!), just a short piece that references what you sound like, who your influences are and what achievements you’ve had is great!

Music videos really help us get a good idea of who you are, so please remember to include yours if you have a specific video you’re proud of. Regarding live footage, please consider whether your mum’s shaky camera phone footage on YouTube best shows off your performance. If you don’t have a live video you’re really proud of, don’t worry! It’s better to leave that section blank and let your recordings do the talking.”


Apply to play here.

 

ALSO READ:

Advice for unsigned acts on applying to play at UK music festivals in 2018

Preparing to play a festival slot? Advice from music industry experts

Fair pay for festivals - It's OK to ask for fair pay


 

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