How to Get Booked for Your First Music Festival
Have you dreamt of seeing your name in a festival lineup? With the right knowledge and steps, you'll be on that stage in no time.
Getting booked for a festival is one of the best ways to get your music in the world, connect with your fans IRL and reach even more new potential fans. But if you're an emerging artist, booking your first festival gig can feel really intimidating, especially not knowing where to start or what steps to take to reach the big stage.
Bigger live performances create new opportunities for artists to introduce their brand to a wider audience, spread a marketing message, and make more money — while giving their fans a memorable show. In this guide, we break down the steps you need to take to secure your first festival gig.
Before you dive in, it’s important that you determine whether you’re ready to make that move. Bigger live performances create new opportunities for artists to introduce their brand to a wider audience, spread a marketing message, and make more money — while giving their fans a memorable show. Organized live shows are very different from performing during open mic nights, at your local club or venue, so you need to make sure you are ready.
Preparation is everything
Here is a checklist for you to determine if you’re ready to try to get booked for a festival:
Music: your music is available on major stores (like Spotify, Apple Music, Soundcloud, Deezer, etc) and your releases are gaining streams from your promotional efforts.
Performance: you have performed in front of a live audience on multiple occasions and you feel confident doing it on a bigger scale.
Branding: you have established a visual identity both with your physical appearance and online presence.
EPK: You have a strong Electronic Press Kit that has helped you get booked for smaller events and gigs before.
Network: You have established a network in your local scene or online with other artists, promoters, and creatives.
Booking Agent: Do you have a relationship with a booking agent? Relationships are key and having a good booking agent who has connections with promoters and venues that are more difficult for you to establish, will relieve you of having to chase after these crucial people in the booking process.
Nail social media (and stay active)
Don’t underestimate the power of growing an online community (and we mean more than just sharing your new release to your Instagram story). Focus on developing your brand by creating interesting and valuable content for your fans, engaging with them, and giving them a reason to follow along on your journey to the top. Social media is filled with aspiring musicians trying to catch their big break, and the best way to establish yourself online is really to find a niche that adds a layer on top of your music — attracting fans with similar interests that make them want to stay around for the long haul.
Making your music easily accessible for potential new fans by making it available for them to share and use for original content on Instagram and TikTok is a great way to spark online engagement, get other people excited about your music, and of course, help your music reach other audiences. The goal is to build an online community that will jump at the opportunity to see you perform live.
“A great artist is someone who knows how to promote themselves online, is able to build a long-lasting relationship with their fans, and makes an effort in establishing their brand,” says Evie Bloom, Content Manager, Amuse.
“Having a strong online presence is not easy and you really can’t rely on someone else doing it for you. It’s a part-time job on top of making quality music that relies on consistency more than anything else. Being able to pair the story you’re telling with your music with your online presence will produce loyal fans and build a community that is ride-or-die. There are several ways to approach social media but my top tips are to be authentic (find your niche), be relatable (like you’re talking to a friend), and stay consistent (don’t take regular breaks and if you do, let your fans in on why).
For more tips on creating your visual identity, read our article "How to Brand Yourself as a Music Artist".
Want to learn more about promoting your music on Instagram? Read "Our Top Five Tips on Promoting Your Music".
Create a successful press kit
When trying to secure a place in the lineup at a festival, having a good Electronic Press Kit (EPK) is crucial.
“Having as much information about yourself readily available in the most easily digestible format possible is crucial for that initial outreach, says Dan Roy Carter, Music Promotions Lead, TikTok. “A good electronic press kit, including music, imagery, touring history, key data, and social statistics, is going to serve you well, bonus points for good quality footage of your live performances.”
Make sure you include links to your music (like your Spotify profile), high-res photography, website, and social media links, a short biography, press quotes, videos (past live performances are a big plus), testimonials, and your contact details.
“Festival bookers are going to want to see that you’re culturally relevant, have your own fanbase bubbling, and a brand that is relevant to their beat or territory,” adds Dan. “It’s important to really do your research and keep pitches/outreach as focused and on point as possible. A talent buyer/bookers inbox is a hectic place, so your ability to cut through the noise via concise and well-curated information is going to serve you well in breaking into the festival market.”
Read our full guide on "How to Create a Successful Press Kit".
Networking is key, no matter what stage you’re at in your career. That applies to many industries but particularly in the music scene, you’ll get more opportunities thrown your way, the more people you know! The music business is a relationship business, so don’t just build but nurture the connections you make.
Start off within your local scene - attend club nights, and events to connect with other artists on social media (Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Discord, Reddit). You really never know who you’ll meet at a club night or event, you could connect with a promoter that has a bigger network in the festival scene, or a booking agent that's out looking for upcoming artists to work with (we’ll get into that later). The more familiar they are with you and your music, the more likely they are to think of you when booking the lineup for a festival. It might sound obvious, but some artists spend too much time cooped up, hidden away in their studios working on music, and forget the importance of building their network.
Another great way of branching out your network is attending industry events, conferences, and festivals. For example, South by Southwest (March 10 - March 19, 2023) is an “annual conglomeration of parallel film, interactive media, and music festivals and conferences organized jointly that take place in mid-March in Austin, Texas.” Music industry professionals (managers, booking agents, artists, label reps) come together for a music week packed with networking events, showcases, and educational panels — a solid opportunity to make connections that may lead to opportunities like being asked to perform at an upcoming festival.
Get a booking agent
A booking agent assists an artist in telling their story, developing a touring strategy, pitching promoters, determining expenses and the list goes on.
Signing with your first booking agency can be an exciting milestone for all independent artists, but it’s important to not jump into the process and sign with the first agency you speak to. Spend time having different conversations, ask them about their plans for you, and try to get feedback from other artists that have worked with them. Take your time, do your research, and find someone that believes in what you’re doing and feels just as passionate about your music as you do.
There’s really no shortcut in securing a festival gig, artists who really work hard on their brand, EPK, and nurture their network and fanbase will achieve a place in a festival lineup. These days, releasing quality music is in most cases not enough to get on the big stage. Develop a strong online presence, consistently engage with your community, practice playing live shows in your local scene, and continue building your network.
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