How To Play Music Festivals & Make The Most Of Your Slot

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We've teamed up with the good people over at The Unsigned Guide to offer some insider advice on how to play music festivals, how to make the best of your festival appearance, and how to be invited back!

how to play music festivals

If you’ve managed to get some music festival slots booked for your band this summer, then first up…congrats! This is a great platform for you to show off what you do best to a new audience and, fingers crossed, quite a decent sized one at that. So with this in mind, you need to make that festival slot count!

Check out our top tips on how to play music festivals and how to ensure you nail that festival performance and walk off with plenty of new fans.

How to make the most of your festival slot

Allow plenty of time for rehearsals

This is rule No.1 on our how to play music festivals guide. If this is the first time you’ll be playing for a certain festival organiser, you want to impress - Not to mention the whole load of new faces and potential fans in the making who’ll be watching. You need to blow them away so it’s imperative that your performance is polished and highlights your strengths. Get all your best songs into the set; there’s no room for filler – it needs to be all killer. First impressions count so put some time and thought in…and practice, practice, practice!

Promote the heck out of it!

Of course, it goes without saying that you need to shout on your website, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and every other channel you have available to you about your festival slot. If you’re going to be at the festival for the whole weekend or just earlier in the day of your slot, why not get some cheap and cheerful flyers made up with your band name, website & other contact details, but most importantly the stage you’ll be playing on and time of your slot, so you can have a chat with folk on the festival site and hand them out to anyone who may be interested. The personal touch can go a long way.

Make new contacts

Make friends with the other bands playing on your bill. OK, it’s probably pointless emailing headliners such as Arctic Monkeys to arrange a hook up, but there are likely to be many other bands and artists of your level that are playing on the same stage or across the festival at some point. Why not get in touch beforehand and arrange to say hello in person? This is also a great networking opportunity and one of the key things you need to consider when thinking about how to play music festivals.

Hitting it off with bands and artists who are doing a similar thing to you can be priceless. They’ll be the ones that encourage fans to stick around after their slot to check out another great band…i.e. YOURS! Festivals bring together musicians from around the country or even overseas, and in the future these contacts could be invaluable if you’re wanting to create a buzz in another city, or even a different country.

Be entertaining

What’s the first question you’re inevitably asked when you return from a festival? “Who was the best band you saw?” The bands & artists that blew you away will be all you’ll be telling your friends, colleagues, and the family dog about for days afterwards.

If you want festival goers to walk away from your gig and chat about your performance (for the right reasons!), tell all their mates about you, and look you up when they get back home, then you’re going to have to be pretty memorable. If you can stand-out from the other acts, then you massively up your odds of getting booked again and getting people talking about you.

Focus on how you can show off what is unique about your music and get the crowd going. Think of visual aspects of your performance that could be expanded upon. Are there any stage props you could incorporate to make your mark? Have you got any unusual songs or quirky covers you could add into your set to get the crowd involved?

Photographic evidence

how to get festival slots

Ask a mate in the crowd to get some snaps of you whilst you’re playing. It’s great to document your performance or day and then share on your blog or social media afterwards. Whilst there will be professional photographers at some of the main stages at festivals, sometimes the smaller, unsigned stages can be overlooked so arrange some photo or video footage in advance courtesy of a friend with a steady hand.

Expand that mailing list & sell some merch

Announce at the end of your slot that you’ll be hanging about down front of the stage for the next 30 minutes after you’ve played if anyone wants to come over and say hello or pick up some merch. Take this opportunity to grab as many email addresses for your mailing list as possible.

You could even let the audience know that you’ll give anyone that comes over a freebie – could be a badge or keyring in exchange for an email address, or you could send them over a free, exclusive track a few days after the festival is done & dusted to further plant in their heads how great your music is once they’re back to reality and their daily routine.

Don’t get tooooooo wasted!

It’s easy to get into the spirit of things as soon as you step foot in those muddy fields. But seriously…try not to get too drunk/mashed before you play. You don’t want to mess up a 20 minute slot you’ve been keen to play for months because you got a bit carried away. There’ll be plenty of time for drunken debauchery once you’re off stage.

Who are ya?

There’s a strong chance at festivals that stage slots will run late, get switched around, or punters will wander up to your stage mid-way through your performance, meaning they have no idea which awesome band it is they’ve just witnessed. Make sure you announce who you are at some point early on in the set, then again at the end. Speak clearly too…your mumblings can easily be lost amongst booming basslines from other stages and unfeasibly loud fairground rides!

Enjoy yourself!

This one goes without saying. Yes, a good deal of preparation and practice will be needed to make your festival slot amazing, but this should be a brilliant and memorable experience from start to finish so make sure you enjoy it to the max!

Exclusive discounts with The Unsigned Guide

how to play music festivals

The Unsigned Guide is a UK music industry directory aimed at emerging, independent & DIY bands, artists & musicians who are keen to progress their music careers. Search contacts covering 50 areas of the music business; from record labels, radio stations, booking agents, festivals to gig venues & promoters, new music blogs, studios, producers & more.

As well as unlimited access to the directory, get your tracks heard by music industry professionals via our monthly Spotlight blog and radio show on Amazing Radio, championing the best songs by our members. Learn more about Spotlight here.

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