WASHED OUT GUIDE: How to get a Festival Slot
Updated: Mar 14
Part of running a festival means that your inbox turns into a pool of submissions from bands wanting to get involved. Throughout my time as a DIY promoter and now as a festival promoter, I have seen hundreds of good and also some not-so-good submissions. Here are a few pointers that will help bands reach out to smaller festivals and promoters in general with more success or maybe give some insight as to why you may not be getting slots. Of course, this is relevant to personal experience and preference - please feel free to share your experiences in the comments.
How to get a festival slot: Washed Out's Guide
KNOW WHO YOU'RE TALKING TO.
It can be tempting to save time and contact as many festivals as possible but this may actually hinder your chances of playing. It’s crucial that you research the festival you are applying for. Making sure that your band is relevant to the festival is going to play a huge part in getting selected. A little bit of research can go a long way.
MAKE SURE YOU'RE READY.
If you’re from a small town it can be frustrating when you just want to go out and play as many shows as possible. Playing the same venue to the same people every month becomes boring; you just want to break free, tour, meet new people and party. I get that.
When contacting a festival, it’s important to understand how they work differently from individual promoters. OBVIOUSLY, Washed Out supports the DIY ethos, however, we also need to make sure the festival runs on a sustainable model. Breaking even with a seven stage fest isn’t easy, so booking the right artists is the best strategy to achieve this whilst remaining as DIY and independent as possible.
We prioritise bands and artists who we feel are currently working hard, have some tours under their belt and a handful of consistent releases. Personally, I wouldn’t say music videos are that important, but other festival and promoters may think they are. A following local to the city is always going to win you points, too. If I think you have an idea of how many people you’ll bring then that’s great - let us know! But don’t tell porkies.
DUDE, IT'S 3AM.
Social media has given us the ability to instantly connect with promoters, labels and other artists 24/7. The internet has flipped the music industry on its head and, whether for better or worse, it’s unrecognisable in comparison to how it looked 10/15 years ago. It’s important in this environment to respect promoter’s boundaries. Generally, most busy promoters dislike being added on FB or even worse, being “cold called” (FB messaged) by strangers. No matter how eager you are to get in touch, avoid disturbing a promoter’s sleep by sending instant messages at 2 am. It’s not the best way to build rapport!
10 years ago a band would have emailed a promoter, and before that, they would have physically sent out a press pack to promoters. The best bet still is to email. Personally, I’ll listen to every band that comes through via email and am likely to ignore those that come through on messenger.
A few rules of thumb:
Don’t add the promoters directly on FB, unless you know them personally
Do not message the promoters on FB unless you know them personally
Always email or message through the promotions page
Don’t expect an instant reply.
Of course, each promoter is different, so always check their professional accounts for info on how to reach out to them.
Seems fairly obvious right? But knowing that a band has a strong social media presence and following plays a big (enough) part in the selection process.
But how do you build an authentic audience on social media? James, who is part of the festival team, introduced me to this great e-book last year called “The 30 Minute Guide To Getting More Fans”. It’s written by the record producer and host of “Noise Creators” podcast, Jesse Cannon. He’s worked in various capacities with bands like The Cure, Animal Collective, The Misfits, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Brand New, Limp Bizkit, Man Overboard, Somos, Basement, Kevin Devine, Acceptance, NOFX and The Menzingers. So yeah...he knows his shit. Click here to read now.
EMAILS - TEMPLATES AREN'T A BAD THING!
I’ve had countless emails from people who ask ‘how do I get on the bill’ and fail to send any other information. Both you and the promoter are busy people so make emails as painless as possible. This is pretty much dependant on the promoter, but personally, I think a template email can work well to solve this problem, as long as it acknowledges that you’re contacting a human. If you’re able to send over all the information over in one email that will be beneficial to both parties.
“It seems obvious, but put some links for your music and socials in the email. The number of emails I get without links is surprising. If they’re not there it’s unlikely I’ll bother putting the time in to find the band on Facebook, YouTube etc. if I’m going through 100 emails.”
Kate Coulson from Above The Waves & Washed Out Fest via Twitter
“Keep your submission email simple and to the point. Band name, where you are from, relevant press and recent support slots, links to social pages and link to latest music/video. NO ATTACHMENTS < I hate downloading attachments so much”
Template/Electronic Press Kit’s (EPK) emails should include:
A personal short paragraph to the promoter. Maybe mention - past lineups, why you want to play the city, why you have chosen to email them and if you have any mutual friends/contact
A short band bio
A list of past releases
Links to past videos
What backline you can bring
How much you’re looking at fee wise
A high-quality photo of the band and, if possible, a live shot.
GET INVOLVED, GO TO SHOWS
This is absolutely the most important tip. ‘Networking’ - or as I call it, making friends - is a great way of getting your music out to promoters. Recommendations from friends and bands I work with is a sure way for your band heard.
THERES ALWAYS NEXT YEAR
Didn’t get the Glastonbury slot you wanted? Keep playing shows and keep writing music. Hard work pays off and you might be in a better position in a year’s time.
If you would like to apply to play Washed Out Festival in 2019, click here to submit your application.