Pitching to Festivals: Our top tips

We recently hosted a free online workshop for any artists interested in learning about pitching to festivals

The workshop was led by a member of the We Out Here production team and by Oliver Carruthers, Interim CEO of Abram Wilson, who has extensive experience curating festivals, events and booking artists including as Director of Gulbenkian Canterbury, Artistic Director of Rich Mix and Head of Programmes at Greenbelt Festival.

Together we walked through the do’s and don’ts of pitching to festivals, and how to increase an early career artist’s chances of being booked. We also got some great questions from our participants, so it was a good chance to talk through the issues that some artists face when approaching venue or festival programmers.

We wanted to lift some of the top tips from the workshop to share with anyone who wasn’t able to join us on the day and the wider music community, so here we go!

1. RESEARCH!

  • Do your research and find out who books the acts for venues that you want to play in
  • Make a list of artists that you’re similar to and only slightly ahead in their careers.Look at venues / festivals they’ve played in the past
  • Make a note of the promoters and then try and find a contact
  • DO reach out to a several different promoters
  • DON’T reach out to promoters / festivals that don’t fit your genre – make sure you’re only reaching out to people that seem like they could be a good fit.

2. BUILD LOCALLY FIRST

  • Concentrate on building your profile/audience on your local scene first
  • Release singles – the more consistently you can do this, the better
  • Put your music in the hands of independent radio DJs so that you start getting radio play
  • Research your local / community radio stations
  • Community is everything – those around you are going to be the ones that support you in the first instance.

3. PLAY LIVE

  • Keep on playing live as much as possible and become a really solid live performer
  • Test out different formations – solo, duo, and band set-ups and different set lengths.

4. ASSETS/BRANDING

  • Work on a handful of great assets, photos, videos and links to your music. Press Shots – 2/3 different ones, hi-res
  • Videos – any live video footage is very helpful + any music videos
  • Links to Music – make these accessible; do not send attachments
  • Include social media links
  • Short Bio – no more than a paragraph; include any notable achievements, collaborators, features, etc.

5. HOW TO APPROACH PROGRAMMERS

  • Find the right person to contact: approach politely, succinctly, follow any guidelines on the website – they are there for a reason.
    Get the name right and spell it correctly!
  • Errors to avoid include the “cut and paste” email, the rambling 10 page email that makes no sense, be succinct, clear and to the point
  • Nail your one-minute ‘elevator’ pitch
  • Marketing – be ready to answer who is the audience for the work, and how are you going to assist with getting it? Do you have a social media account?
  • Know your genre – it’s important for venues and marketers. Think of a venue brochure or a poster or a web-listing and imagine it from their perspective.

6. KEEP GOING

  • Don’t get disheartened if you don’t get a response – these things take time!
  • Keep pushing and getting yourself out there – just because you didn’t land the BBC Radio play or Spotify editorial playlist, doesn’t mean you stop making music
  • It might not be the right moment – bookers often need to find the right balance between acts, sometimes it will just come down to who gets there first
  • The best time to reach out to bookers is around October/November or January if that’s too early – most festivals will have most of their lineups done by February/March.

If you haven’t already, please feel free to enter our competition to join our Abram Wilson Big Top Takeover line-up at We Out Here this August!

Send your music into [email protected] by 31 May.