How to Apply to Perform at a Music Festival

howtoapply

Hey Friends,

Welcome to my new blog! It has been a goal of mine for the past year (procrastinator? who me?) to get this up and running, so I am ecstatic to finally be here. This blog will be a hub for me to share tips for performers, industry insights, and general musings from the Luma life. Keep an eye on my Facebook & Instagram pages in the following months to be alerted to new posts.

I am going to jump right in with a post dedicated to a topic that I receive a lot of questions about: applying to perform at music festivals. Festival culture continues to expand, with nearly every corner of the world having at the very least a small regional festival centering around live & electronic music, workshops, art, and performance. Although there are a lot of mixed opinions within the performer community about working at festivals (mostly due to the standard low pay), I think they are a valid part of the performance journey & worth pursuing experience in, especially as a newbie.

Here are some of the pros & cons that I see regarding performing at music festivals:
  • PROS

    • Stage or roving experience
    • Professional media (sometimes)
    • Behind-the-scenes look at how professional productions run
    • Experience working with lots of different personality types, under sometimes stressful situations
    • Ability to try out costumes & acts before taking them to high-paying clients
    • Great place to network with other performers & creatives
  • CONS

    • Low or no pay (in comparison to corporate or private gigs)
    • Often working long hours or performing many sets over the weekend
    • You are usually tent camping, which increases the amount of prep that goes into performing
    • Less than ideal scenarios for getting in costume – IE: your tent
    • Festivals are usually dusty & dirty, meaning a lot of wear & tear on your costumes/props
    • Schedules often change on the fly

Due to the increased interest in performing at these gatherings, many festivals now offer open applications through their websites to those who want to share their skills. Most of these applications are fairly straight forward, but there are always ways to make your application more usable to the people who are booking. If you still feel like performing at a music festival is for you, continue on to find out what will typically be asked of you on an application.


You wanna be here?  It starts with an on-point performance application.

Performing at The Grove Stage - Shambhala 2017. (Photo by ConcertSocks)


First thing first: Where do you find the applications? Not all festivals allow you to apply to perform. But if they do, most start putting applications on their official websites 3-5 months prior to the event. Often these events will make public posts on social media when their applications go live. They are usually located under a section named "Participate," "Get Involved," or something similar.

When filling out an application to perform at a festival, it's important to provide the required information in a clear, concise manner. Here are the most common pieces of information that festivals ask for on their apps, and tips on how to present your answers:

Real Name, Performer Name, Email, etc:

All the basics that they need to communicate with you, add you to the guest list, cut a check to you if you are getting paid, so on and so forth. This is the easiest part, but even still I often see applications where the contact info is typed in wrong. If the performance coordinator can't find you on Facebook, or doesn't know you already, an incorrect email is an immediate dead end in this process. Please double check all of this info.

Photos:

3-5 high-quality shots to show the festival your style & "look." These photos will also commonly be used on the website, in artist spotlights, or on social media posts if you get hired. If you don't have any photos, get some before applying (even if it's just from a cell phone camera).


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Two photos that I often attach to festival applications. (Photos by Rene Guerrero & Casey Campbell)


Videos:

1-3 examples of what you look like doing your art. Ideally, these are live performance clips. If you don't have those, make a video in the studio, your backyard, etc. It really doesn't matter where - just send a video. I am not exaggerating when I say this is the most important part of your application. With the prevalence of smartphones these days there is no reason not to have any video at all. Seriously, don't consider yourself ready to apply until you have at least *some* footage to share.


I like to attach my promo reel as well as a few videos of a full performance.


BIO:

Most festivals will ask for a bio to put up on their website in case you are booked. And if you're getting into performing, you should have one on deck anyway. Don't stress this too much - just focus on the 5 W's: Who, What, Where, When, & Why. Here is a quick example of a basic bio:

Luma (who) is a fire dancer, stilt walker, and flow artist (what) based out of the Pacific Northwest (where). She has been involved in circus arts since 2011 & has been performing on stage since age 5 (when).  She aims to inspire audiences & evoke authentic experiences (why).

What you plan to offer:

Are you a hooper? Dancer? Stilter? Aerialist? Do you have your own acts set to your own music? A full 15, 30, or 60 minute show? Do you perform freestyle alongside DJs/music acts? Are you a roving performer that wanders the festival interacting with guests? How many sets are you comfortable doing per day? Decide on what you have to offer and list it out concisely (bullet points are great). No need for flowery adjectives here. The performance coordinator is not looking for who writes the most compelling descriptions, they are looking at the logistics of who can fill the needed performance roles.

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Here is an example of how I filled out a recent application.


What you expect to get in return:

Do you want to be compensated beyond just a ticket for entry? If so, how? Are you looking to be paid per day, or are you okay with one flat rate for the whole weekend? Be clear and concise when describing what you need. Make sure to include meals, camping, and guest tickets if you expect to receive them.

NOTE 1: Some festivals do not ask about your compensation needs on their application. Know what you want anyway! In the case that you receive an email with an invitation to perform, compensation should be one of the first logistics that you discuss.

NOTE 2: Festivals, for the most part, do not pay standard performance rates! Most festivals pay anywhere from $75-300 for the whole weekend, with a few offering $300-400 per day. This is not where you go to pay your bills. Be aware that regardless of what you ask for in compensation, if you are booked you will very likely be offered payment that is different (see: lower) than what you asked for.

LINKS:

If you are serious about performing in any capacity you'll need some sort of landing page. For a festival, a facebook artist page or instagram business profile will suffice. However, I highly recommend investing in a personal website or at the very least getting a free Wix, Squarespace, or Presskit.to page. The content on your website can be essentially the same as what I have already talked about here: contact info for booking, bio, photos, videos, & links to any relevant social media.


Extra Tips:

 LABEL YOUR FILES WITH YOUR NAME! Please do not submit 4 promo photos all named some form of "promo.jpg," or even worse, "3208742i34y2938479234.jpg." Make the coordinator/graphic designer's job easier and label the files with your performer name and what it is. IE: Luma_Photo1.jpg, Luma_DemoVideo.jpg, Luma_Resume.pdf, etc etc.

 Give them what they ask for. IE: If they ask for a video link, give them a specific video link, not a link to your entire youtube channel. When you are a performance coordinator going through 100 applications, the extra 1 minute spent on scrolling through videos for multiple entrants really adds up.

The main point to remember when filling out your application is that the performance coordinator could be receiving anywhere from 50 to 500 applications. When dealing with so many applicants, coordinators come to love those who make their job easy. Bullet points, direct links, concise statements, and logistics-centered language give them the information they need without having to sift through a ton of superfluous wording. Performers who submit straight-to-the-point applications come off as professional and look like this isn't their first rodeo.

...And that's essentially it.

 
Applying isn't tough! It's really just about knowing what you have to share & clearly explaining it. No matter what happens with your app, please remember this: In the entertainment world you will hear 10 (or more) "No"s for every 1 "Yes." There are dozens of aspects that go into the decision of who gets to perform, and very rarely is it that you just "aren't good enough." If you don't get accepted just shake it off, keep building your skills, and try again next year.

I hope that this blog helped to demystify this process a bit. Feel free to leave any questions you may have in the comments & I will do my best to answer them. Keep in touch with me on my Facebook & Instagram if you want more info like this!


xo,
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