How to get booked by worldwide festivals
Whether starting your career or looking to make the next step in the journey of an established act, one of the key parts of any DJ or producer’s life is the festival circuit. But in order to appear on these line-ups, you need to get the festivals to notice you, to notice your brand, and to notice your music. Here are a few tips to help ensure that your name is on the billings of some of the world’s biggest – and most popular – events:
Target the right festivals
It may seem like blindly applying to every festival that’s accepting submissions will increase your chances of getting booked, but smart DJs know that being selective is a much better approach. Start your research several months in advance, and target festivals that are likely to book your genre. When you’re first starting out, don’t make the common mistake of overlooking the smaller festivals and local fairs. They may not have the name recognition of Ultra or Tomorrowland, but they’re invaluable for gaining experience and building up your live set résumé. With a few small festivals under your belt, you’ll be in a much stronger position to earn slots at the bigger ones down the road.
Once you find a few festivals that seem promising, check out which headliners have been announced, and do some digging on dance acts that have been selected in the last couple of years. Are they based in the same area as the festival with a solid local draw? Did they tour regionally or nationally prior to playing the festival? How strong is their social media presence? Have they been the subject of press mentions? Are they represented by a major label, or are they completely DIY? Try to identify any trends among previously selected DJs for your target festivals, and see how your brand stacks up in comparison to help determine if it makes sense to submit an application.
Use a spreadsheet or artist management software to keep your research organized and track progress on your target festival submissions. Feel free to customize it to your needs, but include at least the following information for each festival you’re interested in: Festival name, date, location, website, submission URL/contact info, submission deadline, submission fee (note that some festivals increase the fee as the deadline approaches), accepted/rejected notification date, submitted [yes/no], accepted [yes/no], and additional notes. Remember to add all of the important deadlines to your calendar and set reminders so that you don’t miss out on any opportunities!
Prepare your application
Now that you have a solid list of target festivals, you’ll want to make sure your application stands out. Having great music is a given, but promoters also pay very close attention to the following elements to determine which acts are ready for a festival stage.
A great bio
A winning bio for a festival application is concise, attention-grabbing, and highlights what makes the DJ so impressive and unique. A little bit of background information is fine, but you don’t need to share your life story here – try to keep it relevant and engaging.
There’s no way around it – you need high-quality press photos. No matter how good your music is, festival bookers won’t take you seriously if you don’t present yourself in a professional way. In addition to standard press photos, it’s a great idea to include a few live shots that convey your onstage energy and look. It’ll help promoters envision you on their festival stage, while also showcasing your performance experience.
High-quality live video
What better way to prove to a festival that you can put on a mind-blowing show than by including a live performance video in your application? Use a clip that captures your stage presence, personality, and audience interaction. Make sure the video and audio are both high quality, or it’ll distract from your performance.
A great digital press kit
Once you have your bio, photos, and videos together, you’ll want to package everything in the form of a digital press kit (also known as an electronic press kit, or EPK). A professional-looking, well-maintained EPK signals to festival promoters that you have your act together and that you’re serious about your music career.
Now that you have your basic application materials and digital press kit together, refer back to the spreadsheet you created to find out what each festival’s requirements are for the submission process. Do you need to apply to the festival directly via a custom application form on their website? Do they require a submission fee or supplementary materials? Familiarise yourself with each target festival’s specifications in advance so that you can budget your time and resources accordingly, and avoid any delays when the deadline comes around.
After you submit your application, the best thing you can do is sit back and wait to find out if you were selected. Do not pester them with emails or calls asking if you’ve been booked, especially if they specified in the submission process to not contact them about it – it’s a sure way to get blacklisted!
The one exception is if something significant happens in your career after you’ve submitted the festival application that could realistically affect their decision. Keep playing live shows regularly to improve your stage presence, and focus on developing relationships with promoters, talent buyers, and fellow musicians. The music industry is small, so if you consistently put yourself out there as a professional DJ with a great live show and a growing fanbase, word will get around, and you’ll have more pull when you apply to festivals.