Interview: Extrema Network’s programmer Bas Baetsen on how to land a gig at a festival

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As artists often ask us how to land gigs on festivals, we reached out to a close friend of ours: Bas Baetsen. Bas knows everything about this topic as he is the programmer of Extrema Network, organizer of festivals such as Solar Weekend, Outdoor Belgium, Extrema Noir, Polar Weekend, and Mandala Festival.

1. What do festivals look for when booking an artist?

First of all, the people from the festival make a wishlist filled with artists the festival would love to have on their line-up. Among these are artists that weren’t able to be confirmed in the previous years, headliners, and artists who nicely fit in the overall sound of the festival. Furthermore, festivals like to book artists who are surrounded by a certain “buzz” in the past year. These artists have made a lot of noise both as a DJ and producer, and somehow are more a “talk of the town” than others.

2. As a small artist, do you have the chance to perform at a festival?

Of course! But you must offer something in return. Especially (young) talented producers have a big chance. As a small artist, if you have the talent to make good productions and attract the attention of bigger labels, then the festival spots will most often follow. There are also artists who stand out purely as DJs due to their DJ skills or amazing shows. Combining these with a certain rise in popularity increases the chances for certain slots at a festival.

3. How can artists prepare for their festival performance?

This differs for every artist: while one brings all of his music with him and chooses his tracks on the spot, others pick their songs in advance and make sure the tracks will fit in their set seamlessly. Everyone has to keep innovating and surprising.

4. What type of facilities does the festival offer to artists that perform there?

As an organization, we always find supplying the right care for artists very important. As soon as they land, there will be drivers waiting for them with luxurious cars ensuring a solid transfer to the hotel/festival. On arrival, they are always nicely received at the artists’ entrance and are accompanied to the stage by runners. Furthermore, their hospitality wishes are present immediately (think of special drink wishes, vodka bottles and yes, of course, champagne, if requested). Also, technical riders must always be properly arranged (type of mixer, type of monitors, etc.) before the artists start their set.

5. In addition to having good music, what is important for an artist to be booked for a festival?

As mentioned earlier, every year there are certain artists who stand out during a certain period, which is surrounded by a certain “buzz”. Think of a rapidly growing fan base and positive reactions from people to certain sets. Music, of course, is always the most important thing, but charisma, media attention (including social media of course), and a nice agency to work with also make a positive contribution.

6. What is the best way to approach a festival as an artist?

A very big tip: never come across as a pusher! If 3 emails are sent in 1 week and the set or latest productions have already been listened to by the promoter, it often has the opposite effect. Just be patient, the music has to do the work and then the rest often comes naturally.

7. In what way could festivals influence your career, both positively and negatively?

If a smaller artist is booked at a larger known festival, then the artist can, of course, use this in his / her resume. That is why you often see this large festival’s name behind the DJ’s name when they are booked at smaller parties. This way everybody will know he/she played there. Subsequently, this often works like a snowball and which increase the number of requests for other shows.

8. Are there any costs that you have to take into account when you are going to perform at a festival?

You can go as crazy as you want. Hire your own “tour manager”, or have a driver drive you around if you want to down that bottle of vodka. But in principle, it all comes down to you and your own music and repertoire that make your set.

Care to read some more tips on getting booked by festivals? Read this article.

Interested in visiting Solar Weekend? Find the last tickets here.