Read our top tips for how to play a music festival, from how to get on a festival lineup, preparing to play, and advice for the day itself.

Playing your first music festival feels like a big, exciting step. You can reach new fans who’ve just happened to wander past the stage, play to bigger crowds than you ever have before, meet other artists, and get paid.

Plus – you never know which industry professionals might be watching from the side. Music festivals are also about networking. It’s work – but it’s a lot of fun, too.

Want to see your name on a lineup? Check out these seven tips for how to perform at a music festival.

Different festivals have different booking processes

Big, famous music festivals are filled through artists’ booking agents liaising with festival bookers. Many festivals, such as SXSW, will have their own submission process.

In the UK for example, BBC Introducing host stages at festivals and book artists just starting out who need that initial push to get them up onto the next ladder of the industry.  

Getting a music booking agent

Some artists employ a booking agent to approach festival organisers. They’ll have the contacts needed to pitch your act as worthy of being included on lineups.

When you introduce yourself, send an Electronic Press Kit, featuring examples of your music alongside stats of your social following and streaming numbers; and where you’ve played previously, including footage of you performing live if you have it.

If you present yourself to the booker with a good idea of your genre and vibe, they’ll be able to choose appropriate festivals. You need to make it as easy as possible for them to take you on.

How to play a festival without a booking agent

For an artist without a booking agent, the DIY approach is the only route. You’ll need to research how each festival books artists, and contact them to introduce yourself and persuade them to put you on their lineup.

For smaller festivals that don’t have a submission process, be sure to find out exactly who the festival booker is for each event and reach out personally, introducing yourself and sending an EPK.

Find out where the booker is based, and you could even invite them along if you play a show nearby, so they can see you in action.

After the initial contact, if you’ve heard nothing, be sure to follow up every couple of months, especially if you have new releases going out.

Build hype first to secure your first festival booking

Release your music to streaming services to start building a fanbase and get your artist name out there. Bookers need to see that you can draw a crowd. At RouteNote our music distribution is free and unlimited forever, so you can put your music on Spotify, Apple Music and platforms around the world and people can start discovering your music.

Alongside this is making sure you have a solid brand, both onstage and online. You want to be memorable to festivalgoers and the promoters who will get you there. That means a good logo and a solid social media presence.

Once you’re on festival lineups, use social media marketing to generate hype and encourage your followers to grab tickets to support you on the day. With RouteNote you can get your music on TikTok, as well as Facebook and Instagram to use in videos and give fans a taste of what to expect.

When to contact music festivals

If you’re aiming for summer festivals, start reaching out to festival bookers in November. The beginning of the next year is the time that festival lineups start taking shape. You don’t want to get left behind.

Bigger festivals want to see progression – that you’ve had experience playing, and you’ve moved to bigger venues as you’ve grown as an artist. Larger venues mean a bigger fanbase – which means ticket sales for the festival, which is of course what the promoter is interested in.

You should also try and focus on festivals within your music genre, especially at first. If you’re an EDM producer, for example, research dance festivals with smaller stages.

Start local

When you’re starting out as an artist, music festivals feel like a step up, and require more professionalism than your local bar. You need to make a good impression and start making a name for yourself, to get booked year after year and play a wider circuit.

Aim for local festivals first. The earlier, opening slots will go to local bands and solo artists, for one thing because this encourages their local fanbase to buy tickets.

Once you’ve performed at a festival and made a fantastic impression, you can reach out in subsequent years and already be on their radar.

What to expect as an artist at a music festival

On the day, be prepared with everything you need to get onstage and set up quickly. There’ll be quick changeovers and an unfamiliar setup. Practise getting on and offstage and make sure everyone knows what the setlist is.

When you play a festival its easy to get swept up in the party atmosphere. But you’re there to play a show, not to attend the festival, and if you act like you would as a ticketholder there’s a danger you’ll have too much fun.

Turn up drunk or late and you’re going to ruffle some feathers, and get a reputation that will make life harder for yourself in both the short and long term.

Start building hype for your first festival appearance by getting your music onto streaming platforms. RouteNote can put your music on Spotify and all the major services and stores quickly, easily and for FREE. Find out more here and sign up today.