How to Secure a Spot at Big Festivals: 6 Artists Share Their Experience
An array of artists who have performed at major festivals explain how they managed to be added onto some dizzyingly prestigious bills.
Summertime: not just a delightful, iconic song by Ella Fitzgerald but also a synonym with festival time. And for musicians, it very often brings this perennial existential question to the front: “How can I get my band to play at a big festival?”
Well, wonder no more dear readers, as Musicngear has spoken to an array of artists who have performed at major festivals and explained how they managed to be added onto some dizzyingly prestigious bills.
#1 by Noa Gruman, lead singer of Scardust
Be prepared: never leave your house without your band’s latest CD
(aka always think about promoting your music)
Noa Gruman, Scardust’s lead singer, spoke to us a few days after her band came back from having performed at the Taihu Midi festival, one of China's largest rock music gatherings.
She clearly enjoyed the experience and says about it: “It’s such a nice place, by a lake. Very idyllic and a bit like a fantasy.
I got to know the promoter through the Wacken metal battle. He is the Chinese judge and I’m the Israeli one. I gave him a CD a few years ago. And I guess he really liked it as he invited us to headline the 2019 Chinese metal battle competition.”
(photo by @metalviecher.de)
#2 by Chris Rizzuto, musician
With a little help from your friends
Held in the beautiful thermal town of Spa since 1994, Les Francofolies has become one of the biggest Belgian festivals, attracting artists such as Hooverphonic, Johnny Halliday, Vanessa Paradis,…
Singer songwriter Chris Rizzuto has taken part to this renowned event 3 times. He explains how he ended up being on the bill.
“I got my first gig at the Francofolies in the Spa Casino thanks to a friend who saw me performing. He spoke to one of the festivals organisers who in turn got in contact with me via social media. He pretty much straight away gave me a spot at the festival. I’ve played there quite a few times now.
In my case, social media and word of mouth have been rather helpful in creating a social network which has been instrumental to my music career.”
Official website: http://www.chrisrizzuto.com
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/CHRIS-RIZZUTO-28614448487
Francofolies Official website: https://www.francofolies.be
(photo by Enrique Alvarez)
#3 by Yoav Efron, keyboard player of Distorted Harmony
Distorted Harmony’s keyboard player Yoav Efron explains how the band managed to play both Progpower festivals (the European and U.S editions) in 2017.
Yoav says: “Our previous guitar player, a friend in the U.K and most probably our manager at the time got us to play Progpower Europe. It truly was a team effort.
We then were contacted by Progpower U.S, who sent us an email and invited us.
It’s quite safe to assume that they had positive echoes of the band’s performance at Progpower Europe.
2017 was also quite a special year for the band as it organised a festival in Tel Aviv called DHFest, though Yoav is a bit reluctant to label it as a “proper festival”. He says: “It depends on how you define a festival. I would say that it should have an extra activity beside the music itself.
In Israel, 2 to 3 bands very often play on a bill. I assume it's really hard to bring a dense enough crowd for just 1 band. There are not many festivals in Israel, especially in the metal genre.
So when our album came out, we decided to organise a festival and called it the DH Fest. It had 5 bands, including us and my other project. It was nice and people loved it.
It isn't a very big scene so we could make a festival under our name. We simply wanted to celebrate prog music. It wasn't meant to be like: “hey look at us. We have our own festival!” It was more of an excuse to put on a show under our production. But again, I think a festival should have extra activities beside music and not just five bands going along together.
Distorted Harmony website: https://www.distortedharmony.com
Yoav Efron Website: http://www.yoavefron.net
Progpower US website: http://progpowerusa.com
Progpower Europe website: https://www.progpowereurope.com
(Photo by Ofir Abe)
#4 by Tim Hall, keyboard player at Aonia
Persistence, persistence, persistence
(and practical tips about organising your own festival)
Tim Hall is a keyboard player with a very extensive career, covering all genres of music.
With Aonia, he succeeded in securing a spot at Bloodstock in 2018.
“As a band we've entered Metal 2 The Masses* for so many years. Each year, we got better and progressed to the finals and did not get through but we learnt.
The year we won the contest, we really took each song apart completely whilst rehearsing. It was almost like recording again but making sure it worked live. We got all the choreography sorted out, the stage gear sourced out. We had effects, smoke machines…We did everything that year to try and make sure we won it and we did it.
“It's about effort and not particularly about music. I wouldn't say we're any better sounding or better musically than any other band that was in the finals, but we went the extra mile in order to impress the judges.”
Aonia has also been successfully organising its own festival for a few years now. Tim shared his experience in putting up the event.
“The essential part of organising a festival as far as I'm concerned is choosing the right venue and location.
We are a Sheffield based band and we draw more of a crowd which heralds from that region. We found the Corporation Room in Sheffield to be the ideal place for us.
We have more control over what's happening with ticket sales as well as which bands are coming up.
We now have bands asking us to play the festival because it's the third one we've done and it is a nice position to be in.
Be sensible about paying for bands. It's a lovely idea to pay for a big headliner but you're talking about forking out a lot of money. It’s a big financial risk. We're happy to keep it small. We don't have to charge a lot of money on the door and people will get about 7 hours worth of music.
We started organising this year's Aoniafest pretty much after last year’s festival finished. This year, we are headlining the bill simply because we want to play our latest album in full and we can’t think of another place where we would be allowed to do so!
Everything needs to be done months in advance. So if you are in a band, you should be thinking about booking festivals and gigs for next year right now. It’s normal, because you have for example bands that pull out and that’s one of the reasons so much preparation in advance is needed.
A raffle was also organised last year with all of the proceedings going to charities. I think that we’ll do it again this year.”
On whether Tim would recommend other bands to try and organise festivals, he explains: “It’s not impossible though it might not be for everyone, of course. But one thing is for sure: you should organise your own gigs. Don't wait for somebody else to do it for you. Go to a venue, book one and organise a gig now. Once you've got the venue out of the way it's not that much more of a difficulty to get other bands to play. Then all of a sudden you have a festival because in the end, what’s the difference between a festival and a gig? About 2 or 3 hours and that’s just 2 or 3 bands.”
*BLOODSTOCK’s ‘Metal 2 The Masses’ scheme offers unsigned and DIY bands the chance of being part of the BLOODSTOCK festival experience.
Official website: http://www.aoniaband.co.uk
Tickets for Aoniafest: https://www.corporation.org.uk/gig/2353/Aonia+Fest+III+at+Corporation+on+5+October+2019
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/aoniauk
#5 by K.C Avishek, lead singer of Underside
Organising your own festival against all odds
(which in turn results in your band getting invited to perform at a huge festival)
The Silence Festival which is the only one of its kind in Nepal, was set up in 2010 as its organisers were extremely frustrated by the fact that no international heavy metal bands were performing in their country. Instead of waiting (im)patiently for Metal to turn up and fly to Kathmandu, they firmly took the bull by the horns and invited it to take residency in the Nepalese mountains for a day. Despite the huge challenges encountered, the Silence Festival has now become an internationally recognised event, with bands such as Sikth, Cancer Bats and Behemoth gracing its stage.
From its very inception, a few members of the Nepali metal band Underside have been heavily involved with the organisation of the Silence festival. No Silence: Heavy Metal From Nepal, a recent documentary by Phil Wallis and Alexander Milas, analyses this inspiring story.
In a recent phone interview Underside’s singer, K.C Avishek, told me how he thought that the mini film played an important role in the band securing a spot at this year’s Download festival.
In this rather extraordinary case, it was a matter of building up a fest and eventually getting invited to play a big one. It does show that dreams do indeed sometimes come true.
Underside Official Website: http://undersidenepal.com
Underside Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/TheUnderside/
#6 by Ed Kowalczyk, lead singer of Live
You’ve finally secured a spot at a big festival. What will it feel like?
Musicngear asked Ed Kowalczyk from Live:
Live is huge. It is undoubtedly one of the most significant alt rock bands on this planet. But decades ago, it was just another tiny band, probably dreaming as you are now about performing on big stages. Then Live got very lucky and ended up playing Woodstock in 94’ in front of a 350.000 people. Ed tells us all about it.
“It was a major event for us to get that early on in our career. We had just released ‘Throwing Copper’ in the spring of 1994. Then we put out 1 single and we were doing a tour, playing in clubs and small venues, and all of a sudden, we got the opportunity to play Woodstock, and to play in front of the biggest crowd we’ve ever played in front of. This was prior to the record being a big success yet. It was doing OK but Woodstock really allowed us to put it in front a lot more people. And really after Woodstock, that’s when everything started to go wild for the band. A few months later, we released ‘Lightning Crashes’ and then it was just an astronomical leap forward the band.”
Live is on tour at the moment. Do catch them…live!
Official website: http://www.freaks4live.com
(Photo by Jen Vesp)
If you do end up playing at a big festival, don’t forget to let Musicngear know about it. We’d be very happy to learn that we might have helped your band on its way to success.
This section of the blog covers various subjects among the vast array of topics that revolve around the life of the active musician.
Interested in writing a story as a guest or joining the Musicngear team as a Contributing Author? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org