How to make the most of a festival performance

Festival Performance, EDM Festival, Lost Lands, Ben Howell

The temperatures are finally starting to rise, which means festival season is upon us. The popularity of music festivals has exploded over the last five years, and 2018 is shaping up to be the busiest season on record. Every week there are numerous events taking place all over the globe, each drawing thousands to see upwards of twenty, thirty, or even fifty artists. The competition for attention will be fierce, but if you start right now, you can use the exposure these events provide to your advantage.

Every festival is different, and depending on the genre you perform in the culture around the event may be somewhat unique as well. It is important to recognize that every festival has its own sense of community and vibe, which you should consider when planning your marketing efforts. That said, these 5 tips will help get you started:

Set goals now and begin working toward them immediately

Festivals are crazy places where thousands gather to enjoy art and consume overpriced food. The number of things vying for the attention and money of any one person is too high to count, but you can take a step toward cutting through the noise by setting goals for your time on-site as soon as possible. These goals should be reasonable and achievable. For example, you’re not going to make 10,000 new fans, but you could plan to distribute 500 promotional items and sell X amount of merchandise. You could also plan to engage with fans by hosting a gathering or hangout at your tent that you promote in the weeks leading up to the event. Anything goes, just keep it simple.

Work the line or, if a line does not exist, simply engage festival goers

The hours before your performance should be spent on promotion. Most smaller artists playing festivals will have sets early in the day, which means those performing will have to work hard to get those unfamiliar with their sounds to show up. The best approach to making this happen is also the most personable one. Get out there, shake some hands, give some hugs, share your tunes via a mobile device, and ask people (politely) to consider checking you out.  Not everyone will come, but those that do could easily be converted into new, long-term fans.

Network your ass off

In addition to offering small acts the chance to say they played with some of the biggest names in entertainment, festivals also provide an opportunity for up and comers to network with people who may be able to help them both nationally and far more locally. Festival sponsors, for example, are often companies and people who fund a wide variety of music-related projects. They also tend to know others who do the same, which means they or someone they know could probably help you get ahead if they like what you do. While the same can be said for artists, most up and comers never think to approach the sponsors, and they are arguably far more likely to take a genuine interest in what you do. Don’t let the opportunity to meet with the movers and shakers of your community pass.

Instagram stories / Live

To make the most of a festival appearance, you have to find the best way to bring the experience of that show to those unable to attend. Instagram’s Stories feature and live streaming capabilities make it ideal for bringing your global audience into the festival experience. Share images, videos, and Boomerang clips from your initial practice sessions through the event. Showcase your load in, merch setup, merch location, and – of course – clips of the set.

You may also consider pitching an ‘Instagram takeover’ to a music publication. Sites often allow artists to control their Story feed for a single, twenty-four hour period. This will allow you access to their audience, which in turn creates the potential to convert new consumers to your music.

Consider a Snapchat Geofilter

Snapchat is one of the most popular messaging apps on the planet, and the company’s recent decision to allow practically anyone to create custom geofilters has given artists of all sizes a new tool in the war for consumers’ attention. Fans can capture your performance, or even just their time at the event, and use your filter to promote the experience to their followers. Rates for geofilters start as low as $10 (cost varies based on length of campaign and size of the area you want to be covered).

Market your upcoming gigs

People who enjoy your performance will likely be interested in seeing you again, so make it a point to advertise where you will be next during your time at a festival. This includes mentioning gigs during your performance and through one on one engagement at your merch table. You should also collect email addresses so you can remind new listeners of upcoming events once their festival buzz has worn off.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.