Music Festival Bookings: How to Get Booked at Music Festivals

Last updated: 23 Feb 2024

Playing music festival stages is something that many artists and bands dream about. Not only is it a thrilling experience, but it’s a fantastic opportunity to introduce your music to new listeners and raise your profile.

The start of the year is typically the time for festival bookings. It’s when many festivals start accepting applications from emerging bands and artists to perform at their upcoming events. Although there are a few exceptions, with some festivals accepting submissions from Autumn time, and others taking them all year round.

If you’re keen to get on festival bills for the year ahead, here are some nuggets of advice to help you make that dream a reality!

People raising their hands at a music festival

Find “Apply to Play” opportunities

Firstly, you need to find music festivals you’d like to play at. If you’re just starting out, then focusing on smaller events that are local to you can be a great foundation to build experience, so keep your ears to the ground for details of music festivals in your area.

It’s likely that you’re aware of many of the major UK festivals; Glastonbury, Leeds/Reading, Green Man, Kendal Calling etc. These festivals will make an announcement when their application window opens, so be sure to follow festivals you want to perform at on social media and keep an eye out for “Apply to Play” news.

If you want a more comprehensive list of music festivals, with stages and slots available to emerging and unsigned acts, then The Unsigned Guide UK music directory can be invaluable. The Festivals section of the Unsigned Guide directory contains details of 150+ UK music festivals who feature new talent at their events. You can also filter the Festivals section by Application Deadline Month, so you can easily view all events with an upcoming submission deadline and make sure you never miss an apply to play opportunity.

PRS for Music also publish lists online of festivals for potential festival bookings, so look out for those too at the start of the year.

Follow the Guidelines

The preferred way to apply to play can vary from festival to festival, so it’s important to pay attention to the guidelines laid out. Otherwise your submission may be ignored.

“Private messages on Facebook etc can be an inconvenience, so make sure you stick to the application rules.”
Booking Team, Tramlines

The majority of music festivals set up their own online application form, and some accept submissions via third party platforms, so all applications they receive can be processed in one place. Other events may only accept submissions by email, or via social media. Whatever guidelines are specified by the festival, they should always be adhered to if you don’t want your application to slip through the net.

Also, pay attention to what type of music the festival is focused on. There are many which welcome all genres, but some festivals are more tailored towards folk, hip-hop, electronic, pop or metal and punk. Do your research and make sure your music fits with the festival’s style.

Allow enough time to apply

Don’t rush your application! You want to showcase how amazing and perfectly-suited you are for that festival slot. Take advantage of extra time and give yourself the best shot at being selected.

“Don’t leave registration until the last minute and end up submitting something that doesn’t do your band justice. Take your time compiling your info to ensure that it is something that represents your band well.”
Adam Ryan, Head of Music, The Great Escape

While some festivals have a larger application window lasting over a few months, it’s still a good idea to make sure you strike early. Busy teams doing festival bookings may filter through submissions as they go, so available slots can fill up or be prioritised for other artists, so don’t leave it to the last minute!

Refresh your promo material

Before you start the application process, it ‘s definitely worth spending some time reviewing your promotional assets to make sure they are up to date and showcase your best achievements.

Check that your biography, website, press kit and social media profiles detail your current releases, gigs, support slots, airplay, blog coverage, and any other accomplishments. Remove any dead links, and if you have any social media accounts that haven’t been posted on for months, leave them out.

Where possible, it’s ideal if all your essential info can be condensed and shared in one handy link. It saves time for bookers and festival organisers, who will be sifting through mountains of submissions. If you don’t already have an electronic press kit, it may be a good time to set one up. You can also use services like Amplify to gather together all your important links.

Finally, a video of a live performance is a great way to demonstrate your on-stage appeal and sound. If you have suitable footage that shows off your skills, be sure to include it.

“Music videos really help us get a good idea of who you are. Regarding live footage, please consider whether your mum’s shaky camera phone footage on YouTube best shows off your performance. If you don’t have a live video you’re really proud of, don’t worry! It’s better to leave that section blank and let your recordings do the talking.”
Daniel Mawer, Humber Street Sesh

Tips to make your application stand out

Competition to get a slot at festivals can be fierce. You could very well be up against thousands of other emerging artists who want to secure a place on the line-up, so giving your application the edge is key.

We’ll hand over to a couple of music festival programmers to share their tips on making an impact with your application and things they consider during the festival bookings process:

Neal Thompson, Co-Founder, FOCUS Wales:
“We have around 2,000 applications every year from bands from around the world wanting to play at FOCUS Wales. Bookers want to know what your band is all about in the shortest time possible. So I’d always recommend having a good quality video of a live performance of a song that really says what your act is about. It saves their time and gets you ahead of the pack.”

Production Team, Liverpool Sound City
“We look to see how established an act is, how hard-working they are in terms of setting up their own shows, releases etc. Proactivity is easy to pick up on a band’s social media. So if they are not active and pushing things on there, it’s doubtful they are as committed as they should be.
All in all, a combination of great music, strong identity, hard working and proactive online presence is what we’re looking for. Sometimes some acts just naturally stand out and grab your attention too!”

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This is a guest post from The Unsigned Guide, a UK music industry directory aimed at emerging, independent bands and artists keen to progress their music careers. Find contacts covering 50 areas of the music business; from record labels, radio stations, booking agents, music festivals to gig venues & promoters, new music blogs, studios, producers & more.