I good friend of mine recently had a dilema. The deadline for a music festival was coming up, but he didn't have a demo to submit. He wanted to rush into the studio and record something really quick. Problem was that he didn't have the money to book studio time and he was getting very frustrated at the fact that he'd be missing out on this opportunity.
Having participated in these festivals with Chris, I tried to explain to my friend that it was not the end of the world. Then I got to thinking that you guys could benefit from the same advise.
First let me start by saying that if you do not get chosen to play in the festival, do not let it get the best of you and, not for a second, think that you're not good enough to continue playing music. My band has been both selected and refused to play at the same festival during different stages of the band's life span so go figure.
If you do get selected, do not let it get to your head either. While it might sound like an opportunity of a lifetime do not forget that there are hundreds of other bands playing on the same night you are, but in different venues across the city. Venues are not always all close together. Industry execs can only be in one place at a time. And while some execs will go to these festivals with the intention of trying to find the next big thing, many are influenced by hype and follow buzz bands just for the sake of being where everybody else is going to be. This is called smoozing.
In most cases what these festivals are good for is for the possible chance that the A&R people who you've been shopping your demo to (and that have express an interest in your band) are going to be there and now's your chance to finally meet them in person and potentially play for them. This is what we call a showcase. The interest from people towards your band is called buzz and you'll need a lot of it. Buzz is key. If you haven't generated any buzz up to the point of your band playing in the festival, then there's almost no point in playing.
A great example of generating buzz is Sum 41. Before getting signed they filmed a short EPK (electronic press kit) that they shopped before getting signed to Island/Def Jam. While I don't want to get into the details of the EPK, let me just say that my stomach was hurting from laughter after having seen it. They clearly got my attention and I'm happy to say that they are doing just fine a s a result of it.
Most bands set up showcases outside of the festival scene. You might here a few success stories here and there, but overall, most discoveries and record deals are unrelated to these festivals. You'll here a lot of festivals claim that such and such artist played at their festival. While this is true, it doesn't mean that they got signed during the festival or as a direct result of having participated in them. So if you think the only chances of ever getting signed is by attending and playing at these festivals, then it's time you checked back to reality.
This is not to say that these festivals are a complete waste of time, but in my opinion, they are partly set up to make money. Here's a fact - Thousands of bands submit their demos for $55 dollars, but guess what? Only a few hundred get selected. Someone's racking in the dough and it ain't you. It only takes a few seconds to judge whether or not a band is worthy of playing at the festival. Can I get that job?
Don't get me wrong. Chris and I have had plenty of fun attending and playing at festivals like CMW. In fact, many of the details are a little blurry to us. That's got to be an indication that we had a good time.
And as much as I know the harsh realities of the festival scene, I would still take my chances and submit my music even if it did cost me $55.
But as with most bands, money is an issue. Select the festivals you want to enter carefully. Remember, there are other things to consider. How will your band get out to the festival? Where will you stay? Who do you know that's going to be there? What venue are you playing at? If you've been selected to play some crappy bar out in the middle of nowhere, then it's not worth your time. But generally speaking I would play any opportunity I got whether it be a battle of the bands, a charity gig, a basement party or a music festival.
FYI, the music festival in question was Canadian Music Week and they are still accepting submissions from international bands. While the Canadian deadline has already passed, bands outside of Canada have until November 30th 2005 to submit themselves.
Like many other music festivals, Canadian Music Week was set up in an attempt to pull people within the Canadian music industry together. CMW is a once-in-a-year opportunity to get your band in the face of over 3000 movers and shakers in the industry. You could be among some of the hottest new independent bands that will hit Toronto.
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Please Note: The views expressed in this blog post are that of myself and probably thousands of other musicians out there. Please take it with a grain of salt.
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