Get Schooled: Making An Impact At Music Festivals
Posted on October 27, 2015
October 27, 2015 | by Jamie Coletta
With my favorite weekend of the year fast approaching, I thought it would be a good idea to make this edition of Get Schooled Fest-themed! For a lot of bands, this year marks their first time venturing down to Gainesville, and with every ‘first’ comes a whole lot of potential mistakes. With hundreds of bands playing, it can be hard to separate yourself from the pack. If your set time is up against something like PUP or Beach Slang, how do you even compete? How do you make your performance at Fest have impact that lasts longer than just that one day?
I’m going to go over two major things that apply for Fest but also any other bigger festival performance you have coming up: promotion and social currency.
At this point, if you’re a band playing Fest, I would hope that you’d have already started promoting your appearance. Like, months ago. That being said, the week of the show is potentially the most crucial time to get any last minute stragglers to commit to your set, especially at Fest.
Time to get creative. Ignore whatever bands you’re playing against during your time slot—focus solely on spreading awareness that you’re playing. Got a friend who is a pro in Final Cut? Have them make a 15-30 second promo video using live footage and music videos to remind people that you’re headed to Fest. You know all those great photos you’ve been sitting on that your significant other took at your last show? Post ‘em, baby! And make sure to mention your set time/date whenever sharing. Anyone in the band have decent drawing skills? Make a flipbook of people rushing the stage to see you at Fest. Film it, post it on the ‘gram. Download the official Fest app, make a schedule for your performance day obviously INCLUDING your set, screenshot it and post. Reach out to someone at Fest and see if they’d be down to tweet a link to your new music video or Bandcamp. Make sure to give them an accurate RIYL to share, too.
Honestly I could go on with these kinds of ideas for days. Point being—USE YOUR IMAGINATION. The key is to make sure you’re updating your socials pretty regularly in the days leading up to your performance, and having fun with it at the same time. Anything that feels too much like “marketing” will have the opposite effect and people will ignore your posts.
Regardless of how many people show up to your Fest set, you still need to address your fans not in attendance plus any “suits” who aren’t going to be down in Gainesville this year. You need to take your performance and turn it into something that your fans are going to want to share. And you know what happens when you provide fans with shareable content – they share it. Then their friends share it, and their friends, and so on. It’s called social currency, and you should be creating it as often as possible, especially surrounding a big performance like Fest.
What are some examples of social currency? One of the most talked about sets at Fest 13 was Beach Slang. They were the buzz band of the year, having just released two of the finest EPs of 2014 pretty much out of nowhere. Attendance was definitely stacked, but I can’t recall if the room hit capacity or not. It didn’t matter, though. It was Halloween and the dudes dressed up as the cast of Gilligan’s Island. Give “Beach Slang Fest 13” a search and you’ll find the pictures – they looked hilarious. To back it up, they put on an energetic and completely unforgettable set. It was the performance that everyone left Gainesville talking about. Or how about PUP? They hit the stage at The Wooly for their first-ever performance at Fest wearing ketchup, hot dog and mustard costumes. As if that wasn’t Instagram-worthy right off the bat, they took the costumes off after the first song to reveal they had another set of costumes underneath– Starbucks employees! Couple that with their hilarious story of stealing the Starbucks shirts a few days prior AND their obscenely ferocious performance, and you’ve got a recipe for some serious sharing.
Costumes are easy because Fest takes place over Halloween weekend, but get creative. Use your time in between songs to say something meaningful. Hand out download cards before you’re done playing. Buy shots and share them with a few fans. Give someone a free shirt or record. The sky is literally the limit here. Just give people a reason to tell their friends about your band and your set at Fest.
One final thing—don’t forget to put on the show of your lives, too. I know it can be tempting in Gainesville to party 24/7, but you’re there to do your JOB first. Get drunk after you play. Costumes and download cards are tight, but if you sound like shit, people will remember you for that instead. The last thing you want to see is a review that says something like “SOMEBAND handed out free koozies at the end of their set, but their singer was drunk the whole time and sounded like shit.”
If you’re going to be at Fest this year, please find me at the SideOneDummy Records table during registration and say hi. Or come see any of our bands and you’ll probably spot me screaming/singing along/freaking out somewhere in the crowd.
Fest 4 Ever.