If you or your band are ready for exposure to a crowd of thousands, it can be frustrating trying to get that first big break. Festivals are ideal, as they’re often conceived as a celebration of music and arts known and unknown, so you can end up in front of people who’ve never heard of you but will listen anyway. But how do you get there? Here are a few routes that can work if you have what it takes.Pic: Hope Wisechild
Win a talent competition
These are increasingly popular as bigger festivals seek to nurture the grass roots likely to produce future headliners.
Glastonbury holds a national Emerging Talent competition, open for entries for just one week between 20-27 January this year. Entries, via the festival’s official website, must include a link to an original song on Soundcloud plus a live video (quality unimportant). The shortlist is selected by the festival from a longlist prepared by music journalists, and the winners, chosen through a live competition in April, get to play at least one of the festival’s main stages.
Emily Eavis said: “Our stage bookers come down to the live finals, and dozens of the acts who’ve entered over the years have been given a slot at the festival. We can’t wait to see what this year’s competition brings!”
Choose a smaller festival or stage
Lots of events offer the chance to play for the love of the music. Particularly if you fit well into a narrower music policy, you won’t face quite so much competition.
Bloodstock, for example, created Metal 2 The Masses where hard rock venues across the UK and beyond hold local battles of the bands, with finals, starting in May, judged by Bloodstock representatives. Bands enter via their local venue, with winners getting to play the festival’s New Blood stage, and local rock festival promoters also using the competition to scout talent.
Scar City, who describe themselves as “a little band from Biggleswade” said on Facebook: “Playing Bloodstock – the whole experience was mind blowing and we were treated as professionals from start to finish. Everyone should enter M2TM.”
Glastonbury is a range of big and small festivals rolled into one, and Avalon Cafe, Croissant Neuf, Shangri-la venues and even the Acoustic stage are willing to consider your CD if you send it direct to the organisers.
Get on the radio
BBC Introducing is a national radio-based initiative with its own festival stages which last year appeared at Glastonbury, Reading & Leeds T in the Park, Manchester Jazz Festival and BBC Radio 2 Live In Hyde Park.
You start by uploading an unknown track which may be aired by one of their BBC Introducing shows. Local DJs and national BBC Introducing presenters like Jen and Ally, Huw Stephens, Tom Robinson, DJ Target or Jez Nelson then recommend acts they feel deserve live festival exposure. The many success stories include Florence and the Machine, who played BBC Introducing stages in 2008 and was headlining Latitude by 2010.
Sign up for an open mike
Open mike stages are most common at smaller, local events. Yorkshire’s Galtres Parklands, for example, provides both an open-mike stage and busking stations and actively encourages musicians to add themselves to a 100-strong weekend bill this year headlined by Bellowhead and The Levellers.