You’ve been blowing up in clubs and pubs around your local area and even throughout the country, but now you’ve secured your first festival slot. This time, you’re not opening for yet another Libertines sound-a-like in the student union. Instead, you’ll be coming face-to-face with a crowd of thousands looking forward to the likes of Guns ‘n’ Roses or Liam Gallagher.
Whether you’re shredding it at Download or reviving indie rock at Latitude, at Kore Studios, we’re happy to offer our advice to all bands preparing to hit the summer’s biggest stages. Knowing how to prepare and perform at a festival is certainly intimidating, but it can help your band reach out to a wider audience and build a bigger fanbase. Read on for our tips on helping you play some of your biggest shows yet.
Put together a setlist
Playing a festival, no matter how big or small it is, will expose your music to an entirely new audience. You could very easily find yourself playing to hundreds of people who’ve never heard of you before, so it always helps to make a brilliant first impression.
Of course, that means putting together a great setlist. All those fan favourites need to be the focus of your performance, as you’re unlikely to have a lot of time to impress – especially if it’s your first festival performance. Even if you have put together a B-side that the hardcore fans want to hear, maybe skip it on the festival stage – your tried and tested hits are the best way to win an audience over.
You could even break out a cover on the festival stage. Yes, doing covers used to be considered bad form by many people, but sometimes it helps to ride the wave of nostalgia by playing a song that everyone knows to get the crowd moving. One word of advice: only do covers that you genuinely think do a good service to the original and avoid songs that are already overplayed. Effectively, don’t follow in the footsteps of Kanye West’s Glastonbury performance during which he attempted to perform an incredibly out of tune Bohemian Rhapsody.
In short, know where your strengths lie and stick to them. Do this and you’ll already be halfway to a top-notch festival performance.
Let the crowd know who you are
When you’re playing a festival (especially if it’s your first) you’ll be playing to a lot of people who simply don’t know who you are. As such, you need to push who your band are as much as possible. Chances are that a few people will love what you’re playing, and they will actively want to know who you are so that they can hear more of your material. Its your job to let them know!
Before the festival season arrives, make sure you have plenty of merch to bring along with you. CDs, t-shirts, even just flyers – it’ll make a huge difference when you’re there. Unless you’re already quite well established or playing a particularly small fest, you’re unlikely to have a spot on the merch table. In such cases, you can bring some merch along to throw out into the crowd as a reminder of who you actually are. If they enjoyed your music, they’ll no doubt appreciate it.
Remember to literally tell the crowd who you are. It sounds obvious, and maybe even a little ridiculous, but in the heat of the moment you can easily forget it. Before you smash out your biggest single, tell everyone what the song is and state who you are! There’s going to be a lot of people who loved your set, loved your music, but simply cannot remember who you are. Let people know who you are – focus on crowd interaction and you’ll stick in their mind.
Get ready to connect
You’re at a festival, surrounded by other like-minded bands, so don’t be afraid to do a bit of schmoozing. No, you’re probably not going to be doing beerbongs with Post Malone at the end of your set, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid reaching out to the bands around you. Networking is essential to doing well as a band, and a festival is easily the best place to meet fellow musicians.
You’ll get to hang out with a range of artists at the show itself, but make sure you keep in touch. Firm friendships have been forged and great touring partners discovered by bands who play the festival field and mingle as much as possible. Plus, it’s a great place to meet some of your favourite bands in the underground scene and pick their brains for tips on musicianship.
Run a tight ship
While it’s acceptable for a train to show up a little late to a venue or deal with a broken keyboard, that’s not the case at a festival. You really need to blow the audience away so be sure to prepare all of your equipment well in advance to avoid any major problems.
You’ll want to arrive to your slot early and stick exactly to the schedule. With a lot of other artists on the bill, if you mess up your set lengths and changeover times, you could cause issues for everyone else on the line up. Ensure you have all the equipment you need and know how to set it up and take it down quickly. Being fully organised could mae the difference between putting on a festival highlight delaying Gary Barlow for 20 minutes. Don’t be that band!
Festivals are daunting, intimidating and sometimes you’ll get a cold reception – but don’t let that get you down. You likely got into music to have fun, play some great tunes and meet awesome people, and all of this can easily be done at a festival.
You need to get out there and enjoy the experience. This sounds like very obvious, if not malign advice, but it will make a difference to your entire festival experience. Fun leads to energy, which usually leads to a great performance that the crowd is guaranteed to love. Make your festival shows your best ever, blow the crowd away and make your main goal to have fun.
Want to make your festival dreams a reality? Head to Kore Studios and get your music out there! We offer a large live space and two control rooms, backed up by a mixture of high-end and vintage gear, brought together by experts in producing and mixing various different styles of music. Get in touch to arrange your tailored studio session.