Top Advice On Applying To Play a Music Festival

We explore the do's and don'ts of securing festival gigs and how to maximise these opportunities to enhance your career... 


UK music festivals are an integral part of the live music calendar, offering artists the chance to showcase their sounds and audiences the opportunity to check out the latest music industry talent.

Without them, the music business would be a significantly quieter place with events like the mighty Glastonbury Festival, Wireless and the twin festivals in Leeds and Reading some of the summer's musical highlights.

Alongside the established music festival circuit, there are also plenty of music festivals that support local talent during the early stages of a career too.

But how do bands get festival slots or chosen as part of a festival lineup?

And what are the most effective ways to apply to play?

Whether you are a folk act or an indie artist, our new blog will explore the most important things to consider when targeting event organisers to get slots on a festival stage.

UK Music Festivals


In its study, the Association of Independent Festivals, a not-for-profit trade association representing 105 events across the country, has found there are around 500 festivals in the UK.

This figure has dropped since pre-pandemic levels but there are still plenty of performance opportunities out there for fledgling acts and artists.

Festival Organisers

Festivals of all shapes and sizes take place across the year, full of great music and fantastic artists. Many festivals organisers are on the look out for talent to feature at their events and often advertise festival applications and festival gigs online.

We've compiled some of those looking for talent below:

Find out more on opportunities to play festivals in 2024

What is the top advice on applying to play a music festival?

Here, with thanks to James Brister from ICMP's Careers and Industry Hub, we've compiled some essential tips to help unsigned bands navigate their way through the music industry to festival success.

If there's anything you think we've missed, then please get in touch...

Consider if you're ready to perform at a festival and what you want from it

Too many new/emerging artists dive straight into festivals without thinking strategically as to what they actually want from a festival or live performance.

If you are an emerging artist and have only released a couple of songs, then trying to leverage festival performances on good stages, at good stage times is not useful. Yet."

At this point, there isn't enough 'substance' out there for anyone who discovers you at the festival to engage with afterwards and reinforce their experience of the artist/band at home/on their phones/across their socials.

An artist's/band's 'art' is the means of deepening a connection and turning a listener into a fan.

Determine which festivals are right for your music

Have a strategy across which festivals you might target.

If you have a few tunes out and are still in early growth; think about local, council-led festivals, or taste-maker festivals.

There are plenty of them out there across the UK - The Great Escape, Liverpool Sound City, Truck Festival to name a few ... of course, Glastonbury is top of many artist must-play lists but this can come later!

Come up with a great bio

A great, well-written artist biography can be very useful when applying to play a music festival.

The ideal bio is short, engaging and to the point but with enough plaudits on there to make it interesting. Consider including any notable support slots, previous festival appearances alongside links to music, website and social media profiles.

Look out for local festival opportunities

Many festivals across the UK will look for local acts within a certain radius of their event to populate their emerging line up with talent.

This is a great way for an event to give back to the community it calls home by offering a platform for nearby artists and bands to hone their skills and hopefully find an audience.

For bands at the start of their career, demonstrating they can play live on a smaller stage is a good indication that they can make it happen and energise a crowd on a bigger one.

Use one-sheets and social media rather than a press kit

For new or emerging artists and bands, electronic press kits are no longer necessary.

These have become outdated modes of promotion as social channels provide almost all of the info that's relevant nowadays. Instead, artists need to think more along the lines of one sheets. These simplified, punchier presentation modes that articulate what successes, plans and plots they have going on.

Tighten up your live show

If you have impressed festival promoters enough to land a festival slot at an event, then it goes without saying that you need to dedicate some time to rehearsals. Practise, practise and practise your set. 

Only create high-quality live video

Live performance video can be useful when you are applying to play music festivals, but you have to have strict and honest quality control over the music videos you choose to share.

Grainy, wobbly, out-of-focus videos of pub performances won't cut it or convey the quality that festival bookers are looking for.

Instead, be diligent and only send great, engaging content that makes you and your music sound good.


Use email to contact festival organisers

Festival organisers prefer email as the most effective way to contact them.

If you can include pertinent information in an easy-to-engage with format and can follow-up more easily over email, then you can give a 'first-impression' of professionalism!

Avoid making cold calls on the phone - it rarely (if at all!) ever works and you can't convey your music over a phone call. If anyone does actually answer, they'll ask you to email anyhow and there is a danger you would actually appear annoying rather than your intention of being seen as proactive!

Get some professional photos

When you do get booked, it’s likely that you’ll be asked for a press photo to feature on the festival's website and social media.

So it makes sense to have these completed before applying - it not only shows that you're organised but that you're confident in your abilities and prepared. If you know someone with a camera, then just ask them to come and do the photos. You don't necessarily need to invest huge amounts of money in them.

Follow any application rules

If you are applying for a festival slot, then make sure you adhere to the requirements of any festival applications. Read what is requested, then follow up appropriately with the relevant information.

If you can stick to what is asked for when you target festivals, then it demonstrates your professionalism and can make all the difference between your application being read/music listened to or being ignored."

Get your social media channels aligned

If you are getting in contact with festival bookers or other music industry influencers, then you will be sharing social media details with them. So your various online presences need to be regularly updated and aligned in how they look and feel. It's unlikely that a promoter or event organiser is going to be impressed enough by an Instagram channel that's not been updated for some time to offer a band any decent gigs.

So take some time to work on your social media profiles before you get in touch. On your dedicated page, make sure all the details are up to date, links work, and content is in the right place. The aim is to demonstrate you are investing energy into recording and promoting yourself as well as your music. 

Next steps

So now you've had time to digest how you should contact festival bookers, you need to do your research and find out what's out there.

Our Festival application list is a great way to start - good luck out with your applications!

Take the first steps in your music career with ICMP

We've been developing and delivering contemporary music education for over 30 years – longer than any other music school in the UK. With a proven track-record, countless music industry connections and unrivalled access to facilities, it's easy to see why hundreds of students choose ICMP each year. 

To completely immerse yourself in your music career, chat with our friendly Admissions Team via email or give them a call on 020 7328 0222.

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by ICMP staff writer
January 31, 2024
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