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Common Hurdles Faced by Musicians and Artists Performing at their first Music Festival.

Andy Robertson

Musicians and artists often start out doing small scale live gigs in clubs and pubs in front of small local audiences. These small environments are easily manageable and even allow some musicians to simply turn up and play. Getting curated for a music festival performance represents new hurdles for any up-and-coming artist.

Touring around small clubs and pubs is often how musicians gain invaluable experience of consistently delivering live performances to small audiences. However, the exposure to audiences is limited, financial rewards may cover expenses, but usually don’t and the schedules can be gruelling. For the lucky few performance artists who get curated or successfully apply for a music festival set there are some significant hurdles to overcome.

Musicians performing in small clubs and pubs are often the only acts booked or at most one of two or three artists scheduled over an evening. Transitioning to a music festival will mean that the artist is now one of many, even hundreds for a larger festival. This makes is harder to stand out and get noticed as a set can easily get lost amongst so many performances. Even getting a confirmed set can be a huge challenge in itself as there are hundreds of equally talented musicians and artists applying for an elusive festival stage set.

Small venues often have pre-installed equipment and sound systems that could be old and of questionable quality, there are probably no sound engineers available either. Moving from this plug and play environment to a high production set up can be a difficult transition for some artists. Music festival stages will be larger and the backline equipment and mixers will be of higher quality. Festivals usually run professional operations where experienced sound engineers are available for pre-show sound checks requiring an enhanced understanding of production techniques.

Festival Logistics.
Most music festivals run complex operations with hundreds of staff and volunteers helping to make the events happen in a safe and enjoyable atmosphere. Additional considerations for artists new to festival performances will be completion of comprehensive artist advances. The advance will confirm schedules for sound checks and performances plus additional information about accommodation, transport, riders and technical specifications for example.

Financial Compensation.
Touring and playing small gigs provides little financial reward with most venues only covering expenses. Playing at a music festival can open opportunities to increase fees although it is not unusual for first time performers to get a minimal fee or even nothing. These zero or minimal fees for artists new to festivals is often accepted in exchange for the potential increased exposure. Performing at a festival is unlikely to provide any significant financial compensation until the artist becomes more established. Regularly being asked to perform at a music festival can provide a healthy income for many performance artists.

Audience Management.
It can be daunting performing in front of a large crowd for the first time and almost every artist will be nervous before a live performance. Where possible musicians and artists new to the festival scene will need to find a way to engage with the audience. This can be particularly hard for artists performing their own material to audiences who will be unfamiliar with it. Some artists find it beneficial to make their performance more of a show than simply playing music, this approach can be more impactful and memorable for an audience.

Performing at a music festival for the first time presents challenges for artists and musicians but as long as they are well prepared these hurdles can be overcome. Whilst most artists will feel a sense of excitement and anticipation the reality can be harder to manage as a first music festival performance is unlikely to lead to instant fame and financial reward. Festival performances do provide a platform for increased exposure and other opportunities in the music industry.

For festival organisers planning their events using a software management platform like Festival Pro gives them all the functionality they need manage every aspect of their event logistics including a dedicated artist management module. The guys who are responsible for this software have been in the front line of event management for many years and the features are built from that experience and are performance artists themselves. The Festival Pro platform is easy to use and has comprehensive features with specific modules for managing artists, contractors, venues/stages, vendors, volunteers, sponsors, guestlists, ticketing, cashless payments and contactless ordering.

Photo by Sebastiaan Stam via Pexels

Andy Robertson
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