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How can my band get to play Mad With Power?
(...or any festival, for that matter)
As someone who's simultaneously in a band and a festival promoter, I can easily understand the desire to want to play more festival shows. It's usually a golden opportunity to make new fans and play with like-minded bands in your genre. It can also be extremely frustrating when festivals seem to pass on "less mainstream" or "independent" bands, relying instead on increasingly aging legacy bands (who oftentimes haven't released anything in the last 10+ years worth mentioning).
"If only my band could get a shot to play, they'd see how good we are," you might be thinking.
So how DOES one get the attention of a festival promoter (i.e. me)? The easy answer is: be a band that people want to purchase tickets to see. Although part of MWP's mission is to give more mid-to-mid-high-tier bands a fest to play, that mission will be over if we don't cover our expenses for the fest, so at the end of the day, I need to stay mindful of putting together a bill of bands that will get people excited and actually bring them through the doors.
Now, your band isn't headlining US tours and selling 300+ tickets every night. So how do you convince a festival promoter that you're a good bet?
#1 - Have AMAZING music
Typically, if your album made my top ten albums of the year, there's a very good possibility I'll want you to play my fest. It's important for ANY band to have good music - and that means well-produced music as well (pay attention to your mixes, kids!) - but this option is extremely subjective. You might think your music is amazing, but it might just not be my cup of tea. While you need to have good, well-produced music whether you're trying to play Mad With Power or Wacken, you can't rely on that music alone to get you a spot. That's essentially relying on luck: the luck that your music finds me, and the luck that it's fits my tastes perfectly.
Good music is essential, but good music alone is not enough.
#2 - Never sit still
I've seen it many times: a band releases a full-length album, and then does next to nothing for the next 4-5 years. Sure, maybe they release a video or two. Maybe they play their local bars. Maybe they even do a small tour. Once. But between that and the next album - nothing. And they wonder why I'm not interested in booking them! If I'm not actively thinking about your band or your brand, no one else in the community is either.
An old (and true!) rule of advertising is that it takes a person seeing your ad/product SEVEN TIMES for them to recall what it is, what it's about, and to possibly interact with it. If you release one album every 5 years, you're giving people one chance to learn about you once every five years. You need to constantly be creating something (it doesn't have to be music) to keep your band's name front and center in people's minds.
#3 - Prove to me you'll use the opportunity
When the pandemic hit in 2020, many bands broke up. Even more bands went into "hibernation", as they were unable to play typical live shows. They decided to wait things out, or write new material for some sunny day when the pandemic was over. Now, I can't give these bands TOO much grief, as we were all suffering from uncertainty, mental fatigue, and exhaustion, but many of the bands that I chose to play the fest in 2021 were bands that pivoted to things like livestreaming and making videos. They understood that their business - their brand - couldn't just go dormant for years. They needed to stay engaged with their community and continue to find opportunities to make new fans in whatever way they possibly could. One of the main reasons that I booked AfterTime and Knight of the Round (besides their awesome music) was because I saw them livestreaming on Twitch.
By doing that, they proved to me that their brand was important to them, and that putting them on my festival would be an opportunity that they could grow upon. If your band doesn't use a festival appearance to grow bigger and do more, it was wasted on you. That's exactly why I rarely book "legacy acts" - they're not going to get anything out of playing Mad With Power. Before I book a band, I always ask myself: "is there evidence this fest is going to actively help them grow?" By doing as much as you can, and staying top-of-mind in your communities, you're showing a pattern of active growth, which makes my decision easier.
If you stop actively swimming, you start actively sinking.
#4 - Be active in your communities
This goes hand-in-hand with the last point: you need to be top-of-mind in your communities of choice. To do that as a non-major-label-gigantic-super-famous-band requires two things: constant and mindful creation of content, and engagement in your community. Be friends with other bands (That's what the NWONMB is all about!), engage with your fans/friends/the community at large, and be approachable.
You don't have to be "on" 24/7, and despite what reddit would have you believe you don't have to post five things for every band-related thing you post (especially if, like me, you make WAY TOO MUCH content), but you need to think about relating said content to make it interesting to your community.
Can you imagine what an endorphin rush it would be if Iron Maiden commented on your posts? There's fans of your band out there who feel the same way, so engage with them!
Tangentially to this - you need to be good stewards of your community as well. As your band grows, more and more people will look up to you as a leader. Setting a good example and having a good name for yourself (i.e. don't be negative, don't be a jerk) is important to help me book your band. The power metal community is a small one, and if there's baggage attached to your booking, it makes it harder for me to say yes.
#5 - Don't give up
A "no" today is not a "no" forever. That doesn't mean "continue to message and email the promoter until he ultimately laments," but if you follow this advice and continue to actively grow, there's a far greater chance we'll book you. We go through the entire booking spreadsheet every year to check up on bands, so if we see you making a splash on your own, there's a better chance we'll reach out.
Don't wait for us to give you the opportunity! Create an environment for yourself that makes picking you an easy choice!