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4 Ways to Use Festivals to Build Your Network

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When you think of music festivals, you’re probably imagining long, hot, sun-soaked days hopping between stages to see your favorite bands, paying $15 for a mediocre burrito, and spending way more money on merchandise than it’s actually worth.

But what about using festivals as a way to shape your career through relationship building? I know, I know — when you go to a festival, you probably don’t want to think about “work.” You just want to enjoy yourself and have a good time. But don’t worry, that’s exactly what I’m suggesting!

There’s no better way to network than to have fun while doing it — in fact, the most successful bonds are built over shared interests and genuine conversation, making festivals the perfect opportunity.

Talk to the other bands

While getting in front of bands playing on the main stage might be difficult, festivals are crawling with bands who are either playing the smaller stages, after-parties, unofficial side parties, or who are just there to meet people, like you! Don’t be afraid to engage. You can make some incredible connections with other local bands, as well as bands from out of town (great for next time you tour!), just by stopping and saying hello. 

You’re going to want to show a keen interest in them, rather than just talking about yourself. Conversational basics 101, I know, but make sure you know enough about their music so that you can meet them halfway.

Always get to know the merch person 

More often than not, the people working the merch booths for touring bands are pretty well-connected to the bands and the labels that represent them — that includes managers, promoters, publicists, booking agents, etc. — so don’t be shy about getting to know them. After a while, you start to realize just how small the industry is. The more people you’re directly connected to, the more likely you are to find those second- and third-degree connections. The wider your network, the stronger your career growth.

Go grassroots

You know when you’re in line at a festival, waiting to order some food or beer, and the occasional hustling indie artist comes up to you to ask if you want to listen to their demo recordings? Be that person.

Yup, I know that sounds lame, and I know it can be uncomfortable to put yourself out there like that. But meeting people in person and being able to look them in the eye always makes a stronger connection than via the internet. Believe me. People want to get to know you as a person, not a faceless artist, and if they like you, they’ll be much more willing to check out your music and support you. Just be sure of one thing: that you’re starting an actual conversation with them before jumping to “Wanna check out my music?!”

Ask them who they’re most excited to see, if they’ve seen that band before, where they traveled from — get to know them and show them you’re invested. Then tell them what you’re all about. You’d be surprised how welcome that next stage of the conversation will be. After all, what else are you going to do standing in line in 90-degree heat?!

Put your own marketing spin on things

I once worked with an artist that spent over a month traveling around Europe to go to different festivals. His goal was to renew his creativity by being around artists who were living their dream, and make new friends and fans of his own while doing it.

He chatted with everyone he met, and would sometimes busk on the sidelines of the festival playing his own songs. This worked especially well at overnight festivals, where there’s a lot of community down time. But one of the things he did that I thought really stood out and grabbed people’s attention was include a review and recap of each festival within his email newsletter. This was one of his promises when he asked people to sign up for his mailing list, and it worked.

It was (as far as I know) something no one else was doing in that capacity, and being able to look at the festival from an artist’s point of view gave him a unique perspective to write on. And when he took photos of the festival grounds, the people he met, the bands he saw, it gave festival goers even more incentive to sign up — because who doesn’t like to see, share, and relive photos of themselves having a blast all weekend?

So when you’re packing the car to head out to yet another summer filled with festivals, make sure you include your instrument, some records, and a stack of business cards with your contact information on it. You won’t regret it!

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Share with us what you want to work on today, and we’ll pair you with a Mentor to help you get there! 

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Angela Mastrogiacomo
Angela Mastrogiacomo

Angela Mastrogiacomo is the founder and CEO of Muddy Paw PR, where her artists have seen placement on Alternative Press, Noisey, Substream, and more, as well as the Director of Community and Events for Music Launch Co. She’s also the owner of music blog Infectious Magazine.She loves baked goods, a good book, and hanging with her dog Sawyer.