Negotiating performance slots at festivals can be challenging. Prime festival performance spots are in high demand. You know the ones’ I’m talking about-8-10pm for festivals with night stages and 3-5 pm for daytime festivals.
With headliners almost certain to take the bulk of those prime slots, there is very little room left for new performers or non-headliners to edge their way into primetime.
So how can you quietly negotiate your way into a prime performance slot?
If you are just beginning your association with the festival and this is your first time negotiating a gig there, I’ve found the following strategy is a great place to start:
First, it helps to have been using the strategies I’ve been talking about during the last few articles about Booking Around Festivals and build your value and fan base in the surrounding festival market.
Then, since this will be your first time playing the festival, make sure you let the festival programmer know how many fans you’ve built up in their market.
Next, work with them to let them know what you are willing to do to help make your first appearance, a valuable one to them.
So what more can you offer other than just a main stage performance? Here’s where your research will be helpful. Know what the festival offers: workshops, small multiple stages, children’s area, daytime and night time stages and perhaps change of stage mini-performances.
Once you know all the possibilities, you have a chance to offer your act for multiple, non-prime time performances. This really lets the festival director know that you are familiar with the programming. It also builds a team relationship. But mostly, you want to create the sense that you want to be there, be useful to the programming and not be demanding about the time slots you get. Remember, you’re getting your foot in the door and you want to make that impression really, really work for you this year in order to negotiate a better situation next year. You want to establish the fact that you are such a team player and care so much about how you can help make the festival better by just being there.
Let’s face it, by performing as much as possible at the festival, in as many performance situations as possible, you build more fans. So, you are already a winner in this case. Now when it comes to your fee, you’ll be happy to do all you discussed at whatever newcomer rate they are offering with an understanding that you will be booked next year at a higher fee with a time slot closer to or in the prime performance times.
This process works like a charm, especially when you have built up some audience demand in the market. You may have to do this for a few years in order to get the really prime time performance slots, but meanwhile you are playing your desired festival, getting new fans, selling merchandise and becoming a regular in the area. Not bad! Pragmatic