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It’s January 29th, 2020, the end of hibernation is drawing to a close. I hope you are fuelled by the promise found in the demise of Winter. Take that positivity, push through and compose your bands 2020 festival plans.

Where are you going to play? How are you going to apply? Is your band match fit? Ultimately, you are in charge of these considerations. However, if it's of any advice – go out, cast the net and see what your music brings in.

Festivals are vital in breaking your act, increasing its reach and attracting exposure in new territory. They provide an excellent method for new acts to break through, they are incredibly career affirming and fun. Now, before we jump straight in here is some advice;

Is your music rehearsed to a high standard?   

Remember, you can land a festival and not be ready for it. Perhaps you are not as tight as you could be and maybe there are out of tune backing vox, and wonky arrangements in the set?  Record your practice sessions be critical and act on it.  Festivals are a shot at attracting fans/industry to your band – however, if you turn up and play poorly, it is a wasted opportunity.

Now, if you already playing blinding shows in your local scene, then you will have started to gather momentum and a buzz. This makes the next step easier.

Get on top of your socials and have a story

Going beyond the high follower count (this certainly helps) having something upcoming to promote during the festival season is useful in landing slots.  Ever wondered why so many releases are in the early Autumn?

Imagine, you have Glasto – you released a single in March, there has been some radio promotion, and as a consequence you have  boosted your social network. There is a buzz, and in September the EP comes out. This is a plus for bookers, they know that on an EP campaign you will engage PR, perhaps land some further radio plays, spotify playlists and engage in interviews. In turn, you will be plugging the festival, which ultimately will lead to higher ticket sales. If your band can demonstrate an increase in revenues for a festival, you have higher chances of getting on the bill.

Look pro, act pro

Sort out your image, take photos, make an EPK and, most importantly have music which vibes. It has to sound big and be at a professional level. Conveniently, you'll find a wealth of information through our blogs and videos that can help with all these aspects.

Let’s get applying

If you feel your band is ready for the festival stage, there is nothing left to do then apply. To help you, here is a list of upcoming UK festival dates with application URLs. Remember, there is a range of genres in this list – always consider if your act fits the requirements - if it does STOP READING AND GET APPLYING!

Upcoming UK festivals

Black Deer Festival |19th – 21st  Jun

Arc Tangent20th – 23rd Aug

Glastonbury | 24th – 28th June

Ramblin Man |17th – 19th July

Steelhouse Festival |24th- 26th July

Isle of Wight Festival |11th  – 14th June

Camp Bestival | 30th  – 02nd August

Focus Wales 2020 | 07th – 09th May

Reading and Leeds Festival |28th – 30th August

Download |12th-14th  June

Liverpool Sound City | 01st -03rd May

Big Love Festival | 12th – 15th June

The Great Escape |13th – 16th May

Tramlines (Apps Open Closer to the Event) | 31st  – 02nd July

Leestock | 23rd  – 24th May

Camden Rocks | 30th – 31st May

Latitude | 16th - 19th July

Kendal Calling | 30th July – 02nd Aug

Nozstock | 23rd  – 27th July

Standon Calling | 23th – 26th  July

Wireless festival |  3rd  – 5th July

51st state festival | 01st Aug

Neighbourhood Weekender | 23rd  May

HowTheLightGetsIn Festival | 22nd May – 25th May

Worcester Music Festival |11th Sep – 13th Sep

Hastings Beer and Music festival | 01st July – 04th July

Strawberries and Creem Festival | 20th June

Slam Dunk Festival | 24th May

Boomtown Fair | 12th August – 16th August

All points East | 29th May – 31st May

Victorious Festival | 28th - 30th Aug

Notable mentions

BBC Introducing | Multiple festival stages

Gigmit  | Offering multiple Gigs Worldwide








January can be a quiet month for the live music scene in the UK, but artists and bands should use this time to work on their songwriting and to set out a plan for the rest of the year. For DIY artists and bands starting out, festival performances are a key way to engage with new fans and to network with other like-minded artists, bookers and promoters.

Here at WaterBear our industry leading tutors have played festivals, across the UK, Europe and beyond, alongside the likes of The Rolling Stones, Nile Rodgers, Metallica, Black Sabbath, Massive Attack, Wolf Alice, Dua Lipa, Ben Howard, Passenger and Imelda May… name but a few. I had a chat with some of our tutors and asked them for a selection of some of the festivals that are open to Independent/DIY artists and bands.

Here are some things to consider before submitting your application to any festival: (1) Are you happy that your music is ready? If not, spend more time on your songwriting craft. Get feedback from your friends, family, followers etc on your songs. Be open to criticism, be resilient, learn and apply feedback to your craft. Finally, know your audience. (2) Are your recordings up to Pro level? If not collaborate with the best people you can within budget. (3) Do you have a professional EPK (electronic press kit) -- including press shots, reviews, high quality live YouTube videos and Sound Cloud links? If not, then work on this in 2019 and get festival ready for 2020. (4) You will need to have a good audience following on social media. Check out our recent video about how many followers you will need to be taken seriously. If you’re not at this level have a look at our Social Media Tips for Bands video which will help you to grow your followers.

Don’t waste time applying for festivals if you’re not ready. If you’re not ready now don’t fret (pardon the pun) you can start planning now for 2020 and get festival ready by following the WaterBear blogs on our website or by subscribing to our YouTube Channel  for advice and tips.

If you’re festival ready then here are some great festivals that accept applications from unsigned and independent artists and bands. Some of these festivals are open now for applications and for those that aren’t keep an eye on them over the coming weeks. An obvious enough piece of advice is to make sure your genre of music fits what they are looking for before you apply. You can do this by looking at the acts that featured on the previous year’s line-up.

I hope this advice helps you on your music journey.

Follow our weekly Industry Advice & Tips on Facebook & YouTube.

Festival opportunities

Focus Wales 2019 | 16th - 18th May
(2019 Applications Closed)

Liverpool Sound City | 3rd - 5th May
(2019 Applications Closed)

Big Love Festival | 7th – 9th May

The Great Escape | 9th – 11th May

Live at Leeds | Saturday 4th May

Leestock | 25th – 26th May

Camden Rocks | 1st - 2nd June

Isle Of Wight Festival | 13th – 16th June

2000 Trees | 11th – 13th July

Latitude | 18th – 21st July

Nozstock | 18th – 21st July

Camp Bestival | 25th - 28th July

Kendal Calling | 25th – 28th July

Standon Calling | 25th – 28th July

Victorious Festival | 23rd – 25th August

Godiva Festival | 31st Aug - 2nd Sept



It’s no secret that festivals have become a major and thriving part of the music scene and business.

Fortunately, the full live music experience is something that just can’t be captured, bottled, or digitally copied, so music lovers and bands’ fans are always keen to attend live gigs. Festivals give people the chance to see, hear and experience multiple artistes and bands in a super-social environment, along with other ingredients of the festival experience, like market stalls, fairground rides, festival food and drinks, etc.

Festivals have become a staple of the UK Summer music scene, but can also be found throughout the year. Providers can use sites and venues that have stages and facilities that are fully weatherproof. So long as the punters don’t mind the wet weather…

For bands landing a festival slot, it’s a great opportunity to perform in front of large live audiences and a chance for them to draw in new fans and to gain exposure from the festival and the festival’s advertising and marketing. It promotes their material, and supports sales of their music. And of course, there’s money to be made from appearance fees and merchandising.

If you want to get into the festival scene, it helps to understand what goes on in the minds of the bookers. As is so often true in the business, understanding the lock makes it easier to find the right key to fit it and open the door!

We decided to talk to the bookers of two relatively new festivals that are open to having new bands on the bill. We wanted to get their perspective, advice and tips for you on how you should make an approach to them.

The festival experts

To help us understand and get a grip on all things festivals, we’re talking with Gary Paterson (Founder, Amplified festival) and Chris Sumby (Production Manager and Band Bookings, Stonedeaf festival).

Amplified is a 3-day, open air Rock, Metal and Alternative music festival held amongst the rolling Cotswold hills at Northleach, Gloucestershire. It showcases exciting up-and-coming acts alongside established chart topping bands from around the world.

Stonedeaf Productions Ltd. was formed by a group of veteran Castle Donington (now Download) festival rockers. The first Stonedeaf festival was held this year in the Newark showground, Nottingham, and the’ll be back there again on August 24th, 2019.


WB: Thanks for taking time out to talk with us. To start with, can I ask how many applications do you get for your festivals?

“In Amplified’s first year (2017) we had over 300,” begins Gary, “in 2018 just shy of a 1000 and for 2019 we expect that figure to be a lot higher.”

He goes on to add, “It has to be noted that the main constraint when organising such an event is that with 3 stages and allowing for the minimum number of 'clashes' between performances you're looking at 7/8 acts a day per stage. It doesn't take a mathematician to see the 'supply' (i.e. applications) far outstrips the 'demand' (number of stages and allocated slots).”

For Stonedeaf, Chris Sumby agrees about numbers. Also about supply exceeding demand and capacity – “Hundreds - which for a 9-band one-day one-stage event is great, but also can be a headache. So many great bands and only a couple of slots to use!”


WB: Let’s talk timing. How far in advance do you book the bands? And when is the best time for a band to approach you for a slot?

“When booking bands for Amplified,” says Gary, “we're always looking towards the next event, even before the current one has been and gone. In regards to prospective headliners, we tend to see which bands are due back in the recording studio, which acts haven't toured for a while, etc.”

He goes on to add, “In regards to acts approaching the festival for a slot, we have an online application system which normally goes live following the current festival closing its gates, the site getting cleared and a short break to recover!”

Stonedeaf books roughly 12 months in advance. Chris agrees with Gary that effective timing is linked to the festivals’ own lifecycles: “It’s hard for a right time, but usually September is the best time, when things are dying down from the previous event and things are moving towards the next one.”

Do bear this in mind, and check out the timing cycles of the festivals at which you’re applying to perform.


WB: Thinking about how you check out and vet bands, how much does a band’s social media presence influence you in regards to booking them?

“If a band look to be active and promoting themselves with their music and doing it well, that’s massive plus,” says Chris.

Gary agrees that these days social media is an important touchstone, though it’s not the be all and end all – “In the Internet age such as it is, social media is very near the top of the list when looking at which artists to book. That isn't to say that acts without a strong 'following' etc. wouldn't be selected or offered a slot. Here at Amplified one of our main cornerstones, so to speak, is to provide a platform for new, young and exciting acts the chance to perform on a main stage at a festival.”


WB: Okay, so social media definitely matters. What’s the first thing you check out when a band applies? Facebook? Twitter? YouTube? Videos? Songs?

“YouTube,” says Chris, “to get a feel for the band live and see what they’re like to watch. They could sound great but resemble waxworks when they’re on stage!”

Gary also looks at music and performance, and like all good bookers considers whether the band will be a good match for the target audiences. “Obviously, first and foremost, the music is paramount when deciding who we'd like to see here and, indeed more importantly, who we'd like those attending to come and enjoy.”

As for the various social media platforms, he notes “I think a band that is pro-active with their social media proves their willingness to get themselves heard and noticed and that shows us that they're serious. We would also look at Spotify monthly subscribers, YouTube views, followers, quality of videos and even their merchandise.

Gary also has some important advice about outlook and marketing, “All bands need to remember, and it's an uncomfortable thing to say, but being in a band has to be looked on as a business. You need to market yourselves to a target audience; your releases need to produced to the highest quality; your merchandise, or brand if you like, has to be of the best quality.”


WB: What are your top tips for new bands wanting to get on a festival line-up?

“It's quite simple really,” says Gary, “If a festival is offering a slot by way of an application process, please follow the rules. We get inundated with emails and messages to individual personal accounts etc. and it can be quite time-consuming in replying to those 'applications' via non-official avenues. You may not even get a reply and that in turn leads to some bands criticising the event and its organisers for their lack of response.”

This may seem self-evident, but it’s amazing how many applicants don’t consider how to use the right channels or procedures, don’t use them and instead try to make contact in intrusive ways – and that can backfire.

Chris’s advice is similar, with some extra – “Research the event! Don’t just send a generic email and EPK (electronic press kit). Send easily clickable links to your music.”

He warns applicants – “Too many bands write ‘War & Peace’ for a Bio! Sharp and sweet will do you more good.”

Bookers are busy people. Brevity is what’s needed here folks! Think about it from the booker’s point of view. As Gary puts it, “It's a very big task organising an event of this nature and time is at a premium; even if the event is a year away that time soon disappears when you have to start the actual process of organising the event for the following year. There's a lot of legal 'red tape' that has to be negotiated. If I personally receive a text message at 01.24am in the morning asking for a slot by a band who haven't even had their first practice yet, don't be offended if I don't reply!”


WB: How do you think bands most let themselves down, and what’s a big no-no when approaching you for a festival slot?

Here, both Gary and Chris refer back to their earlier answers, stressing how much effort is involved in setting up a festival. “A lot of us connected to the festival travel the length and breadth of the UK attending many, many gigs, listening to 1000s of bands during the course of the year”, Gary reminds us. “That means communications need to be short and sweet, not time-consuming or rambling.”

Chris’ no-nos are: “Sending huge files, long bios, being pushy for an answer and also delusions of grandeur. A photo and a couple of links works more for me.”


WB: Finally, have you got any advice for bands that don’t get acepted when they approach you for a festival slot?

Gary’s big tip for dealing with this: “Just because you may not get offered a slot, that doesn't mean you're not good enough! We may just have reached our quota of classic rock or thrash metal bands etc. It in no way reflects on a band's ability and if you go through the online application process you may just get your chance to come and join us here at Amplified.”

Chris echoes this advice, “Don’t be disheartened when you get knocked back. Keep plugging away!”

Resilience and perseverance count for a lot in the business.


WB: Thanks for your time and valuable advice, gents.

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