For those unfamiliar with the term, a showcase festival is an event focused on getting eyes and ears of music industry professionals. They operate a little differently from regular festivals that try to attract as many concert goers as possible, and bands are often playing for exposure rather than money. They also can feature music industry conferences and trade events, as well as the performance aspect.
Showcases can change your life, and applying for European showcases has become easier. Eight of Europe’s best showcase festivals have joined forces with gigmit, the digital platform for artist booking, to launch the Innovation Network of European Showcases, also known as INES. It’s never been easier to apply to play showcases, but it’s understandable if you are unsure of what to do in order to make the most of these fantastic opportunities. Here are four great tips from music industry professionals to help you make the most of your showcase festival experience.
1. Don’t Just Play Your Show
Showcase festivals are a great place to start your music career, but Sebastian Heer from ℅ Pop Festival recommends that you shouldn’t just play your show.
“In the best-case scenario, you shouldn’t just play your show and leave. You can log in the delegate database to see which people are interesting for you at the festival. If you already have a manager or a booker or a label, they might help you. But if you don’t you should try to convince people to come to your show.”
According to Peter Astedt, organiser of Live At Heart Festival (SE) and manager of The Magnettes, Namelle and Royal Prospect, you will really get opportunities once you’ve met people, and showcase festivals are the place to meet people.
“When you are at a showcase festival, you have to network. It’s not about you playing your show, going backstage drinking beer and then going back home. You have to be at the meetings, you have to meet the people even if you have a manager taking care of that.”
2. Do Some Research Before the Festival
If you are looking for a new manager, international booking opportunities, or a record deal, it is in your best interest to find out who will be attending the showcase festival. You want to stand out from the crowd - go out of your way to introduce yourself before the event via email and invite them to come and watch you play. You will only have a small window to get attention on your band at a showcase, so you need to make the most of it.
Another great idea is to check out the list of delegates who will attend the festival if there is one and try to set up meetings with them before the event.
“Meeting the people is what showcase festivals are about. That’s where the new artists are discovered. At the moment, managers are the ones doing artist development and the managers meeting point is the showcase festivals”- Peter Astedt
3. Show that you have an attitude
Music professionals who are attending showcase festivals often travel from far away to meet other industry people, but also to try and catch the next big thing before they explode onto the scene. That’s why you should prove that you can interact with your crowd and give a different performance than other bands who will play at the same time.
Bigger showcase festivals often have a very big line-up and many bands will play at the same time. You have to make sure people will come to see you play and that it will be worth it. Having an attitude is key, that’s how they will remember you, which will eventually lead to new opportunities for you. Even if only three people show up to your show, you should always make the most of your performance.
“We prefer artists who have something special, something besides what everybody can do, and something that people can identify to. It can be anything: a special voice, a special way to write songs or to move and be on stage, to be in contact with the audience.” - Till Schoneberg, managing director at Konzertbüro Schoneberg.
4. Build a New Fan Base From Showcase Festival Appearances
Although showcase festivals are mostly industry-focused events, fans can still attend the majority of them. If you are playing a showcase with regular concert-goers it is a great way to build a new fan base of people who might not have attended your show otherwise.
According to Till Schoneberg, some artists can only sell tickets if they make good records, while others have such a strong fanbase that they can sell tickets even if they produce a bad album. If you want people to show up at your shows, you have to start building a fan base wherever you are playing.
While nothing in music is guaranteed, following the above steps will really help you stand out and could lead to your big break. Good luck!