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How to Promote Yourself at a Music Festival You're Not Playing

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Pop quiz: If you're going to a rural music festival to see your favorite bands, what's the number one most important thing for you to bring?

Answer: your gear.

At this year's Camp Bisco, one of the biggest surprises wasn't who played on its stages. It was who played on its campgrounds.

In addition to their tents, sleeping bags, food, drugs, water, camping chairs, and more drugs (just kidding), close to a dozen DJs stuffed the makings of an outdoor party into their minivans and RVs, intent on keeping the party going well past the festival's final sets ended.

Depending on where you camped out (or how far you were willing to wander), you could hear everything from disco to dubstep to drum and bass. You might hear it nestled between two RVs, or you might hear it shaking the walls of an improbably large steel dome covered with painted cloth, but you were going to hear it, often until about dawn, so here are some tips for how to play an unofficial show at a music festival:

Bring Backup Dancers
Whether they're just your friends or people dressed up in leotards and face paint (or somewhere in between), every one of the best parties had a crowd ready before the music even started. Ultimately the music determines who stays or goes, but creating the impression of popularity is often the biggest key to success: One of the first night club owners, Régine Zylberberg, opened her club, the Whiskey A Go Go, in May of 1947. For the first six weeks, she would turn on the lights, turn on the music, and place a sign outside that read: Club at full capacity. By the time she stopped doing that, there was a line around the block.

Camp Bisco, where a little branded merch goes a long way.

Bring Festival-Specific Promo
At festivals like Camp Bisco, where visitors can, if they are so inclined, listen to live music and DJ sets for 18 straight hours, expecting them to stumble onto your patch of grass and dance for another two hours before they can talk to you is a bad idea. You'll want to have something to press into their muddy, sweaty hands quickly, before they stagger back to their camp sites, pass out, and forget how much they were enjoying your set. More than a few DJs came armed with recently made mix CDs. If you're going to bring mixes, try to make one with stuff you intend to play at the festival you're going to, and give it away as a party favor to anyone who seems interested. Don't just grab another 50 of those CD-Rs you burned eight months ago. Those will get lost in someone's trunk and never seen again. If you are just giving out a non-descript CD, pair it with something like 3D glasses or something else affordable you'd give away to fans.

Do NOT Ask For Money
Almost every single music festival features lots of hidden costs--camping supplies, food, sun screen, flash lights and lanterns, and that's before you get into the cost of gas. Aside from the people who can afford VIP accommodations, most of the people attending these festivals are doing so at a significant cost. They don't want to shell out extra money for anything. Especially not your DJ crew, whose music they've been dancing to for all of 15 minutes. There is no greater way to drive people away from whatever setup you've got than to ask for “contributions" to “keep the party going," or for “donations" to “help pay for the generator." This is about offering a receptive audience a free taste of what you're all about, not scamming a couple bucks off of people you're never going to see again. If you couldn't afford the generator, you shouldn't have rented it.

Not every music festival is run as permissively as Camp Bisco is, so it's best to do some homework into what the festivals are like before showing up. But just know that if you head to your next music festival with no plans beyond seeing your favorite bands, you're missing out.


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This story appears courtesy of We All Make Music.
Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved.

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