How To Get Festival DJ Gigs As a First-Timer

How To Get Festival DJ Gigs As a First-Timer

If you thought booking your first semi-high-profile DJ gigs was difficult, wait until you try and get yourself on a festival lineup. And we’re talking the kinds of music festivals you actually want to play – not the 100-attendee, charity-organised local romps where your appearance would only be for token value. 

Unfortunately, there’s no quick or easy way to get high-profile festival slots as a newcomer. It’s something that takes time and effort, but could eventually pay off (big time) in the end. If you’re serious about breaking into the festival scene and you’re willing to do the legwork to make it happen, here’s a brief overview of what you need to do:

Headline Other Gigs

Festival organisers and promoters aren’t interested in lower-bill performers from mainstream gigs and shows. They basically want to pull together a lineup comprised of as many headliners and top-billed acts as possible. These are the entertainers that sell tickets and keep the crowds coming back for more. Hence, in order to be picked up by festival organisers (or to be taken seriously when pitching your talents to them), you really need to be performing as a headline act already.

Consider Non-Stage Slots

Don’t forget that the DJ sets that take place at major festivals are by no means confined to the site’s biggest stages. Throughout the entire event, dozens (if not hundreds) of performances take place in tents, outside shops and generally all over the place to keep people entertained. Unless you’re already a big deal, you can’t realistically expect to be booked for a peak time slot on a major stage. Set your sights on the slightly more modest non-stage slots at first – a great way to break into the scene as a newcomer.

Use Your Connections

Aspiring DJs and artists, in general, are advised to network like crazy from day one and to get as many names as possible in their contacts list. It’s for reasonsexactly like this that networking can and often does pay off. Think carefully about the people you know, who they know, and who they could put you in contact with. If there is anybody who could put in a good word for you or at least point you in the right direction, this could be the magic key you’ve been looking for to festival glory.

Run Your Own Stage or Tent

If you think you could pull it off (and have both the experience and connections available to make it happen), why not run your own stage or tent? Festival organisers are always open to proposals for smaller, independent tents and stages to broaden the entertainment on offer. You might need to be willing to work for little to no profit (or for free), but this could give you priceless access to a festival as a billed performer. Think about how you collaborate with others from the DJ community you’re a part of and put on a memorable show – logistics and all.

Get Backstage

The single best way to build the kind of high-profile contact list it takes to make big things happen is to rub shoulders with those at the top of their game. From pro DJs to promoters to PR managers to festival organisers, these are all the kinds of folks that hang out almost exclusively backstage. They’re also exactly the kinds of people that could help you get that all-important initial foot in the door. If there’s any way you can (legally and ethically) get your hands on a backstage pass, do it.


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