Support Local Journalism. Join Riverfront Times Press Club.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Is Playing a Major Festival a Waste of Time for an Unknown Band?

Posted By on Wed, Apr 23, 2014 at 5:40 AM

  • Nanette Gonzales

Critic Jessica Hopper has played in and managed bands, toured internationally, booked shows, produced records, worked as a publicist and is the author of The Girls' Guide to Rocking, a how-to for teen ladies. She is here to help you stop doing it wrong. Send your problems to her -- confidentiality is assured, unless you want to use your drama as a ticket to Internet microfame.

Fan, We're a nobody Canadian band. Does it still make sense these days to play a showcase with hundreds of other nobodies at a behemoth festival like SXSW or CMJ? It seems to us that unless you're buzzing going in, it's just a waste of money (especially if you have to drive from Halifax to Texas). But say we do it anyway (and many do): What is the best way to maximize your time there? Is a festival the best or worst time to approach a booker/promoter/label rep/music supervisor? Showcase Suckers

Dear SS, Anytime/place where you are in direct competition with hundreds of other bands, just the law of odds is working against you. That said, people go to SXSW and CMJ, ostensibly, to discover new music and make those connections.

Is SXSW worth the 2,600 mile, 40-hour drive from Halifax? Very, very unlikely. Unless you have really solid leads to pursue and four or more showcases with bands that are hyped and have a significant fanbase. CMJ is a more manageable fourteen hours (break it up with a house show in Maine!) and fewer bands; it's more of a media and industry function and less of a wasted schmooze frenzy/Spring Break for major-label product managers. The ideal way to maximize your time is play on the best bills you can possibly get on, at a decent venue/spot, before 1 a.m.

The good news for you is that you are Canadian and you have all those Canadian music-industry infrastructural perks like radio quotas and FACTOR grants or Candian Council for the Arts; while I have heard a lot of my Canadian friends bitch about them, I only know of one Canadian band that hasn't gotten one. All we have here in America is the occasional kid with a trust-funded record labels. My suggestion is start where you are, work towards getting on NXNE or the Tim Horton's stage at some tertiary regional festival. According to the Internet, the Halifax Pop Explosion is still going -- start with that. Maybe you can be the next Jale, reignite people's fever for Nova Scotian indie rock and make the world come to you?

To address your last question: As long as the person isn't in a porta-potty line, carrying heavy equipment or settling up with a promoter -- any time is relatively "fine," as they will be expecting you and your demo 'round every corner. If they seem peeved or real busy, ask them if they have a card so you can holler at them when they are back at their desk...and not barf-drunk and horfing a churro at a show.

Best, Fan


The 15 Most Ridiculous Band Promo Photos Ever This Incredible Make-A-Wish Teenager Went to the Gathering of the Juggalos, Got a Lap Dance (NSFW) Crotching Whiskey at the Justin Bieber Concert and Getting Thrown Out: A Review The Top Ten Ways to Piss Off Your Bartender at a Music Venue

Tags: ,

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Riverfront Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Riverfront Times Club for as little as $5 a month.

Read the Digital Print Issue

January 19, 2022

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In St. Louis

© 2022 Riverfront Times

Website powered by Foundation