If you’re tired of only playing to a few dozen people, get yourself on the festival circuit. Time Out tells you how
A little while ago, I discovered that Gandhi’s Cookbook and Public Refuse are planning a globe-trotting tour. And that got me thinking: if a teeny bunch of pop starlets could organise a 20-date tour all by themselves, surely somebody with clout could arrange a 20-band festival in the UAE. Of course it might take some time before we can have a Glastonbury in our own backyard but that’s no reason to give up hope. So, while you’re waiting for Woodstock-style mudpits to be flown into Al Jadaf, there’s nothing to stop you trying outdoors action abroad.
Yes, outdoor sound isn’t great, you’ll probably end up playing in the rain (all great festivals seem to suffer from the elements), you will have to lug your own equipment around, you won’t get a sound check and your set will be cut if you’re late. Still, a festival gig brings together thousands of potential new fans in just one day – far better than the 10 to 50 you’ll get in Dubai. And it’s far cheaper than touring.
And, while many have closed their doors for 2009, that gives you a year to get a head start on the competition. First, take a look at Britain’s Surface Unsigned Festival (www.surfaceunsigned.co.uk). Events in 2009 will take place across the length of England and Wales, in the cities of Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff and London. That makes Surface Unsigned the biggest festival of its kind. In fact, press releases are being sent to more than 45,000 music-related emails. Get ready for 2010!
Of course, Glastonbury 2010 is also an option, provided you can catch the organisers’ ears. Check out the website (www.glastonburyfestivals.co.uk) for an address to send your demo to. It worked for The Subways, the UK indie band whose lead singer will be playing Alpha next week.
Meanwhile, Emergenza (www.emergenza.net) is a European and North American festival for up-and-coming bands, with a battle-of-the-bands format. You will have to pay a fee to enter, but you could win a slot on the Best of Emergenza Showcase Tour, which could be a real opening.
Jazz and folkies could consider the South By Southwest Festival in Texas – there is even a rumour going around that a certain folk singer, formerly based in Dubai, will be playing there in March next year. SXSW is the holy grail of showcase events. Go to www.sxsw.com/music. Registration starts in August.
And if you can’t wait until next year, the deadline for October’s Iceland Airwaves Music Festival (www.icelandairwaves.com) is August 1. So get your band in gear!
But don’t forget that applying for any festival requires a strong demo and a great press pack, with photos and a biography of the band, along with any supplementary info you may have. This can take time to prepare, but it’s worth it – it’s important to look professional. And keep an eye on those deadlines…
Zahra showcases the latest musical talent on Open Mic every Saturday from 8pm-10pm on Dubai Eye 103.8.