How To Think Like A Festival Artistic Director

– Posted in: Biz Booster Hot Tip! Booking Psychology
How To Think Like A Festival Artistic Director

How To Think Like A Festival Artistic Director - by Jeri Goldstein     

How to think like a festival artistic director is a far cry from either a club booker or a Performing Arts Presenter. Why? Because a festival artistic director often only has to plan one event all year. That event may have multiple days, multiple stages, multiple workshop areas and cater to a multi-generational audience, but it is one event.

During that one event, they may actually have to program and book more artists than an entire season at a performing arts center. That is why it takes them the better part of a year to create and book all the programming.

So, would like to play festivals?

It would probably be a huge help if you knew how to think like a festival artistic director. Since they have to knit together a cohesive, interesting, ticket-selling program, they are not just thinking about one act and how that act will sell, they are thinking about how to weave together multiple shows each day of the festival. They often start their creative process of thinking about the next year’s festival while this year’s festival is happening. They are constantly analyzing how the acts are working and how the audience is reacting.

If the festivals you are interested in playing also have workshop stages along with their multiple stage areas, then you need to pay attention to this aspect of the festival. Here is where artistic directors really show their creativity.

As you research each festival, review their most recent festival program. Check out the previous year’s acts. But most of all check out the schedule, the way the festival is put together. See who followed whom and what the titles of the workshops were. This will give you the most insight into how the director thinks and plans.

Consider the following:

  1. Workshop titles and the acts that are lined up in each workshop
  2. Main stage and minor stage line-up
  3. Side stage line-up; the stage that might have brief performances while the main stage is being set up for the next big act.

    If you are a novelty act that can perform 2-10 minute sets, you might just be perfect on these stages and get to play in front of the main stage audience multiple times throughout the main show.

  4. Ease or difficulty of load-in and set-up
  5. The size of the act
  6. The novelty of the act. Has the act been seen at other festivals before or is it new to the continent or country. Is that something the director is known to book?
  7. Will the act be a draw or is the act just beginning to get known?
  8. If the act is foreign, is obtaining a VISA a concern, a cost or a problem?
  9. Will travel costs for any one act be a burden to the festival’s budget?

When preparing your pitch to a festival artistic director, plan to contact them no sooner than one month after the previous year’s festival has ended. They need some down-time right after the festival. Also, do not contact them right before the festival, thay are in their pre-festival launch mindset and will not have the time or inclination to talk with you.

6 Things To Consider Before Contacting Any Festival Directors:

  1. Review YOUR programs and what YOU can offer.
  2. Do you have any workshops in which you can participate or which can moderate?
  3. Can you come up with some clever workshop names to suggest to the artistic director?
  4. Do you have the potential to be used on a side stage during a main-stage change-over?
  5. Are you willing to be flexible about the time of your performance? By offering your act for a day slot, you get your foot in the door, play the festival, develop your audience and the director’s admiration and set yourself up for a more prime-time slot next year.
  6. Have you built up enough of a following in the area to leverage your way into a showcase slot if one is offered? Share your statistics of audience development in the area to help with this.

Festivals are a great place for a new act to launch a new market, but you have got to be able to offer the artistic director some creative insights into who you are as an act and how YOU can help them create an exciting festival. How to think like a festival artistic director is all about thinking of what they need to do to create a great festival event. Create your pitch with their needs in mind and you’ll have a much better chance of playing the festivals you are itching to play.

Do you already think like a festival artistic director? Do you have a great pitch for your act? Do you have workshops with great titles to offer? If not, why not take the week and come up with a few great ideas.

Leave me a comment below or on the Performingbiz Success Strategies Facebook page

I can’t wait to hear about your success.

Thanks to Carol Ehrlich for this week’s Biz Booster graphic image, “How To Think Like A Festival Artistic Director.”

Now, Thanks to the Band Curfew from the UK for providing the Biz Booster theme Music, Future Dance. Check them out at

And for more career boosting tips, articles, books, resources, tele-seminars and online courses, visit me at

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