Negotiating Top Festival Spots

– Posted in: Biz Booster Hot Tip! Book the Gig

Negotiating Top Festival Spots - by Jeri Goldstein     

Negotiating top festival spots is tough when prime festival performance slots are in high
demand. You know the ones’ I’m talking about 8-10pm for festivals with night stages and
3-5 pm for daytime festivals.

With headliners almost certain to take the bulk of those prime slots, there is very little room left for new performers or non-headliners to edge their way into prime time.

So how can you quietly negotiate top festival spots for your act?

If you are just beginning your association with the festival and this is your first time negotiating a gig there, I’ve found the following strategy is a great place to start.

First, it helps to have been building your value and fan base in the surrounding festival market with house concerts and other smaller gigs.

Then, since this will be your first time playing the festival, make sure you let the festival programmer know how many fans you’ve built up in their market.

Next, work with them to let them know what you are willing to do to help make your first appearance a valuable one to them.

What more can you offer other than just a main stage performance? Here’s where your research will be helpful. Have an understanding of the festival’s programming by looking at past years. Do they program workshops, small multi-performer stages, a children’s area, daytime and night time stages and perhaps change of stage mini-performances?

Once you know all the possibilities, you have a chance to offer your act for multiple, non-prime time performances. This really lets the festival director know that you are familiar with the programming. It also builds a team relationship. But mostly, you want to create the sense that you want to be there, be useful to the programming and not be demanding about the time slots you get. Remember, you’re getting your foot in the door and you want to make that impression really, really work for you this year in order to negotiate a better situation next year. You want to establish the fact that you are such a team player and care so much about how you can help make the festival better by just being there.

Let’s face it, by performing as much as possible, in as many performance situations as possible, you build more fans. So, you are already a winner. Now when it comes to your fee, you’ll be happy to do all you discussed at whatever newcomer rate they are offering, with an understanding that you will be booked next year at a higher fee with a time slot closer to or in the prime performance times.


This process works like a charm, especially when you have built up some audience demand in the market. You may have to do this for a few years in order to get one of the top performance slots. But, meanwhile you are playing your desired festival, getting new fans, selling merchandise and becoming a regular in the area. Not bad!

How have you worked your way into negotiating top festival spots?

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

I can’t wait to hear about your success.

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