Booking a band, a quick guide

by Gary Trueman

Many people think that when a festival decides on who it wants to play it’s a simple matter of making a couple of phone calls, agreeing a price and that’s it. Nothing could be further from the truth, so in an effort to explain why band X or performer Y didn’t get to play when they were asked for here’s a quick run through of the booking process.

First of all you need to know which acts fit with the festival you’re putting on. Thankfully as Alt-Fest encompasses a wide range of genres the vast majority of the fans’ suggestions are considered and a list drawn up. Being fan led we believe in asking who you want to see and ran polls for the most popular bands. This then shapes our potential line up.

Now comes the tricky part, the booking process. Firstly you will be dealing with the booking agent in most cases, and they can give numerous reasons why a band cannot even consider performing. Not being able to play is just as frustrating for a band and a festival as it is for fans. It could well be that they are recording new material at that time, or they could already have other touring commitments or it might just be the case that they will be in the wrong place at that time for numerous other reasons.

Also, most festivals require most artists to play an exclusive appearance. For example, if Motorhead are headlining Reading festival, you are unlikely to see them at any other festival that year.

Once you have an agreement that a band is interested in playing and available you then need to make and negotiate an offer through their agent to secure a contract for them to play. This will not just be a cash deal though, it could involve any number of other factors, the band themselves, the agents or the record label may insist you take other bands as well. This is good business for them but can throw a festival line up into chaos. Who do you drop to accommodate these often unplanned extras? They may also try to negotiate on anything from merchandise deals through imaging rights to their placement on a line up which best suits an often tight schedule. Alt-Fest will always put the wishes of the fans first but sometimes it is simply not possible to reach an agreement that makes a particular band’s appearance possible.

The earlier bookings, done as far back as August 2012 were completed ‘in-house’ particularly for the smaller bands and supporting acts appearing at Alt-Fest. In July 2013 Alt-Fest began working with one of the music industry's most respected bookers, Bev Burton from Killer B ( Bev brings a wealth of experience to the Alt-Fest team and is primarily in charge of booking the metal stage and all of the main stage headliners and co-headliners.

Some of the most often asked questions are; where are the headliners? When will they be announced and why are they not announced yet? There are several answers, if you check most other major festivals they too haven’t announced their headliners yet and begin to from late September/October, some haven’t announced any or only a few acts yet either. So with 130 acts already confirmed and announced for Alt-Fest we are ahead of the game! This is all down to the timing of the booking process, all major agents who represent the bigger name acts wait until festival season for this year is over, then hear all the offers from all the festivals from late August to September. They then look at the best offer financially for the band, one that may give the band the best exposure or best slot at a festival and/or one that fits in with their other international dates and schedules. Many factors are taken into account. Once the agent agrees or approves your offer it then gets passed to the bands’ management and possibly the band themselves for a final decision. At that point if all is agreed then production will get involved in the bands technical needs, hotels and party sizes need to be agreed, travel arrangements and so forth. Then the contract is agreed and negotiated, deposits paid and we can announce!

We hope this link is helpful in understanding how the booking process works and why sometimes even the most heavily requested band might not end up on the bill or why announcements at this time of the year are slower than you might have hoped. It certainly wouldn’t be for the want of trying. At Alt-Fest we will always try our hardest to book the bands you want to see, the ones you’ve asked for, we are guided by you, it is your festival, your scene and your say.

The good news, perhaps the best of all is all our offers are in, very few have been rejected and the potential final line-up for Alt-Fest 2014 is looking absolutely top drawer, stunning in fact. As soon as we can announce the majority of the metal stage acts and our main headliners and co-headliners you will be the first to know. Keep your eye out on our news section here for the latest updates and on our Facebook and Twitter accounts for updates on announcements.

We hope to see you in August 2014!

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