Festival Booking Season

September is the time of year when many summer festivals begin their artist booking, and the spring festivals fill in any remaining gaps. I have over 350 UK festivals on my database, so having a personal relationship with each one of those is next to impossible, though I hope to contact as many as possible. There are just over 100 festivals on my core list – festivals from Celtic Conections and Sidmouth to cosier events like the White Horse Festival (Oxfordshire) and Rotherham Show where the folk element is just a part of a much larger community event.

Festivals are big business. Millions are spent each year on tickets, food, drink, accommodation, transport to and from and purchases from craft markets and CD stalls while there. A report done about a decade ago extrapolated that festivals added something close to £80 million a year to the UK’s tourist industry.

As I said, Big Business.

It’s such a pity then to see a lot of great performers squeezed out of the festival circuit. Yes, the squeezed middle exists in the folk scene, too. Those artists who have maybe been around for twenty or thirty years, are stalwarts of the folk club scene, are superlative musicians and entertainers. Artists who can’t afford to treat a trip to a festival as a ‘holiday’. Those artists who need a sensible festival fee (not megabucks, but a living wage.)

Some festivals will pay big bucks for Folk Awards winners while they are flavour of the month, but having spent their budget on ‘stars’ the rest of the bill is filled wth artists who are willing to work for the exposure, or for tickets and camping.

Festival exposure is great for new artists just starting their career, and it’s worth putting yourself out there for a season if you’re trying to break into the folk scene, but always remember that a good workman is worthy of his hire. Don’t continue to work for free or for peanuts for year after year.

My sincere thanks to all the festival organisers out there who balance their festival guest list with a range of performers from all ends (and the middle) of the spectrum – those organisers who understand that without the squeezed middle the folk scene would never have existed in the first place.

About Jacey Bedford

Jacey Bedford maintains this blog. She is a writer of science fiction and fantasy (www.jaceybedford.co.uk), the secretary of Milford SF Writers (www.milfordSF.co.uk), a singer (www.artisan-harmony.com) and a music agent booking UK tours and concerts for folk performers (www.jacey-bedford.com).
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