11 Music Festivals You Should Spend Money To Get Into So You Can Promote
I need an agent! I need a manager! How do I get on these festivals?
These were the same questions I asked myself. Who gives a shit honestly?
I must tell you that the story of me playing Rock The Bells festival and Paid Dues did not come from any magical agent. I was simply attending the festivals for years and finding my way on the stages as a guest. I would buy tickets to them, and pass out fliers inside because there were so many artists that already were familiar with me and worked with me in some capacity.Truthfully, before I bought tickets to the festival, I used to sneak into them. Since I know the people now, I don’t.
Today I honestly believe that if I keep attending Coachella, I will eventually play that too. Last year I landed on stage for an 11:30 am set. So, essentially, I have been been on a mic at Coachella. (The footage will be in my film, “Kosha Dillz is Everywhere: The Hustle to Happiness”).
There are hundreds of thousands of music fans at these festivals every year, and instead of staying home hating on the people who don’t put you on stage, I made a list of places for you to attend (and not hate on) and do what i call “hand to fan combat.” Take advantage of all those music lovers that want to know who your band is or what your rap name is. If you are some kinda company, well this can work for you as well.
1. SXSW Tech/Film/Music (March 9-17) FREE or $100 for wristband
If you didn’t go for music week here, that is obviously a necessary plan for next year. The best part of this festival is that you can give away tons of music and network, but still perform and make money here as well with hopes to make your $$ back. You never know who will find you here. The amount of hustle here will pay off. Here is the real secret though. If you want to get paid and sell merch, go hang during tech week and film. Go to those events. Real money is being spent, Twitter is being used in real time, and I always get booked for one paid gig during that time. If you are new, do not buy a platinum badge.
2. Paid Dues (March 30) $76
It’s not anyone’s fault or responsibility for this homegrown idea to be the most influential independent hip hop festival of our time. 8 years and running, it has grown into a festival of cultural understanding, supporting hip hop from all different sides of the world. With 20,000 hip hop fans running wild all day, this is the place to go shake hands and take pics, link with upcoming acts and rock with the people. Meet vendors and sling cds and pass fliers until you eventually meet Murs and camp and become part of the most crucial family there is. A family that supports each other through a DIY movement. In 2011 I bought a ticket and in 2012 I played in front of nearly 1500 people. I finally understood what the family vibe was all about. We also did the first ever Passover Seder at Paid Dues.
3. Coachella (April 12-14, 19-21) $350
80,000 fans each day come for tons of acts under 6 stages, hallucinogens, and richer West Coast folk. People are from all over the world. If you think you died and went to music heaven, this festival is what it’s all about. It sells out in 3 minutes, but if you want to be the only person out there promoting the music, most bands or rappers aren’t smart enough to cough up $400 to do it. I think it’s worth it. I’ll do it every year until I get booked. The only thing is if you hustle smart enough you get 3 days of music and 3 days of direct hand to fan marketing. I live for this shit. You can even set up a store on a blanket in the festival and show people your merch. I know because I did this and I covered my cost every year for two years.
4. Soundset Festival (Canterbury Park, MN, May 26) $49
If you are into a good time on Memorial Day weekend, I suggest you arrive at Soundset. Best way to spend your Sunday if you ask me. Last year I attended w/ C Rayz Walz and ran around like a mad man having the best time in the world. By doing that, people recall our project from 5 years ago and ask to buy new merch. You attend the day festival and then hit up First Ave. for the after party. Take a picture with Slug and only spend $49 to see Snoop Dogg, Mac Miller and meet up with all your Midwest homies. This is a no brainer. You can sell like 5 cds make your money back and give out a ton of other stuff for free. Welcome to Rhymesayers country. Last year there was a tornado that prevented Atmosphere and Lupe from playing, but we got to see Atmosphere in First Ave. That was obviously a treat.
With nearly 20,000 fans, think of it as the Paid Dues of the Midwest.
5. Bonnaroo (June 13-16) $269.50
I have never been to Tennessee but I can assure you this year I will be there. With the acts like Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Wu Tang (again just like Coachella) and NAS plus various jam bands and indie, this has a Southern flavor, cheaper taste, and attracts a lot more people with lighter pockets and from a different region of America. If you want to be smart, go down there and hustle your music, for it’s just as likely these people will be nicer than anywhere and more receptive to it. Maybe you’ll meet Bob Saget. He is playing and if he wears my Kosha Dillz tee shirt I might become famous and get a record deal without the Olsen Twins. I’m def going.
6. Vans Warped Tour $42.50
Talk about the possibilities of a dream come true. I went on this tour last year on a side stage and managed to link myself on bigger stages for what is “jamming.”
Not only did this tour keep me alive in the summer, but I sold merch every single day to mostly people who didn’t see me perform live. I ended up growing from a rental car to living on a tour bus with a German dance group, Captain Capa and indie mayhem Step Dad. People from all around the world play outside in line while kids wait and give others headphones hoping to get donations. If you could go here, even to your local ones, just think of all the people you could meet. You might be able to meet Kevin Lyman who is the head honcho and creator of the tour.
It’s the cheapest ticket of all festivals, and you actually have a chance of playing the festival if you stick around long enough. Every venue has 10,000 plus people in the age range of 12-30. Check out www.vanswarpedtour.com for dates all summer.
Oh and the tour bus was cheaper than the car…go figure.
7. Lollapalooza (Aug 2-4) $250-350
I have never been here but I can only imagine it’s frigid awesome. Tickets are cheap and the amount of hip hop is light. Midwest people come from all over to this event, and you can bet you will meet a gang of promoters and radio people and bloggers at this hip spot. Good way to start off a tour too if you are in the area of the Midwest.
8. Rock the Bells (Aug 17,18) $75- $125
Guerrilla Union and Rock The Bells are ten years deep in what is the most influential festival of our time for real hip hop, and has kept Wu Tang in our life for all these years. Chang Weisberg had the idea of reuniting Wu Tang and even made a film about it. Now, we can go to these places and meet hip hop aficionados from all over the world, and even get a chance to connect with artists as well. It’s a little bit more large scale than Paid Dues, but a similar way to connect. Getting a tent to sell merch isn’t a bad idea either if you think you can do it.
9. Hip Hop Kemp (End of August, Hradec Kralove, CZ) 30-60 Euros
The biggest and cheapest Europe festival (30 euros for 3 days) that brings the coolest and hungriest people in the world there. I figured that if I was able to go to Eastern Europe and show up, I would get on stage. I had so many friends playing, it worked. If you go there, and are a rapper from America, or even Black, people think you are famous. The true story is can you hustle up enough merch to cover your plane ticket? I recommend attending if you want to connect with artists and play late night shows in parking lots with Polish superstars. You will meet many people from Europe who love music. Western Europeans will carry the Euros so make sure you schmooze with them:)
10. ACL (Oct 4-6, 11-13) $235-275
This festival is also put on the by the same people of Lollapalooza, C-3. The best thing is this year will be the first time it does back to back weekends, since it sold out so many years in a row. What does that mean? You have an entire week to work here and plant seeds for SXSW in the upcoming year. That’s right!
How will you get gigs? Don’t worry…
Look at all those venues in ATX! The streets will be packed and I’m sure people will stay in town looking for things to do. Book gigs wherever you can and get ready to promo your butt off. If you make kids music (or are open to it) you can even do something with Austin Kiddie Limits (Kidsapalooza as well).
11. CMJ (Oct 15-19) FREE
Now that you just got done hustling your butt off in Austin, Texas, welcome back to NYC. Tons of little venues and industry peeps will be circulating and you have the opp to go to panels and network with everyone and their mama. This is a good time to meet with agents, management, and old friends while catching shows and hopefully picking up a few of your own. This is a similar festival/conference to that of SXSW, but it’s hard to notice the festival is going unless you’re in the LES, Greenwich Village or Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Take advantage of free press in the DELI Mag If you are from out of town, get your tourist on and make everyone think you hit it big time in NYC. I truly believe you do not have to buy a badge here.
In the end you can probably budget yourself to $2500-$3000 with all of this (travel, food and tickets) but if you are actually making moves, passing fliers and selling merch at each of these festivals, hand to fan combat will be the ticket to the best PR anyone can ever receive. You can also set up gigs around the time of the festival to make your trip easier. If you make $300 per festival you’ll be even at the end of the year. It’s a marathon, not a sprint!
The amount of video footage, emails, and photos you will have plus shows you will create for yourself in the future will trump any amount of up front cost. Not to mention that you just had the opportunity to reach 500,000 music fans. Pretty good for thinking these people who throw those festival are dicks for not booking you, right? Now you don’t have an excuse. Charge your phone, get your cds/tees, fliers, and stickers and go to those festivals.
Who knows maybe you’ll even end up in a relationship with some random person you meet. Maybe you’ll meet the creator of the festival and they’ll book you next year. You won’t know unless you go.
PS. I have a lust for performing outside of concerts. Nothing gets me pumped like playing on a street system for a rush of thousands of people leaving a festival. If you can’t play the stage, play the parking lot. Keep an eye out for me!
Kosha Dillz is a self proclaimed DIY specialist in hand to fan combat. He uses his life experience and heritage to connect with fans in his music and raps in multiple languages. He has had his music in the #1 Superbowl ad of 2012, is a playable character in the video game series NBA 2K11 and NBA 2K13 and earned the catch phrase “Kosha Dillz is everywhere.” He has worked as a full time rapper since 2008 and believes that no crowd of people should walk away from an artist/band without seeing them perform.
If you liked “hangin’ out” while watching this article, you’ll probably like his latest video “Hangin’ Out“.