Whether you’re a total newbie or a frequent festival goer, there’s one thing that all music lovers can likely agree on: there’s something special about attending a music festival. From the variety of different musical acts to the buzzing atmosphere to those special sunset performances, music festivals are one of those experiences that are simply unlike any other.
And while the benefits to fans are pretty clear (where else can you see dozens of your favorite acts in the same place?), music festivals also have a lot to offer independent musicians. Regardless of whether you’re performing or simply there to take in the action, music festivals are a great opportunity to build your network. When you’re just starting out, it can be hard to book performances or secure deals without knowing the right people. Festivals attract people from all sides of the industry, so the chances of meeting a major player are pretty high.
Festivals are also incredible places to grow your following and deepen your relationship with your biggest supporters. For example, if you’re performing at the festival, you can follow Zola Jesus’ lead and live-stream your performance exclusively to your Patrons. You could also share behind-the-scenes content on your page, organize a local fan meet-up or give your fans early access to after shows or other festival-related events.
So now that you have some ideas on how you can use festivals to grow your community, here are six creator-friendly festivals that you should have on your radar this year.
New Orleans, LA July 5-7 Essence Festival is so much more than just a music festival. Started by the magazine of the same name, this multi-day event also has a wide variety of conferences and exhibitions on black fashion, business and beauty. This year is the 25th anniversary of the event, so they’re pulling out all the stops. The 2019 line-up includes musical heavyweights like Mary J. Blige, Pharrell and Missy Elliott as well as a conversation with none other than Michelle Obama. Yes, you read that right.
Chicago, IL July 19-21 Now in its 14th year, Pitchfork Music Festival held in Chicago’s Union Park is well-known for being both affordable and fun (three-day passes currently on sale for just $190!). For that price, you can see over 40 acts including headliners like HAIM, Mavis Staples, Robyn and more. Plus, there are a ton of extra activities that you can take part in. For example, for the first time ever, Pitchfork Radio will be broadcasting live from the Pitchfork Music Festival. That means you can get the chance to sit in on exclusive artist interviews, hear intimate live performances, and listen to diverse DJ sets. Doesn’t get much more up close and personal than that.
3. Mo Pop
Detroit, MI July 27-28 With its boutique vibe, smaller lineup and focus on local artisans, Mo Pop is one of the more laidback festivals on this list. But don’t worry, this festival still has a ton to offer attendees. Its diverse roster of headliners (Tame Impala! Vampire Weekend! Lizzo!) has wide appeal. Plus, if you need a break from the music, you can check out the Craft Bazaar to peruse some local handmade goodies or head to the Artist Autograph table to rub shoulders with your favourite acts. In short, Mo Pop proves that bigger isn’t always better.
4. Burning Man
Black Rock Desert, NV Aug 25-Sept 2 Burning Man is definitely not your average music festival. In fact, its organizers don’t even like to call it a festival. Instead, they describe it as a “temporary metropolis dedicated to art and community.” What does that involve exactly? Up to 70,000 people gathering from all over the world to experience a wide variety of art installations, musical acts and workshops. Whether you’re performing at the festival or just trying your hand at the #burnerlife, it’s hard to imagine a much more inspiring environment to be in. Plus, we have a feeling your patrons would love to get the inside scoop on your Burning Man adventures. Goggles up.
Austin, TX Oct 4-16 & 11-13 SXSW isn’t the only festival in town. Austin City Limits is an eight-stage celebration of all things music, with over 125 performance spread out over two weekends. Beyond the main stages, ACL has a bunch of activities, from ‘gram-worthy large-scale art installations to an Art Market featuring goods from local, national and world-renowned artisans. There’s even a Silent Disco where you can have your own little personal dance party, surrounded by a sea of your fellow attendees. Weird? Maybe a little. Memorable? Totally.
Las Vegas, NV Oct 19-20 Metarama may be the new kid on the block, but it’s definitely on our radar. Produced by the company behind two of the most iconic multi-day festivals, Austin City Limits Music Festival (see above) and Lollapalooza, this first-of-its-kind festival plans to celebrate the intersection between video games and live music. While the festival’s line-up and onsite activities are still TBD, you can join the Metarama Discord Server and follow the festival on social media to stay in the loop for all festival announcements.
As you can see, there’s a lot more to most music festivals than meets the eye. While the live performances are obviously a huge draw, we love that so many festivals also offer opportunities for creator attendees to connect with each other and their community.