Getting Your Music Performed At Festivals

Getting Your Music Performed At Festivals

Susan de Weger
Melbourne, Australia

Getting Your Music Performed At Festivals

Question:

Hi Susan, I've recently completed undergrad composition studies and am preparing a few different works for different purposes. I was wondering, in regards to getting a work included as part of a festival:
A) how do you go about doing this at all? Do you find out who's programming and approach them directly about your work? Are there other avenues?
B) Say I arrange a recording of a work and release it, does that hurt my chances of getting that work included in a festival as its no longer unique to the festival?"
Thank you so much in advance for your answer!

Answer: 

Great question.  Firstly, congratulations on having completed your studies.  Learning how to learn is a brilliant life skill and is an ability that will help you navigate career opportunities with confidence.

Before seeking opportunities to have your work programmed, I would suggest you invest time and energy into creating or updating your bio, headshots and website.  This package of marketing content is called your professional deliverables.  The first thing a festival director will do if interested in your work is to Google you, so take control of the story that they find.  You can read some articles about strategies for this on my blog, Your Second Self: The Online Artist is an article about why it’s important to have an online presence for your work. What’s Your Story is a guide to creating great written content about yourself and The Internet Is The New Phone Book outlines the how and what of your online portfolio. 

Now that you have a professional and up to date website that includes a list of your compositions and sound or score samples, you can feel confident in approaching festivals to schedule your pieces.  I would suggest looking at the festival website to see who is listed as the artistic staff, administrative staff and featured ensembles.  Do you have any contact with these individuals or do you know someone who may know them.  Perhaps one of your university lecturers is connected, perhaps a group of musicians you know has performed at the festival in previous years.   You could ask your contact for an email introduction to the festival contact on your behalf.  There is a long lead time for programming, bear in mind that the festival may have 2 years of programming already committed so there may not be opportunities for some time.  Don’t lose heart if the festival organisers show little interest, or fail to reply.  Sadly this is all too common.

It is difficult for all composers and performers at the start of their career to find great performance opportunities, if established festivals are not providing an outlet, you could team up with fellow performers and create a concert of your compositions or work with a fellow composer and make it a double bill of original works.  This would give you the chance to record your works being performed live which is a really valuable marketing tool for the future.  What about approaching your old high school and asking the Music Director if they would be interested in programming a piece of yours at one of their concerts? 

The question about releasing recordings of pieces would be specific to each and every festival and each and every Artistic Director.  There is no one answer to this, however I would suggest that having professional recordings of your work is a very good step forwards in your career, the process of coordinating a recording would be valuable learning experience and give you a great set of skills and contacts. 

Good luck!

With thanks to Composers Michael Bakrnčev and Catherine Likhuta for their advice.