8 ‘Must-do’ Band Preparations for the Festival Season

The van is packed, you’ve left food out for the cat. But wait! As the summer festival season swings into action, check out our essential list of ‘must-do’ items before leaving home for the festival fields…

1. Update your PRS for Music details.

If you’re a songwriter you’ll want to get paid by PRS for Music for music performed by you at your festival appearances.

That means making sure that your personal details – particularly your bank account details – are up to date. You can do this quickly, and simply using your online account with PRS for Music.

Whilst online, you should also add details of any new songs to the PRS for Music database. This will ensure that PRS for Music can identify your music and pay you all royalties due.

2. Prepare a set list.

Help your festival organiser by providing a printed set-list in advance of your appearance.

The festival organiser needs to report to PRS for Music what music was played at the festival. As you can imagine – the organiser will have better things to do than to chase bands for set-lists – so go prepared. You can find a template set-list here. This will also help PRS for Music pay you quickly and correctly.

You might think that as you’re appearing at 10:00am on a wet Sunday morning, there is little point in submitting a set-list. However, PRS for Music will calculate your royalty regardless of the time of appearance, or the fact that only one man and his dog was there to see you perform! So be assured that your performance will pay you, per track, the same as the festival headliner!

3. Register with PPL to receive more money!

Hotly tipped bands can receive significant airplay before and after any festival appearance. In advance of your show, many fans will also turn to streaming services to listen to your music.

You are entitled to receive royalties from PPL for your performance on these original recordings. If you also own the recording itself (for example, if you self-release) then you are entitled to royalties as the recording rights holder.

Registering with PPL is free – so this really is a ‘no-brainer’. Session artists that perform on the original recording are also able to receive income from PPL. So sign up today at PPL.

4. Sell merchandise.

It’s surprising how many bands don’t take the opportunity to make the most of their festival appearance by selling merchandise – particularly as this can be a lucrative source of income. Check with the festival organiser that you can set up a simple merch stall.

The staple offerings are of course CDs and t-shirts. Also consider stickers, badges, bracelets, shot-glasses, beanies and dog-tags – all relatively low cost items.

You needn’t order a tonne of stuff. Just order small quantities ‘on-demand’ as the festival season progresses. It’s slightly more expensive, but you won’t be left with a garage full of t-shirts at the end of the year!

Haul in the assistance of friends and family to man the merch stall whilst you’re playing.

5. Collect email addresses

The importance to bands of developing a meaningful and lasting relationship with fans is clear. The basic building block for creating a truly fan-based business is the humble email address. Rdio director of artist relations Adam Rabinovitz recently told SXSW delegates that the number one request artists have is for the email addresses of fans listening to their music.

Consider too that, according to data from Topspin Media, the average fan email address has a value of about US$3.78 in direct purchases from artists over the owner’s lifetime.

At festivals you have a unique opportunity to engage directly with your fans and to start a meaningful, and hopefully lifelong relationship.

Be sure to have a team of friends and family available to take email addresses at the end of your performance. Need to bribe your fans? We recently heard of a band manager offering a chocolate biscuit for each email address provided – and it went down a storm!

Facebook and Twitter are all well and good – and have their part to play in developing a relationship with your fans – but you need to know who your fans are and you need to be able to contact them on your terms.

6. Know your limits

Many performance agreements will contain a ‘radius clause’. This prevents you from appearing at another festival within a fixed geographical area (e.g. within 25 miles of Leeds) for a fixed period of time (e.g. for 6 weeks before and/or after the date of the festival).

Be sure to know exactly what radius clause is in your performance agreement – and abide by it. If you don’t then you will almost certainly not be invited back next year! In the worst case scenario, you could be prevented from appearing at another festival – forcing you to break two performance agreements – never a great prospect!

7. Provide a good press kit

Great performances at festivals will generate good press. Recent examples include the performances of both Future Islands and The Amazing Snakeheads at The Great Escape festival, which received instant acclaim in The Guardian.

Be sure to have a good press kit to hand, which should include good, clear, high quality photos in horizontal and vertical formats and a strong band biography in both short-form and long-form. Ensure this is distributed to the festival’s press officer and local media well in advance of the festival.

8. Get insured

Our final tip is to get insured! Whilst the festival organiser will have arranged insurance cover for the event, this will not cover claims against the band for injury to members of the public or for damage to property.

Insurance needn’t be expensive and, if you are a member of the Musicians’ Union (currently £213 per year), you’ll be insured for legal liability of £10m to cover injury to members of the public or damage to property. You’ll also get instrument and equipment insurance up to £2,000 and personal accident cover.


I hope you have an entertaining and productive festival season, and look forward to seeing you on the circuit!

If you need help with your music business activities then please feel free to call me, Mark Roberts of Sound Counsel on 0161 826 9309 for a free, no-obligation discussion.

Image copyright © Karl Bedingfield. Licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Mark Roberts

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