By George Howard
(Follow George on Twitter)


Jay Sweet is the Producer of the legendary Newport Folk Festival. Under Jay’s direction, the NFF has become a must-attend event that sells out long before the gates open.  As Jay notes, festivals have become the “launching pads” for many artists today.

In this interview, Jay provides artists with some essential tips that can both increase their odds of being booked at a festival, and help them make the most of their festival appearances.

1. Let your fans do the talking.

It’s imperative that bands mobilize their fans to make people like Jay (those who book festivals) aware of what they’re doing.  This can be done in all sorts of creative ways from Facebook postings to well-crafted emails.

2. Take advantage of every opportunity to move your brand forward.

It’s so hard to distinguish yourself these days amongst the countless bands who are out there, so it’s crucial that you find ways to be interesting/remarkable.  Find ways to get people talking about your music; do something different.

3. Maximize the opportunity.

You must create impact when opportunity arises. As Jay says, getting confirmed to play something like the Newport Folk Festival is half the battle.  The other part is making the impression.  Whenever you get a chance to have an audience (particularly one as large as a festival audience), make sure that you ignite your fans, and—in whatever way you can— maximize the moment so that people will remember you amongst the countless bands who play the festival.

4. Be specific.

Don’t go with the buckshot approach, go with the sniper approach.  That means that you must do your homework to make sure the values align when targeting opportunities. Make sure you  know who you’re talking to when you do the outreach.  Be specific as to why you want to play the event; show that your values align with the person booking the festival.

5. Have some gumption.

Similar to number three above, when you’re trying to break in/get booked, do what you must do to find ways to make an impact. This means finding ways to show up to the places where you might be able to demonstrate your musical prowess amongst people who share your values.

6. Have a plan.

Once you’ve gained some momentum—being booked at a festival, for instance—take the benefits from this festival (the accolades from the press, the person who booked you, etc.), and roll it forward to increase your odds of getting booked for the next.


George Howard is the Executive Vice President of Wolfgang’s Vault. Wolfgang’s Vault is the parent company of Concert Vault, Paste Magazine, and Daytrotter. Mr. Howard is an Associate Professor of Management at Berklee College of Music

Our Playlist

Never Miss a Beat

Sign Up For Our Newsletter!