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Letter: Musicians incur fees to perform at festivals

Musicians incur fees to perform at festivals

The artist who wrote the July 12 letter, “Why must visual artists pay to exhibit their work?” asked, “Think of musicians. Do they have to pay to be able to perform at outdoor concerts?” As a locally based, touring folk songwriter, the short answer is, yes!

Most major music festivals have some type of “emerging artist” or “new artist” opportunity, which requires an application fee. It typically ranges from $25 to $50, just to submit your MP3s and artist info for review and consideration of what is often a performance slot that offers little to no compensation. These fees cover administration costs, and the costs of processing the application.

Particularly in the folk music arena, applicants are reminded of the large festival audience they will be afforded the opportunity to perform in front of, which will in turn allow them to build their fan base and sell CDs. And many of those in the audience will be booking agents from venues, who may want to offer opportunities to perform at their venue.

While the application fee may be nominal, the chances of obtaining one of these coveted slots is slim. This is due to the fact that all entries – which for some festivals number close to 1,000 each year – are reviewed by a panel of judges for performance slots usually numbering between 24 and 30. Then take into account the travel expenses if you are selected should you not reside within driving distance of said festival.

In 2013, I was selected for one of 32 unpaid “new artist” slots at a major folk festival in Texas, and between airplane tickets, hotel and shipping a box of my CDs to the festival, costs were a little over $1,000. That said, the benefits of being selected for this festival have raised my profile as a touring singer songwriter, and allowed me to have a more sustainable career had I not.

David M. Ostrowski


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