On the rise – 5 tips for bands on their road to the main stage
Blog by Firestone under Live
This blog is contributed by Firestone, the iconic tyre brand. They have a longstanding commitment to grassroots music and creating a series of authentic music experiences that bring musicians and music lovers together. The Firestone Music itinerary includes Road to the Main Stage, a competition dedicated to unearthing the very best emerging, unsigned talent, the Firestone Stage at a leading UK festival and secret Sofar by Firestone gigs.
With the rise of streaming platforms and social media, getting your music out into the public domain has never been easier. But if you want more than that, to play to live audiences and make music a career, how do you get heard by the right people in the industry? How do you come to the attention of the people that could help turn your music dreams into a reality? And what do you need to know along the way?
As a longstanding supporter of grassroots music, we’re committed to providing a platform and opportunities for unsigned artists to be heard. We work closely with brands who share our ethos and support of up-and-coming talent, so we asked Road to the Main Stage partner Orange Amplification for their advice to bands on the up:
1. Get yourself a support slot
For bands selling out smaller venues in their own right, looking to take that next step, aim to get yourself tour support slots. It’s much better for you to support a big band, playing a big stage to 50 people rather than another small stage to 150 people. Why? Because those gigs provide you with invaluable access to backstage, and with it managers, A&R guys and the media; the people that won’t go to the smaller gigs but who need to find bands to sell records, or those with a platform to make your name known to a much wider audience.
Remember that a lot of big bands also look to book regional support acts, so seize these opportunities if they arise, introduce yourself to people and make your own luck.
2. Be socially savvy
Think about what you’re posting - create good content, that’s shareable and that your community wants to engage with. Keep your Events page up-to-date, share gigs and positive reviews, and find the time or get someone to manage your community.
And remember it only takes one share, like or comment for a band to come onto the radar of someone like Orange. If we hear the potential in your music, and see it through your social content and engagement levels, we’re definitely interested in finding out more.
3. Talent alone isn’t enough
You live for your music, yet in this business the rollercoaster high of an audience really into your music can swiftly be crushed by the crashing low of an empty diary, bad gigs and gear to fix when there’s nothing in the bank. These are the times when you need attitude and self-belief; develop a thick skin for when you need it, learn to lean on the people who’ve supported you and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
And remember that image counts greatly too – don’t be afraid to make changes if something isn’t quite clicking. Kaiser Chiefs certainly don’t rue the day they changed their name from Parva.
4. Be aware of the pitfalls
For all the good guys, there are rogues out there who take advantage of young, unsigned bands. When it comes to gigs, be wary of the cash-in-envelope payer you haven’t worked for before and always open it in his/her presence, preferably before the gig.
Send your band promo posters on well ahead of any bookings and make a follow up call to politely check they have been put up – promoters can be disorganised. For festival gigs, read your contract carefully, checking for any restrictions on playing other nearby gigs around that time. And on a more practical level, be careful when it comes to car insurance – not all underwriters accept people from the entertainment industry - and also insure your gear.
5. Create your own opportunities
So you’ve had some early success and now feel like you’re ready to take on the world. But if music isn’t yet financially sustainable for you, we think you could do far worse than staying grounded and doing the following 4 things:
• Busking – for every person that chucks £1 into your case, what’s not to say the next guy doesn’t work for a label? It worked for Ed Sheeran but always check with your local council to see if you need to register for a permit or not
• Put publicity over a fee – contact your local radio station and offer to do interviews or an acoustic set ahead of a gig you might be playing
• Share a YouTube link with the manufacturers of your favourite brands – show your passion and never assume you’re the wrong fit or genre for a brand; that’s for us to decide
• Enter competitions such as Firestone’s Road to the Main Stage – they’re designed for you to showcase your talents and provide invaluable support to up-and-coming bands. We’re proud to be involved with Road to the Main Stage for a third year running – year-on-year the standard of bands entering has increased, so we’re hoping that trend continues this year.
Road to the Main Stage
Firestone’s Road to the Main Stage has been developed over 5 years to give unsigned artists a chance to shine, reaching out to more than 2,500 entrants since its inception in 2015. In this time Firestone has given away more than 160 hours of studio recording time, and more recently given the 2017 and 2018 winners, Fire Fences and John Nicholas, the chance to play at the All Points East festival in London, generating priceless exposure and national media headlines.
The competition is back and alongside the chance to win a slot on the Firestone Stage at a UK festival in 2020, there’s also the use of a VW Transporter van for a year, in-store credit at a Professional Music Technology store, brand new gear from Orange Amplification and a contribution towards the creation of an EP up for grabs.
All aspiring acts have to do to enter is upload their music and then wait to discover if they’ve been selected by partners Orange Amps and Professional Music Technology, plus TV and radio presenter and new music champion Abbie McCarthy, as one of eight shortlisted acts. From there a public vote decides an overall winner, who will be announced on 13 November.
For more information and to enter, click here.
Advice from Firestone’s Road to the Main Stage on how to get better gigs for your band