8 things to maximize the odds of getting your music grant and festival submission approved

If you are a music artist and serious about advancing your career then at some point you will need to present a submission to play a festival or try to get money from a governmental or private agency. In either case you will have to get your music to the people who will be deciding if you are eligible.

These days this is done by including internet links directly to your web and distribution sites (i.e.Bandcamp, soundcloud etc) in your application letter or EPK. Do not attach your music files to the email (unless indicated) as the large data pack will be automatically filtered out by the mailbox.  

CDs are still good for the community radio stations but don’t bother sending hard copies to a funding organization or festival. Some organizations have their selection juries operate online so mailing CDs of your music around the country to the jurors is not an option. It is a good way to get rejected before you even get started.

Here are a few suggestions to help you avoid alienating the listening juries and jurors. Remember …  you rarely get a second chance.

1) avoid long intros – sounds obvious but that dramatic 45 second build-up will kill you faster than a speeding bullet. Most listening juries will listen to only the first minute. If there is a slight interest, perhaps the jury or juror might skip ahead but the spell is already broken and you’re out of the pool before you’ve even had a chance to swim. 
2) don’t include cover songs – maybe your partner and 6 Facebook followers love your speed metal version of “Freaky Friday” but trust me … no jury will. If your original song even smells like another tune you’re toast. (insert scratch & sniff of burning toast)
3) don’t just put one song – I mean ……. what? That’s all the music you have? How the heck are you going to play a 30 minute set? It’s also very pretentious.
4) stay focused stylistically – don’t put up a bunch of tunes with several different styles just to show what an amazingly versatile musician you are. Nobody gives a poop. Remember that they’ve just listened to 50 bands and they’re all pooped out. Give your band an identity. That’s what is going to stick.
5) No sexism, racism or any other isms – Look …. this one should be a no-brainer right? Yet almost every listening session and collection of online submissions has something that goes like this ” Yo bit@# … love yo #ss … gonna tap that #ss” …. do you even know who is judging this material? WOMEN WHO DON’T WANT YOU LOOKING AT THEIR #SS!!!!
6) No 30-seconds of live crowd noise chanting your name before the song starts ( see #1) – we get it. They love you. But that’s when you were playing in the middle of ButtKuf nowhere and you were the first live band the locals had seen in the last eight years. You were superstars … until you hit a town larger than population 80.
7) put your artist bio on all of your sites – the listening jury is not going to look around for info on your band (are you a real band or just you and a computer) and if you make jurors search too much it becomes work … and no one really likes being made to work.
8) easy on the slow droning stuff … unless that is what you do – Getting to listen to a lot of music is a wonderful thing. Quite an honour actually. It’s just that …  try to send music that has something interesting going on. If not you run the risk of jury members drifting off  …. as they think about what they’re going to make for supper …. wonder if there’s anything good on Netflix … maybe I’ll just go to bed early … or have a short nap …. or …. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Iain Booth is a music/sound biz multi-tasker: A teacher at Musitechnic, Owner/operator of Studio Hot Biscuit and A&R at Cadbury Records. He plays guitar with his band  Stroboscopica , attends the listening jury for Pop Montreal and is a juror for the FACTOR  Juried Sound Recording  and Artist Development grants