Here’s the video transcript:
State and county fairs are great places for Christian bands to play if the band can meet four basic criteria:
● The band does not perform an extreme style of music. Most fairs look for bands that perform country, blues, southern gospel, traditional folk, coffeehouse, and mild rock. Very few fairs accept screamo, hardcore, or rap.
● The band does not need to preach during the set. Fairs are secular events, so with the exception of the Gospel stage or tent, they do not want your band to preach. Generally it is OK to let your lyrics do the preaching if the band does not promote its beliefs verbally between songs. The band should perform several secular songs through its set to grab the audience’s attention. People will stop to listen to the songs they know, but tend to continue walking away from songs they do not recognize. Once the band has captured the audience’s attention with a familiar song, they will often sit through 2 or 3 more unfamiliar songs.
● The band does not need to be paid much. Most fairs will ask the band to play for free. Some will offer free tickets, and a few will offer what amounts to gas money. It is becoming very rare for a fair to pay a band well.
● The band can set up and tear down extremely fast. Many fairs allow only 15 minutes between sets. There is no such thing as a sound check in this scenario—your first song is your sound check.
If your band can meet these criteria, you are a good candidate to play at state and county fairs.
Most state and county fairs begin booking by accepting press kits in December and January. Unlike the rest of the entertainment industry, many fairs and festivals still want to receive physical press kits rather than EPK’s. The general process is that the press kits are passed around the members of the entertainment committee for several months, and then voted on.
The most important thing you need to know when dealing with fairs is that the primary motivation for providing entertainment at fairs is to increase attendance.
The entertainment committee usually does not care if you are amazing musicians. They may not know who you are talking about if you say you warmed up for some famous Christian artist. They definitely do not care if you have a good ministry or ethical business practices. They just want to know you will bring fans to their fair. So, when writing the cover letter for your press kit be sure to play up the fact that you are local and your fans will come to see your band perform. Say which cities and counties your members are from and point out if they work for prominent companies. Draw attention to your Facebook fan numbers and any other local stats you can find (Reverbnation ranking or attendance at the last concert in that county for example). This press kit is one instance where your cover letter can make or break you.
Where do you send the press kit?
The state and county fairs page at https://christianbandhelp.com/state-county-fairs/ has the best links I can find so far. The dates of the state fairs are included so you will not waste time trying to get into a fair when you are already booked elsewhere. County fairs are grouped with one link per state, when there is one available. That link will take you to a list of links by county.
Choose potential fairs based on location and dates of the events. Obviously, the state fair of the state you reside in is a good choice. Also look at county fairs for the county that any band member resides in as well as the neighboring counties. Counties and states that band members grew up in (but no longer reside) can also be chosen if you play up the “hometown boy makes good” angle in your cover letter. After choosing potential fairs, call the fair office of each fair, even if there is an entertainment submission form on the site. There should be a number somewhere on each website, often on the “contact us” page.
Ask the person answering the phone what the process is for applying to play at the fair. They will probably tell you to mail a press kit to someone and give you their address. Take the information, but then ask if there are other stages or tents at the fair your band may be able to play at. The reason for this question is that you probably only received information to get booked by the entertainment committee to play on the main stage. Most fairs have more than one tent or stage, all booked by different people and committees. Specifically inquire about family entertainment stages and gospel tents if your music is appropriate. You will probably receive several names and phone numbers to follow up on.
Every fair is different when it comes to booking procedures. Every stage of each fair has different pay ranges, guidelines, and policies. Most of the committees start booking 9-10 months in advance because their committees take a long time to make decisions. It is tedious work to follow up each contact and provide them with information about your band in the way they want to receive it. But the good news is that fairs often ask the band to come back each year once you get the initial booking.
This article is an excerpt from The Christian Band Handbook.
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