Smaller, local musicians play a completely different ballgame than touring acts when getting booked at their local festivals. They don’t rely on tour managers or booking agents to ensure they get headline timeslots and big paychecks. These success metrics are not even on their radar (or at least shouldn’t be). 

On a smaller and more local scale, it all comes down to community and the value musicians can offer therein. But even that’s a relatively vague espousal, so I decided to go to the source and ask the team behind Canyon Vibration festival how community support and involvement in the local scene are vital to landing slots and gigs at festivals like theirs.

Canyon Vibration is an intimate dance music campout on private ranch land in Tygh Valley, Oregon, approximately 2 hours east of Portland in Oregon’s high desert. The property has an abundance of car camping and idyllic tent camping spots in the trees alongside a river canyon, where attendees can swim during the day. 

At night, the canyon’s rock walls are illuminated with projection mapping and a ceiling of lasers descends on a dance floor powered by one of the best sound systems in the Pacific Northwest.

We asked Canyon Vibration’s leadership team, including Peter Marks, Leeonn Bailey and Spencer Russell about the impact of community engagement and networking on festival booking opportunities. 

How does an artist’s involvement in their local community, both music scene and beyond, impact their chances of being booked at festivals?

Peter Marks: Canyon Vibration is a community driven event and the vast majority of artists are locals. To make it work for an event of our size, we expect these local artists to be community leaders in their own right.That means having a following of people who want to support and be involved in anything they’re a part of, whether that’s their work as a DJ or promoter. It also means demonstrating values that are consistent with the community we’re trying to build.

Spencer Russell: Local community involvement offers another level of exposure for artists, which in turn widens possibilities for festival booking offers. When considering who to book, their sound is the main factor but knowing they will draw attendees is an equally important part of that selection process.

Leeonn Bailey: Canyon Vibration is a space produced by and for our local community, therefore an artist’s involvement has a great impact on one’s chances of being booked for this event. In my experience, being deeply involved in the local music scene and beyond isn’t just about promoting one’s work or event; it’s about fostering genuine connections that shape not only our art but also our collective ethos.

Can you describe the role of community support in an artist’s journey towards festival bookings?

Spencer Russell: As an artist supports their community and gets involved in ways beyond providing sound at the decks, the people they’ve supported will remember them when they consider who they should book for the upcoming year. Consideration is really the first step in the journey towards festival bookings, but of course, talent and draw are what get you booked in the end.

How has the role of community in festival bookings evolved in recent years?

Spencer Russell: When I was in my teens and early twenties, I attended large-scale festivals every year. Back then it was all about who was playing and partying with your friends. These days, I’ve noticed a big shift with festivals on all scales. New priorities are coming to the forefront around harm reduction efforts, critically evaluating diversity in bookings, and generally supporting the community on and off the dancefloor.

The mindset has shifted from caring just for yourself and your friends to looking out for everyone around you, whether you know them or not. It’s a beautiful thing to witness and has given me hope for the current and future of music events. 

In your experience, what community-driven activities have helped artists get booked at festivals?

Peter Marks: Aside from being a community leader of sorts, we expect our artists to bring a sound that will be both accessible and pushing the boundaries of the wider community. In other words, they know the musical vibe to bring that will meet the moment.

Spencer Russell: The specific activities really depend on the scene you’re trying to break into. I would suggest looking for areas in your community where there is a need that is not being addressed. The exposure gained from offering community support in a certain area is amplified when you’re the first or only one doing it.

Leeonn Bailey: I can only speak to my experience booking for this local event but the first thing that is required is putting yourself out there and challenging the status quo. As a queer, trans person, community involvement isn’t just about networking; it’s about survival and solidarity. How are artists helping to create and uphold a sanctuary where we can express our identities freely and authentically? How are they involved in uplifting marginalized voices? In reverence to techno as Black music?

Can a strong local following compensate for a smaller online presence when it comes to festival bookings?

Pete Marks: As a local event, we care more about whether people in town want to see someone DJ or attend their events than how many Instagram followers they have.

Spencer Russell: It really depends on the bookings you’re after. I think a strong local following is almost more important when targeting events like Canyon Vibration. The underground scene values local exposure, not how many followers you have or how often you promote yourself. Artists that are known for their excellence but remain humble tend to be the people I prefer to book.

That being said, it becomes challenging to book someone if they are hard to find online. At a minimum, maintain a modest online presence with links to booking contact information and recent mixes. Also, being searchable by your artist alias and real name is pretty crucial.

Leeonn Bailey: An online presence hardly means anything for us when booking local talent for a local event. 

What is one piece of advice you’d offer to artists looking to strengthen their community ties for better festival booking opportunities?

Peter Marks: Throwing your own events helps build your community and also gives you the chance to develop as an artist and collaborate with other artists and promoters. Additionally, it gives you an understanding of what makes for a successful event and how you can add value to other potentially larger events. 

Spencer Russell: Don’t expect that the community support you’re offering is transactional. It’s a huge turnoff if you offer help but in turn expect something back, especially a booking. What goes around, comes around. Trust that you will be rewarded for your efforts and be patient.

The post How community building supports your reach as a DJ: the effects of local networking in securing a festival booking appeared first on Magnetic Magazine.