We caught up with Adam Ryan, booker for The Great Escape Festival to see what he looks for when choosing acts for this world renowned festival.
What is the most important criteria you look for in an artist?
A well rehearsed artist with a coherent sound and live show is important but then sometimes artists that are really raw and unpredictable can be just as enjoyable. Its important that the artists we select to showcase at The Great Escape are at a certain point in there career and familiar with the live circuit in their town, city or country.
Do you find that having a professionally produced and recorded demo helps a band to be selected, or does the demo quality not matter?
If you’re going to record yourself you should really take the time to make sure you’re happy with it and that its a clear recording. This isn’t as hard as it used to be and theres a load of affordable gear out there which will help you. Its important to make sure the music you send out or post up on the internet is a true representation of what you sound like.
The festival seems to focus on a different genre of music each year according to the headliner – is it important for bands to fit in with this theme?
The Great Escape prides itself on showcasing the best new music. We don’t have themes as such. We used to be a very Indie band focused event but that was mainly due to that style being in vogue at the time. The festival is a lot broader now. Its important for us to showcase the best new music around what ever the genre.
How important are social media figures in being selected?
Social media stats are just one of the ways you could work out how established an act is. As a booker and promoter all social media stats need to be taken with a pinch of salt. Having a million plays on Youtube doesn’t mean you’ll sell a million tickets, doesn’t even mean you’ll sell 50. Its important to reach as many people as possible and get the numbers up but if you’re creating something you’re passionate about then hopefully others will naturally get on board. The sound of an artist will always out weigh the social stats when considering who we book for TGE.
Does it help if a band has a manager or booking agent to be selected?
Agents and managers help for sure but aren’t key to all my bookings. Its important that theres some sort of team in place. Mainly so when you’re playing at the festival you have someone to help arrange meetings for you. The bands main focus should be playing the show. Having someone to go out and arrange meetings with industry figures to further your career while at the event is key.
TGE has traditionally focussed on new music and has a fantastic track record of showcasing bands which have gone on to great success. How new does a band need to be to stand a chance of being selected?
TGE work with and speak to a number of promoters, A+R’s, labels, venue bookers, radio pluggers, agents, media partners and gig goers and music lovers to find out whats happening out there and whats new and exciting. If your act is ready to perform at the festival the chances are you’ll be coming up in conversations we’re having with these people.
Do you see any important trends happening with music at the moment? Is it possible to predict what will be popular?
The Great Escape provides a platform for the best new music to showcase to the music industry and public. Striking a balance between the two can be hard at times. Whats new to the public can be old or even written off by the industry. We have an amazing track record of spotting talent and predicting trends and that’s down to all the people that are involved with the event. Everyone that inputs into TGE lives and breaths live music which is how we manage to do it.
How have things changed since 2006 when you started the festival, and do you look for different things in the bands now to when you started?
The festival was started due to a real need for a SXSW style event in the UK. Things have changed massively. The first event had 175 artist across 15 venues. We now play host to 450+ with 26 different countries represented in over 30 venues. The demand to play gets greater each year, especially as the programming gets broader.
What platform do you find is the most effective to promote live music?
Totally depends what style of music you’re making and where your fans or interest lays. Use your common sense.
Do you have any memorable highlights over the years?
There are so many. Watching Foals sound check at one of the first events when very few people knew who they were. There were about three people in the room watching the band run through their set, very special. Skepta was amazing. We got the timing of that spot on. His profile blew up a few weeks later. Adele playing to 80 people in a coffee shop. Me flooding a hotel room due to watching Saturday Kitchen in the morning with a massive hangover costing my boss £2000 worth of damage.
What is the best way to apply for The Great Escape 2018?
Via our website greatescapefestival.com. It’s free to register your interest to play our festival.