Since 1995, the Warped Tour has showcased not only some of the biggest names in punk and rock, but they’ve also created a platform for up-and-coming artists to get exposed to larger audiences. In fact, many consider The Warped Tour to be the first festival to bring artists like Blink-182, New Found Glory, and Katy Perry into the national spotlight.
In keeping with that tradition, The Warped Tour and Ernie Ball are working with ReverbNation for the fifth year to present a battle of the bands-style competition in which unsigned, independent artists compete for a two-week tour spot on this year’s Warped Tour.
We spoke with Brian Ball (grandson of the legendary Ernie Ball and the company’s current President) about the current festival landscape and how bands can improve their chances of being selected for opportunities, among other topics. Check out some of the highlights below:
ReverbNation: The number of festivals in the US has grown exponentially in the past few years — how does The Warped Tour stay relevant in this new festival culture?
Brian Ball: Not only has Warped Tour remained relevant in continuously booking breaking bands, but they’ve also managed to keep the value incredibly high. It’s mind boggling to me how expensive some of the newer festivals can be. Kevin Lyman (founder of Warped Tour) has done an amazing job at maximizing value, and allowing festivalgoers to be able to buy merch, water, food, etc., without breaking the bank.
What are some of the things you look for when narrowing your selections? Is it purely based on the music, or do the artist’s photos, videos, and profile stats play into your decision?
Songwriting is almost everything to me — does the band have dynamics? Are they trying to create their own voice or just follow trends? Second to that is the band’s appeal in their regional/local market — do they promote their shows and engage with fans online? Are they treating their band as a career or more as a hobby?
What is one of the most common mistakes you see with up-and-coming artists these days?
A big mistake is putting promotion and social media presence before songwriting and musicianship. We’re in a time where instant forms of promotion and communication have never been better, but I think they can also hold bands back from what’s most important — their music.
Is there any aspect of an artist’s profile/submission that tends to catch your eye more than others?
The first thing I look for in a profile is if they have live videos in addition to songs. That’s one element that shows me the band treats their art more as a lifestyle than a hobby. It also gives us the ability to see how much modern recording equipment (Pro Tools, Auto-Tune, etc.) goes into making the band sound great.
After an artist has been booked for a show or festival slot, what is the responsibility as far as promotion is concerned? Have you seen certain tactics work better than others?
Drawing a good crowd at any show or festival can be tough, so it’s vital that they promote prior to the show online, and even offer promotions to those that come see the show. Some bands have chosen to give fans their two free passes and hold a contest prior to the show to help them promote. Also, the bands that do the best at The Warped Tour show early and come with signs and headphones offering attendees in line the chance to check their music out. That can easily turn the show into having 50-100 people in front of the stage, to having 200+.
- Focus on songwriting first, promotion second
- Include live videos on your press kit at all times
- Get creative with your show promotion with contests, giveaways, etc.
- A festival spot isn’t just another show — promote yourself throughout the festival, not just during your set
Don’t miss your chance to play The Warped Tour 2015: