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3 Things Festival Promoters Look for When Booking Bands According to Joe Matthews

by Robert Flis / April 24, 2020

At this time of year, most festival organizers and promoters would normally be finalizing their lineups and ironing out details in preparation for summer festival season. This year is a little different. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic sweeping the world, more and more concerts and festivals are getting cancelled or postponed, and questions are beginning to arise as to how long the live music industry will be feeling the effects of COVID-19. But that hasn’t dampened the spirits of Joe Matthews, founder of Napanee Ontario’s Voodoo Rockfest. We had a chat with Joe at our Music Industry Talks webinar series and asked him what promoters like himself are looking for when booking bands for their festivals.

Here are the top 3 things that Joe Matthews considers to be important when booking bands for Voodoo Rockfest.

1. How much a band has invested.

I look at absolutely everything. When someone sends me their stuff, first of all it has to catch my ear. I don’t care what other people are saying about a band, if I don’t hear that in a band then I just stop. Quality of recording is essential. Once they’ve made that cut, then I start looking into - what’s their social media like? Have they been playing much? Have they gone through a lineup change? Do they have any videos? Have they been touring? How much do they have invested? Because what I want are the bands that are invested, that have good promo, good videos, good audio. So they basically have something that makes my job easier, which in turn helps them get more fans. So that’s the biggest thing, I go through all the criteria. And it’s not one thing that ever makes or breaks it. I’ll look and this band has 30 people following them on Spotify, but this other band has 4,000. I take that all into account. I don’t always decide based on that but it always starts with something of quality.

2. Determination.

There are bands that have applied to me that had songs that to me were so good, but some of their other material wasn’t. So I’ve put their music in the playlist and I listen to it all the time, but I didn’t book them because I didn’t think that their other music was up to the calibre of that one song that I really loved. So what I do with an artist like that is I keep an eye on them and I watch them. It’s very common to apply to Voodoo and not get in the first year. I can go through my lineup every year and point out bands that didn’t get in their first year, and sometimes they didn’t get in the second year, but I just keep my eye on them and I keep watching them. And if they’re still around and they keep applying, I just watch them and reach out to them. There’s got to be 3 or 4 in my lineup this year that applied last year that I didn’t pick.

3. Putting in the time to do the research.

The whole point of the festival is that it’s for indie rock. I actually had a band reach out to me that said they were at Voodoo last year, they just went as spectators, and to me that’s pretty cool because that’s the whole point. They should; it’s for them, it’s all their peers and people they should be respecting on a level and trying to work with. That to me speaks volumes about how professional a band is when they can appreciate what the festival is actually about. It’s not a festival designed by a committee with a bunch of guys in suits saying ‘we can make a bunch of money off rock and roll. That’s the farthest thing from what’s going on here. So the people who get it, they get it, and the bands tell their other friends that are in bands to apply, which makes my job easier every year. I get more quality submissions every year.

Voodoo Rockfest is committed to hunting down and discovering the greatest indie rock bands and tribute acts from across Canada and putting them in front of the audiences they deserve. The full lineup for 2020 has just been announced and the festival is still planned to take place August 7-8, 2020. We were really impressed by Joe's passion, enthusiasm, work ethic, and commitment to supporting indie bands.


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