We’re back with the third edition of Sucker’s Guide to the Music Industry, this time chatting to the founder of Wild Paths Festival, Ben Street. Wild Paths is a multi-venue, multi-genre festival, taking place in October each year across Norwich. Last year, they hosted an impressive line-up that saw the likes of Simian Mobile Disco, The Magic Gang, Franc Moody, Gengahr and over 200 other artists grace their stages. Here we go then…
So Ben, how did you start promoting gigs and festivals?
When I was in my early 20’s and living in Bristol… I’d been given the keys to a crypt under a church in the south of the city and my band Coasts used the space to practice but it was such an amazing space I started putting on DIY gig nights there. For the first one we invited a couple of local artists to do some installations and a little-known Bristol punk band called Idles joined us. We sold cans of red stripe from over a fold out table and projected stuff on the walls… that was my first taste of putting on events. Then later after I’d finished touring and playing with Coasts I came back to Norwich and was given the opportunity to manage the bookings for a local venue. After a handful of successful shows and a few quiet ones I started chatting to other local venue directors about bringing the city together for a festival and the first seeds of Wild Paths had been sown.
What’s the general process when booking artists for Wild Paths, where do you start?
I start by making a wish list with my booking assistant Dec and then we get in touch with the different booking agents and managers to inquire if the artist is available and keen to play. It was tough in the first year and we had to do a lot of chasing but people were intrigued by a new festival based in Norwich and once we’d booked Jose Gonzalez as our main headliner, the event seemed legitimised and agents were way more receptive.
Bands and artists are always excited by a festival so as long as you can paint an appealing picture of the event and confidently negotiate with booking agents then you’ll get the acts you’re after.
And following on from that, when do you start booking artists for Wild Paths? When’s the optimum time for bands to be pitching to you?
We’ll normally look at starting the booking process around mid-January but this year we’ll probably start looking in November 2020 as I think 2021 could be quite a hectic year for events and we want to get out ahead of it all…
There’s an artist submission section on our website and we always book at least 20 of the best acts that pop up there
What do you look for in unsigned bands who have applied or emailed to perform at the festival?
I’m a bit of a purist with the artist submission process, the key thing is the quality of the songs… Wild Paths is a multi-genre style event so we book anything and everything but the music has got to be good and if there’s a couple of links to live performances included then that will improve your chances. The branding, the artist image and the figures (monthly followers, song plays etc) are all important too but they’re secondary to a unique sound, good songs and a strong live performance.
And is there anything bands should avoid doing when pitching themselves to festivals?
Don’t write me a story about the band’s development over the last 6 years or the metaphorical concept behind the latest record… a song link (any platform), a short bio summing up the bands sound and their most recent accolades, a video link (preferably a live performance) and a press shot.
The submission form on the website asks all the right questions and both myself and Dec will look there first.
Are there any up and coming bands that you think will be massive in years to come?
I’m listening to Porridge Radio and a band called Odd Morris right now and both acts have real potential… But I think 2021 could be the year for Arlo Parks, Pip Millett and Sports Team
And finally, what’s your favourite music discovery been at Wild Paths?
That’s a tough question, there’s been a lot… from the 2019 line-up there were two acts that I poked my head in for and was really impressed by; one’s a Brighton 3-piece called Sick Joy and the others a Leeds based quintet called Household Dogs. Great live bands and both worth a listen and a follow on Spotify.
As I’m sure you can imagine, Wild Paths Festival has been postponed this year due to the ongoing situation with COVID-19, but if you are interested in finding out more and following the line-up announcements, then please check out their website here: www.wildpaths.co.uk
We’ll see you again soon!