Glastonbury pyramid stage 2019

How to... stand out to Glastonbury Festival’s stage bookers

Acoustic Stage booker Paul Charles and Shangri-La's Tom Hadfield share their top tips for getting on the bill at Worthy Farm.

Rhys Buchanan
  • By Rhys Buchanan
  • 3 Jun 2024
  • min read

There’s a simple two-word phrase that every musician dreams of saying at least once in their lifetime: ‘Hello, Glastonbury!’

Given that it’s arguably the biggest and most diverse festival on the planet, it’s no surprise that, when it comes to bucket list-level goals, playing Glastonbury Festival is right up there. But while there’s no magic formula for getting the call to play Glastonbury, there are several proactive measures music creators can do to help them stand out in the inboxes of Worthy Farm’s stage bookers.

Ahead of this year’s festival (26-30 June) M caught up with Paul Charles, who has programmed Glasto’s Acoustic Stage for over 30 years, and Earache Records’ Tom Hadfield, who books artists for the Shangri-La area, to get their top tips on how to catch the eye of Glastonbury’s stage bookers.

Hone your live show

‘It might sound obvious, but if you’re looking to get booked by Glastonbury then this is the number one thing on your to-do list,’ Tom tells us. ‘So many artists can sound good on a track, but you’ve got to be able to take it to another level when performing in front of people.

‘It’s really helpful for bookers if you have a high-quality video of you performing live to include with your submission. You’d be surprised how few bands have great footage of them killing it in front of a live crowd, which will really help you stand out.’

Don’t be afraid to make your voice heard

Glastonbury is renowned for its activism, so having an original or engaging message to complement your music can help catch the eye.

‘Shangri-La is a highly political field: very left-leaning, very environmentally conscious, driven by equality, anti-war, anti-waste and looking out for each other,’ Tom explains. ‘We like to book bands who have something to say for themselves with a positive message about society or the world we live in. Napalm Death, Gojira and IDLES have all been great examples of that: they’re not afraid to speak out for a cause.’

Consider your (Glastonbury) home

It’s important to remember that Glastonbury’s initial line-up announcement reflects only a small percentage of the festival’s full bill. Before pitching or submitting your music to the festival, carefully consider where your music might best belong. From The Park and Strummerville areas at the top of the Worthy Farm festival site to the notorious south-east corner, there’s a wide of array of stages on offer. Paul says narrowing down your approach can help. 

‘A lot of artists will target different stages and that’s a bit of a self-editing process,’ he explains. ‘A lot of people will send them to [the festival directly], and they’re very good at going through submissions themselves and then distributing among the stage booking teams. We play everything we get through responsibility: Michael Eavis would certainly be annoyed if we didn’t! If somebody is good, we’ll do our best to give them a spot.’

'You’ve got to be able to take it to another level when performing in front of people.' - Tom Hadfield

Keep an open mind and be ready to hustle

‘For artists at the very start of their journey, there are so many smaller tents, stages and areas across the site that you can perform on,’ Tom explains. ‘If you want to play Glastonbury, then a dogged determination will really help. Some tiny stages only book artists who have already got tickets. 

‘All the best sets I’ve ever seen at Glastonbury have been stuff away from the main line-up; it’s the stuff you just stumble across and discover. That’s where the real proper Glastonbury memories come from, I think, rather than looking solely at who's playing on the Pyramid Stage each night. The festival really comes alive in the smaller, more intimate areas.’

Be the most authentic version of yourself

Sometimes the best way to stand out to Glastonbury bookers is by delivering something you wholeheartedly believe in. Raw talent, Paul says, always has a habit of shining through.

‘The only thing you’ve got to be aware of is your own self-belief,’ he explains. ‘I always say to write songs that you, the artist, you want to hear. If you’re doing that then that’s such a brilliant start. If you like what you're doing and you're proud to perform it on-stage, then you’re off to a head start. Don’t be distracted by the industry: just believe in your own writing and that’s where you should be taking your pride from.’

Demonstrate your passion, but don’t overstep the mark

‘We ultimately want to book bands who are hungry for the opportunity and appreciative of it,’ Tom tells M. ‘Attitude is massively important. The UK festival circuit is small, and word does get around if you do cause a scene backstage or lack manners. It’s common sense, but it’s going to make you less likely to be booked in the future. 

‘We want bands who are desperate to play because it means they’re going to give the performance of a lifetime. For bands who are looking to get a slot at Glastonbury, it’s definitely important to express how keen you are.’

'If you like what you're doing and you're proud to perform it on-stage, then you’re off to a head start.' - Paul Charles

Build connections on the UK festival circuit

Tom reveals that ‘there are so many teams booking for Glastonbury who work in the industry all-year-around’.

‘It’s very rare a band will perform at Glastonbury who hasn’t done any other UK festivals. It’s almost like the top of the tree, so you’ve got to climb your way up to do it,’ he continues. ‘I always say to be persistent and consistent: don’t just send one email and give up if you don’t get a reply. Keep people updated as well, you might have a big win through press or radio, so let the booker know. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t get the response first time.’

Wider momentum counts

Being able to demonstrate that you’re on an upward trajectory is always going to catch a booker's eye, says Tom.

‘It’s about the buzz that a band might have at the time,’ he explains. ‘We pride ourselves on booking bands like Nova Twins or IDLES who have gone on to perform on main stages across the festival. We’re always trying to be ahead of the curve: often because we have to be within our budgets, we can’t just go around picking out these giants. We have to get artists who are on the up and willing to perform. It’s all about that momentum and growth.’

Seize your moment

If you’re lucky enough to bag a dream slot at Glastonbury, then be sure to make a lasting impression. Paul cites a standout set from Irish folk band The Mary Wallopers in 2023 as an example of how to do it right.

‘They came along fully formed, they had this great energy and got a phenomenal reaction to their set. But then half an hour later, they were up at the Crows Nest performing in a tiny tent. It’s about throwing yourself into the festival experience.

‘Everything you do should be to serve your art. Most artists I know and work with aren’t in the business of making money, it’s all about writing songs and performing. At Glastonbury it’s all about the audience and the music. There’s no ego and no showbusiness, it’s all about creating scenes and areas where people can come and create.’