Tips for NXNE First-Timers

For first-timers, playing a large festival- especially outside of the U.S.- can seem like a daunting prospect. I attended the 2012 NXNE show in Toronto as a member of the media and was amazed to find how few U.S. writers and musicians were really aware of the Canadian festival and the impact it can have on a band's career- and their press kit. The festival had limited press in the U.S., something I hope changes for their 19th year. Along those lines, a guide to help answer some frequently asked questions for first-timers considering submissions to NXNE seemed in order. In a candid interview, indie band Animal Talk talks about playing North by Northeast, Toronto's largest music festival.

What was a high point of playing the festival?


Seeing how well the Toronto press and media covered us leading up to the festival.  The NXNE PR team did a great job getting us into newspapers, magazines, blogs. By the time we hit the stage we had a packed house and people knew who we were. All of this happened in a city we had never played. It was a real treat.

Did you use any particular website to help with your application? What do you think it was about your application that got you into the festival?

NXNE took submissions through Sonicbids. I'm not sure how they've done it in the past but it was easy to do this year.  We've played festivals like NXNE before. Having a little experience playing these kinds of shows goes a long way. Ultimately though, the music is what matters the most.

Were there any particular challenges with applying/traveling/playing at a festival in Canada?

We're from Boston, MA, so Toronto isn't too far for us to drive.  All we needed to do was renew a couple passports and get in the car. The NXNE stage managers are top notch.  We had a great backline. Since drums and amps were provided, we didn't even need to rent a van. The festival organizers made sure to send us the appropriate immigration papers to get into Canada as temporary workers. Be advised, on the way back into the US you'll have to declare any money you made from shows. 

How does playing at a festival like NXNE impact your career?

It reflects well on a band that can organize and coordinate a show outside of its area. Festivals like NXNE are a perfect opportunity to test this out. It generated a lot of press for us and gave us another city to hit while we're on tour. That is so valuable. We met a lot of great bands from Canada and the US. Networking, gig swaps, finding new venues to play- all of these are indispensable when it comes to planning the next 6 months or year of your career.  

What would you do differently next year?

We played every night that we were in Toronto. Next year we might take a night off and go to a few other NXNE events and parties. As an artist you're given a badge to attend the other shows. We probably should have hit the late night shows to network a little more. There is a lot happening during the week. We'll probably plan a little more next year.

What advice can you offer bands who want to apply to play at 2013 NXNE?

NXNE is highly organized.  The crew of PR, stage managers, and organizers are beyond helpful. Don't let the size of the festival or the thought of heading out of the country to play a show intimidate you. If you haven't played smaller festivals, book a few before applying to NXNE and list those in your press kit or application. 

2013 NXNE applications are now being accepted online. Bands, filmmakers, and comics can apply online through January 31, 2013. The 2013 NXNE Festival runs June 10-16, 2013 in Toronto. Read more tips for first-timers from bands online.


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