A few weeks ago was the deadline for artists to submit an application to perform at the Tucson Hip Hop Festival. Last week, we started the lengthy process of going through every single submission (specifically rapper submissions), which entails checking out every artists work, deciding which stage accepted artists should perform on and what time slot they should be given. It's pretty much a listening party, except not really a party.
As we were going through all the submissions, I couldn't help but think about all the do's and don'ts that are a part of this process. I'm very analytical of everything I do, so I was even taking note of all the things that made me really engage with certain submissions over others. That being said, I felt that perhaps these observations could come in handy for artists not only submitting an application for our festival but for other performance opportunities.
We're no SXSW (yet) and some of this info may be common sense, but I wouldn't be sharing it if it wasn't a case for some of the applicants.
First things first
This is an obvious one but please fill out the whole application and answer properly. Just because it may be a short and easy application to get through, doesn't mean it should be rushed.
Oh also, do it before the deadline. No excuses! We take zero applications (even if you're dope, even if you're Kendrick Lamar... okay, Kendrick is an exception) after the deadline has passed.
Every question serves a purpose
As mentioned, provide a link to your work where it asks for a link and check the box to your performing rights affiliation if it applies (etc.) but if there's a short answer question, where the organization is allowing you to share your voice and interest beyond a multiple choice or dropdown answer, put your heart into your answer!
For example, we decided to add this question, "What do you hope to accomplish with your THHF performance?" in our application because we genuinely wanted to get to know every single artists intention in having their name on our lineup.
If an applicant answers, "Yes," (which doesn't even answer the question) or if an applicant simply answers, "Exposure," then I won't think you're as passionate and dire to perform compared to someone who took the time to share one or two genuine sentences.
You got the sauce when you have recent work we can check out, solid projects that show you're about it, and even have video content to back it all up. We do appreciate visuals.
When we ask for a link, I (personally) would much prefer to be directed to your most recent track than your most fire track that you put out two/three years ago. Consistency and relevance matters! It's hard for us to "judge" an artist when there's no recent work or there is recent work but there's only one track to vibe with.
On that note, you are automatically disqualified if you have zero links.
Your artist bio matters, too
We vibe with your art and we also vibe with your bio. It's the traditional first impression and it comes in handy sometimes in the case that we need it to introduce you on social media or any event collateral.
Though bio's are a traditional practice, that doesn't mean it has to be boring! You actually can get pretty creative with your bio, which I appreciate because it catches my attention. I've seen some that are funny or have bars or are simply clever and it makes for a lasting impression.
This is one of my favorite intros to a bio that we received: "Imagine Confucius and Shakespeare in the recording booth reciting ill 16's after consuming four Red Bulls."
All this being said, I must add that it's totally cool if you boast yourself in your bio but never express any form of hatred or insult on another artist or community.
The extra mile
Answering questions that aren't required for you to answer is appreciated! Submitting an application shortly after submissions opened shows eagerness. And taking the time to inform yourself about the organization/event and its values is important.
Understanding any organizations values and motives are important because it will also help you shape the way you present yourself and interact with anyone involved with the organization. For example, we're very community and culture driven. So if we see you out supporting the community and other artists in general, it shows us that you share the same values as us - which is a plus!
You can also take the time to personally introduce yourself or share some sincere words outside of the application form to anyone involved in the organization - whether it's in person or sliding through a DM. But do understand that they are busy. So reaching out to show appreciation or excitement only once is great!
If you do decide to reach out, keep it genuine and non-promotional. We already receive so many links! If you submitted an application, trust that we will check out your work.
At the end of the day
If you end up getting selected to perform, congratulations! If you end up not getting selected, don't take it personally. Sometimes the case is that we actually admire your work but because we want to keep the lineup diverse and fresh every year and you performed last year, you may not be selected.
There's a lot of variables that come into play when selecting artists!
If you end up not being selected but you still show love to the organization by attending, show love to the community and culture - this is going the extra mile too.