5 Lesser Known (But Incredible) Music Festivals to Play in Summer 2015

Posted by Katarina Underwood on Jun 19, 2015 10:00 AM

When it comes to music festivals, we all know and love the Coachellas and Bonnaroos for the huge hype they create and the beloved artists they bring to the stage. For many, performing at these legendary events or the plethora of others that dominate festival season is a lifelong dream. Still, until the day these festivals start throwing money at you, smaller, lesser known festivals are an oft-forgotten and powerful way to get your name out there, not to mention a great way to build your resume and prepare for the big guns.

There are literally hundreds of festivals out there, spanning the country and the calendar, and they’re searching for up-and-coming artists to show what they can do. Many small festivals also place a large emphasis on local culture, history, and community, meaning that you get the rare opportunity to totally immerse yourself in a new city in just a day or two. Here are five fests that are not only awesome, but you can also apply to perform at them right now. So no excuses!

1. Southern Soul Labor Day Blues Festival

Screen_shot_2015-06-02_at_4.57.01_PMImage via wikipedia.org

When and where: September 5 in Shreveport, LA

Best for: Blues, jazz, and R&B artists with family-friendly original music

Why we love it: The festival isn't just about music – it embraces an entire culture that lives and breathes art. There will be nonstop live performances, art installations, jewelry makers, and other cultural activities native to the state. The phrase "southern soul" is derived from the impactful role of the genre in Shreveport's history, making it a worthwhile stop for blues and jazz musicians in particular.

Compensation: Payment determined at time of booking. Artists may sell merch on site, and food and drinks are provided.

How to play it: Apply for free by July 19


2. Otis Mountain Get Down

otis mountain get downImage via otismountain.com

When and where: September 11-13 in Elizabethtown, NY

Best for: Buegrass, folk, funk, jam, rock, blues, or Americana bands. 

Why we love it: This festival seeks to bring together people of all ages through soulful music and positive vibes. Because it's situated on an old-time ski hill within the stunning Adirondacks, festivalgoers will get to experience the great American outdoors in an idyllic setting.

Compensation: Payment determined at time of booking.

How to play it: Apply for free by June 23


3. Chroma Camp Festival

Chroma Camp FestivalImage via facebook.com

When and where: August 27-29 in Aberdeen, SD

Best for: Artists of any genre with original music

Why we love it: This summery three-day festival is a blast from your sleepaway-camp past – just replace the ghost stories with songs! Activities include overnight camping on the beach, live music, art installations, spoken word and poetry slams, yoga seminars, and more.

Compensation: $250-$4,000, depending on draw. Artists may sell merch on site.

How to play it: Apply for free by July 2


4. On Location: Memphis Film & Music Festival

olm-photosImage via facebook.com

When and where: September 4-5 in Memphis, TN

Best for: Rock, R&B, country, rap, blues, jazz, and electronic acts with an active social media presence who are looking to build their fanbase

Why we love it: This year, the music festival coincides with the annual OL:M Film Festival, giving festivalgoers the opportunity to experience cinema and music at the same time. The Memphis community is rich in musical history and talent, and musicians have said what sets this festival apart from others is the hospitality. 

Compensation: Food, drinks, and festival passes are provided. Artists may sell merch on site.

How to play it: Apply for free by June 30


5. Neonsplash Music Festival

gallery-7Image via neonsplash.com

When and where: September 4-6 in Satsuma, FL

Best for: DJs and hip-hop or pop acts based in Florida

Why we love it: There's no festival more true to its name. The blend of high-intensity, fun-loving music with the visual and tactile experience of paint flying everywhere will make this an unforgettable party. Make a (neon)splash here and you will always be associated with this wild night! It'll be the perfect rager to close out the summer.

Compensation: Up to $500

How to play it: Apply for free by July 31


This is only a very small selection of what's out there for you if you're looking to experience what playing a festival is all about. If none of these are geographically feasible or cater to your particular kind of music, keep your ear to the ground, because another festival is sure to strike your fancy. And don't forget – Sonicbids has new festival listings come through all the time, so you can start your search here!


Learn more about playing festivals:


Katarina Underwood is an editorial intern for Sonicbids.

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Topics: festivals, Opportunities, Musician Success Guide


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