Tips for Festival Submissions

This morning I spent time putting together submission materials for the Barlow Commission. I find as a composer, it is easiest to keep my compositions neatly filed in portable plastic containers, my audio clips all ready to go in I-tunes, and my video pieces in a folder on my external hard drive. All the same, it still will take me several hours to get something ready for a festival submission. Here are a few tips:

1) Learn to sift out the good from the bad. If a no-name ensemble is asking for submission at the cost of $50 each, with the caveat that they can decide NOT to use ANY of the works submitted, guaranteed it is a fundraiser (same goes for some art festivals that charge $35 a slide). Many reputable festivals will require joining their organization, but I find that the networking opportunities outweigh the costs.

2) Only send out pieces that fit the guidelines. No reason to waste postage sending a choral work to a festival looking primarily for string quartets. Don't have a string quartet? Earmark the submission for next year. And read between the lines. If a festival does not specify that it accepts tape works, it probably doesn't.

3) Nice and neat...aka No Handwritten scores. With the plethora of useful notation software, the handwritten score has been eliminated from most competitions. Unfortunately, only more sophisticated software can handle graphic notation. Stuck? Create a hybrid score using a simple software program and then draw in your graphic notation using a ruler. Scan and copy.

4) If you don't have a good recording, good luck to you! Like most composers, most of my works do not have a good recording available to me. Solution? Look for festivals that do not require recordings or accept MIDI versions. They ARE out there.

5) Invest in a binding machine. I have saved myself thousands of dollars by printing and binding my own scores for the last several years. The initial investment of about $100 paid for itself the first month, when you consider that most scores cost between $5-$10 just to bind, let alone print.

6) Reach for the stars and land on the moon! I usually submit to 1-2 extremely competitive festivals per month, along with several less competitive ones (like music marathons and internet radio requests). You never know who will hear your piece.

7) Do you specialize? Look for festivals that have your niche', whether it is based on instrumentation, musical style, age, or cultural reference. (ex. I love sci-fi, so I send to any sci-fi arts festival I find!)

8) ATTEND PERFORMANCES! Networking is GREAT for performance opportunities. Too expensive? Then apply to local venues, as well.

Ok, I think that is good for now! Good luck in your future endeavors!


Anonymous said…
Great post. As for binding machines, personally I've found the small ProClick ones (such as the P50) really useful and affordable. The lowest price I found was on Amazon. Disadvantage is that the binding combs are a bit more expensive than standard coils or combs. Advantage is that you can take out or insert individal pages after the score is bound (e.g. if you make a change on one page of the score).
SPenaYoung said…
Thanks for the info! The disadvantage with my binding machine is the inability to punch holes for larger scores (unless they are made landscape for a small ensemble), plus it is manually operated. They have some nice models which punch many pages and can create some large-scale scores.

I worked for Kinko's a few years back. I find that learning the basics of binding, printing, graphic design, and portfolio creation saves a lot of time, hassle, and money.

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