It looks like most colleges will be back in full swing by this fall. So this is a perfect time to contact the area colleges near you to see if they have some open music slots! There are many events on campus mostly hosted by the Campus Activities Board and other clubs and organizations.
Most colleges book 3 to 6 months in advance, with hard submission deadlines for November for the spring and April to June for the fall. Few have summer events unless they start back earlier in August.
EVENTS ON CAMPUS
Every college is different and the student in charge of activities usually changes each fall, so it is a constant networking situation. Most activities happen during the week and during the day. There are some exceptions, but it’s a great way to make money at the campus and then be able to do a nearby club at night.
Here are some kind of events you may find on campus.
- Nooners: A performance from 12noon to 1pm once or twice a week, sometimes outside in the quad, sometimes in or around the cafeteria or even in a small pub on campus.
- Fridays@5: Usually around dinnertime and set up in a bigger outdoor event almost like a happy hour without the booze!
- Coffeehouse: I have seen a college take a big lounge or study room and transform it with low lighting lamps, cozy seating and even a fireplace burning and serving coco, teas, sweets, popcorn or even ice cream, all free to the students. Of course, its mostly once a week in the early evening hosting solo and duo acoustic performers
- Open mic nights: Yes, my band has even hosted their student open mic night. The band sets up and does one or two songs and then opens it up for any student to come up and sing, tell jokes or do unusual one acts. When the line of students have performed, the band plays a 45 minute music set.
- Icebreaker events: At the hard start usually in August or September and in January every year, during the first 2 weeks of orientation, the school pulls out all the stops! Maybe doing a casino night, having a comedian, acoustic nooners, BBQ’s and evening music concerts.
- Special Events: Most colleges have a fall and spring ourdoor/festival-like event. In the fall, there are big events for homecoming week and maybe a Christmas ball; in the spring Women’s Activities events in March, Earth day or Spring Fling in Aprils and sometimes Graduation event or May Day Festival at the end of the school year. Rarely school activities go into June…but every school is different!
- Frats & Sororities: If you have a fun/dance band or you are a DJ, contact the frats & sororities separately! They have their own budgets to put on their own private parties.
- Clubs and organizations: There are many individual clubs on campus and some also put on their own events like: LBGTQ, Multi-cultural events (from Asian Pacific, Hip Hop or Japanese culture clubs), or even the campus radio station. Just put “Clubs and Organizations” on the campus website search bar to see if these organizations are doing special events throughout the year.
Remember, you will have to research each type of event individually, to find just the right contact!
CONNECTING WITH THE COLLEGES
What you need to know is that most activities are usually run out of a Student Activities office. Not the music department or student government. It took me a long time to finally, after much research, know I need to talk to someone on the Campus Activities Board! Sometimes you can connect to this correct office through Associated Students or Student Life, but in the search bar on the website home page, start with STUDENT ACTIVITIES!
There is ALWAYS a Student Activities Advisor who is a paid person that is making sure these student volunteers are finalizing and promoting each activity. The Advisor is the person you need to know because the student volunteers, move from year to year; the advisors can be in the position for years! But you want to connect with the student and try to do business with the student. If the student is lacking communication with you, then you should contact the advisor.
Yes, all these activities are run by students who volunteer to be in charge of planning, advertising and setting up all the entertainment on campus. Sometimes you have to hold their hands through the business of contracts and your technical needs, but it will be worth it! Volunteer students may have job, and are taking on a full course load, so they can be hard to contact when you want to talk to them. BE PATIENT!
SO when you get to the Student Activities page, look for events, entertainment, concerts or a staff page. Usually you can find all the contacts for each activity so you can email each. It really is OK to email each student, because every event has their own budget and only a student or two are assigned to pick the music. I found, each of the groups really don’t confer with each other.
When you find the student in charge, send a simple, SHORT email, letting the student know when you will be in the area (or that you are a local musician) and give them your 15 second elevator pitch describing your music. Don’t give them your entire history! The most important thing is adding a website and ONE LIVE PERFORMANCE VIDEO. The student just wants to push the button and watch a minute of your video to make their decision. Make sure you send a GREAT live performance video….that will get you booked!
HOW MUCH CAN I EARN?
First, I think you need to know how the college funds the entertainment on campus. Each school adds an activities fee into their tuition. All those funds go into doing activities for students on campus. SO….the bigger the enrollment, the more money in the activities budgets!
Pricing varies from region to region. I find west coast schools, because of much music competition, will pay somewhere from $500 to $1500 for a 60 to 90 minutes of music. On the east coast, we have more Ivy League schools with higher fees, so expect to get $1000 to $3000 for that same 60 minute concert. Middle America is different across the board! You will just have to feel your way through. But remember always ask for more than you think you will get, because you can NEVER go up, only down when you negotiate price!
For bigger special events & outdoor festivals, start at $3000. There are usually bigger budgets for special, once a year event. Colleges have a difference celebration each month: February: Black History Month, March: Celebration of Women, May: Asian Pacific Awareness and if they are in school in June: LGBTQ events.
I find most schools don’t want to pay for travel, so if you are renting a van or have to fly, you need to consider that when you state your price. You may be surprised that the student volunteer will tell you how much they have for their event and will not ask a price.
Every college I have ever booked will feed the artists. Some will bring the food and drink to you and others will just give you all a pass to the student cafeteria. Don’t expect any alcohol on campus! Some colleges will take care of lodging for you; but you have to ask. If they don’t cover lodging, ask if they are associated with a hotel close to the school. Sometimes they can get a discount for you!
Make sure you have a good technical rider and stage plot. List what you like to use and what instruments you are bringing. Make sure the school is taking care of all your technical needs. Rarely, do I find, you will have to supply your own. Most schools have a number of sound systems but you may have to remind the student to order the sound system from their tech office at least 2 weeks before the event. Make your technical rider part of your agreement!
Don’t forget the possible PR you can do on a campus. If you are having trouble getting a concert booked, you may want to try to go in and be interviewed by the college radio DJ or even the TV Production department.
Again, to find the right contacts, go to the home page and in the search bar put ‘Student Radio Station.” You may be directed to their own website or a site that says, “Radio-TV Production.” Look for a music or promotions manager. You can always just send your music as directed, but doing some exploring to find the right music genre student DJ, can really open the college network for you.
Some colleges will not host really loud music, but I bet you find a student DJ, who is spinning the loudest punk or metal music for an hour every week. That student is connected to all the other students on campus who love that music. They can even tell you what venues those students go to around the college; that could open a venue you never thought of!
Especially when we are on tour, we try to see if we can come in to be on-the-air with the right student DJ. You can even give out tickets to your show or merch to some students want to come up to the radio station or meet you in the cafeteria after the radio event. We have also done performances and interviews with the TV Production department and the footage goes our a number of times on their own campus TV network.
Last but not least, almost every campus has a Student Newspaper AND has an entertainment/music section where students will review a show, a band’s new video or even do a interview/feature. All press counts!
COLLEGE BOOKING CONFERENCE
There are booking conferences for all types of music where artist’s can submit to perform in front of the bookers. This is entirely a whole other blog, but if you are interested in this type of bookings for colleges, check out the NACA. All their conferences happen in the fall and there are 7 regional conferences so if you want to attend next time, go to one near your homebase. Your GREAT LIVE PERFORMANCE video will get you the showcase! More about NACA & other conferences in the near future!
What do you need to get the college performances? You need at least one active social media…college students tend to tweet and post on instagram, You need a GREAT LIVE VIDEO and you need to be able to do either a 60 minute concert OR two 45 minute sets! So if you want to start playing college, get those things active!
What is hard about booking these college performances? Sometimes the students in charge are busy and hard to reach and it takes time to research each campus to find just the right contact for your music genre.
What is GREAT about doing college gigs? Well, first you have a built in new audience, most of the events are during the day so you can still do a night performance AND you get paid! If those 3 things are not enough to get you excited about trying the college market, what are you looking for?
ONE FINAL NOTE: Colleges have money to pay you for your performances do NEVER do an event for FREE, unless it is a charity event and everyone is volunteering their time!