Music Industry Tips: Perform on College Campuses

Music Industry Tips: Perform on College Campuses

Almost every college campus provides entertainment for its students through the Campus Activities Board. Budgets are collected from a student activities fee, which is part of a student’s tuition, so the more students, the higher the budgets! You can perform at homecoming tailgate parties, casino nights, back-to-school and end-of-the year bashes. Many of these events feature music as their sole entertainment.

Students actually volunteer to plan and book music on their campus. Go online to any college website and search “Student Activities” or “Associated Students.” This will take you to the right office that pays for musicians to play on campus. If you can’t find a music contact, email the Student Activities Advisor and ask to be connected with the student in charge of music. It is the Advisor’s task to make sure the volunteer students are executing and planning their entertainment. Sometimes you need to stop texting and emailing and just make a phone call to connect

Usually you email the music chair and send a link to your website and a GOOD LIVE PERFORMANCE VIDEO. Rarely does this have to go to a committee; usually just one or two students are viewing and choosing. There are different students in charge of each event so it is okay to email each of them!

Pricing varies…$300 to $1,000 in California, $500 to $1500 for other West Coast states; double the pay on the East Coast. (There are many more Ivy League schools in the east with higher attendance and therefore, more fees collected for the activities budgets.) You should never do a college performance for ZERO money unless it is connected to a charity event! Most colleges will feed the band, few will pay for lodging (but ask anyhow!) and rarely will the college pay for travel.

Most colleges have great sound systems, so remember to attach a stage plot and technical rider to all of your contracts. You will be required to sign a University Contract; you do not need liability insurance unless you are bringing an entire sound system with you. Ask the college to cross that section out––performing is a service and you are NOT a vendor! The college will be required to finalize the contract 30 days before your event, so you can get paid by check the day of the show. Be ready to send in a W9, which states who is being paid.

Nooners (a series where bands play from noon to 1 p.m. every week), Spring Flings (usually outdoor activities celebrating events such as Earth Day), Orientation Week Events (take place during hard starts in the Fall and Spring, these events are used as ice-breakers), Student Open Mic nights (musicians hosting an open mic for students and afterwards performing your own music for an hour). Check out the other clubs and organizations on campus, like LGBT events or special multi-cultural clubs. If your act has more of a party vibe, don’t forget to check out the school’s fraternities and sororities. Most of these organizations have direct websites or Facebook pages where you can connect with the frat or sorority president.

"You should never do a college performance for ZERO money unless it is connected to a charity event."

College campuses welcome a variety of music. Typically, singer/songwriters do coffeehouses or nooner events, rock-blues-pop bands play weekly outdoor activities or you may find a jazz or reggae group performing at an Earth Day or Spring Fling. Colleges are a little fearful of loud metal bands or rap events. It doesn’t mean they don’t happen, but they are rare unless they tie it into a specific day like “Hip-Hop Culture & Fashion Day” or “Head-bang Your Test Stress Away.” So, just about every genre is accepted.
No matter the genre, the minimum performance time is one hour. So if you only have a 45-minute set of originals, work up some jams, write more songs or grab hold of some cover songs and make them your own. Some colleges will ask you to do two 45-minute sets. Don’t claim you can do 90 minutes of music if you are not there yet. Prepare!

While you are on a college campus there are great promotional activities to help grow your college fan base. If you get booked, ask the student music chair if they are connected with someone on their student newspaper or the radio station. If not, go online and connect yourself. It is as simple as going to the home page and putting, “student radio station” or “student newspaper.” Don’t forget to ask if there is an active on-campus TV station doing interviews and band performances.

I also use the radio and newspaper staff, even if we do not have a performance on campus yet! I call the radio stations and see if we can do an on-air interview with a student DJ, or I offer the newspaper staff some free tickets to our off-campus show so they can check us out. If the student radio or newspaper is covering your music, it will be easier to get booked on campus.

There is an organization called NACA.org, where college student bookers come and watch performance showcases to book events. It is advisable to put four to six college performances under your belt before you invest about $1,500 to attend this type of networking event.

If you want to play on college campuses, make a GREAT LIVE performance video. Be persistent; remember the students are volunteers and going to classes so expect to email (A LOT!). Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone to connect! Next, be organized! Pull a data base together listing when the students come back to school and do your research on what events are on the campus and who is in charge. Lastly, be flexible with your price. Different schools have different budgets, but please stop yourself from doing college events for free, unless it is a charity event.

CHRIS FLETCHER is owner of Coast to Coast Music, an artist development and tour coordination company in Los Angeles, CA. She also teaches music business courses at Musicians Institute and offers monthly workshops through her new venture, MusicBizMentors.com.