BOOKING PROMOTION 101 - The College Gig and College Radio Connection
New for 2015: An interesting relationship exists between colleges, gigs on these college campuses, and college radio stations. And this relationship is people. In particular, these people are young music lovers who want to work in and around music, especially new music, and they maybe also want to make this a full time career, so they hopefully are wanting to work with all types of artists and not just the few they personally love.
Being local to their college and city, the DJ's or hosts at college radio stations really know what's going on musically there, even if it's not their personal favorite. They tend to spend lots of time going to gigs themselves, and they maybe even perform at some. They don't get the attention that commercial radio station people get, so these folks really like to help out artists when they can. This is a huge plus for you.
Also, being in college, and especially being at college radio stations, they are taken more seriously by the people on campus who decide what acts should play on campus, and which acts will be paid by campus funds. This is a plus for you; colleges have a lot of money to pay for acts because colleges don't have to make a profit. And college radio people are already trying to "reach out" to the community, and this usually includes being in other campus activities such as entertainment committees, activity committees, campus venues, etc. This means they can sometimes directly put you in contact with the people who can say yes to a campus gig for you.
The basic concept is this: It is assumed that a person at a college radio station has some knowledge of music. Therefore getting this person to hear your music and then recommend a place on campus for you to perform is a powerful way to make connections and get gigs that you normally might never get otherwise. This is the real power of college radio; there are so many of them, in every town and city, and the people there are not paid (worse: these people are paying money to the college for their classes) that they can only be in it for the music; and they are always out on their campus, checking out every interesting musical place they can find. And these people might even work at these college places, venues, restaurants, or clubs that they recommend (since they certainly don't "work" at the college station), and if so, they certainly should know what type of artists usually play at the place they work at.
So when pursuing gigs, especially at colleges, start by contacting the college radio station people first. After you make friends with them, and they hear your music, get their recommend places to perform, and also possibly, get their recommended people to talk to at these places. Then start your contacting of these places, starting off your email/phone/visit conversations with the fact that so-and-so at the college station told you to go there. Remember that you are not really looking for airplay at these stations; every one of them can recommend places for you to perform, without every having "played" your music, and actually, many will recommend places without even needing to hear your music. After all, if you are (for example) straight jazz, they already know where you should be playing: the jazz night at the union cafe. Getting the station people to hear your music is great, but takes more work; getting them to like it is harder still; and getting them to play it is the hardest. So just go in with the goal of getting the referral to places to perform.
There are over 1,000 college radio stations in the U.S. alone. And over 35,000 colleges if you count the smaller and community ones. And the number of places to perform is: Lots! So start your contacting with the radio folks first, and the gig folks second. Of course there will be many gig places that you don't have a referral from a station, and if you really want to gig at these places then go ahead and contact them directly but tell them you were looking for a college station near them but could not make any contact. This will make you look like you are doing the right things, and they will pay more attention to you and may even tell you who to contact at their local college station.
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