For entertainers, colleges and universities can provide more than a higher education. From concerts to end-of-the-year celebrations, there are numerous special events hosted on nearly every campus. As a result, organizers all over the country are in search of talent for their school events. With over 2,500 colleges and universities in North America, there are a lot of opportunities to go around.
Here’s how you can break into the collegiate market and get gigs at your local colleges and universities!
Research their past events.
The first step to getting gigs at your local colleges and universities is to find out what they’ve booked in the past. This can help you learn more about their interests, and you may even discover new trends that could be incorporated into your act. Students want to bring new, impressive groups to their events, so your job is to show how you can help them reach their goals. Once you’ve done the research, you’ll be able to reach out with specific examples and material.
Here are some things to prepare for your initial contact:
- Videos: Include media examples that display your live performances. High-quality live videos of a performance are perfect for this.
- Testimonials: Include past reviews or testimonials that you have received to build confidence and show your experience.
- Local Interest: If you have a local following, include any information to demonstrate this (Social Media followers, crowd sizes via photos, etc).
Find out who is in charge at your local university.
For most colleges, student-run organizations are in charge of booking entertainment and planning events. The university provides a budget for these groups to plan events for their fellow students.
These organizations are typically named Campus Activities Board or Student Activities Council. The name may vary between schools but the task remains the same. These students are your gateway to performing on campuses. Find more information about these groups by searching your local university’s website. Most of the groups will have their own page that includes all of the information you need to take the next step.
Make the introduction.
Now that you have the necessary contact information, you can reach out directly. Normally, you’ll find a list of names, email addresses, and even a phone number on the university’s website. Specifically, contact the president of the group. But don’t stop there! If possible, reach out to a number of the students involved as well.
Here’s an example email you could use to make the introduction:
Hello [insert name],
My name is Matt Holland, and I have been performing professionally for the last 15 years as a [insert talent] for events of all kinds. I have had the pleasure of entertaining crowds and engaging audiences of all ages, which is why I believe I would be a good fit for a variety of your on-campus events. In fact, I recently performed a [insert event] which is very similar to the [insert event] that you planned last year.
To give you an idea of what I offer, I have attached some media examples of my performances. You can also check out my website at [insert website URL] for more information and to read reviews from my past clients. I would love an opportunity to take [insert university] events to the next level.
I look forward to hearing from you! Feel free to reach me by email or by phone at [insert phone number].
Communicating with potential clients can be challenging, but with the right approach, you can make it happen. Generally, you will want to keep your emails brief and friendly. Being too wordy could hurt your chances for a response. And don’t forget to attach your supporting materials to help demonstrate your skills and expertise.
Take the next steps to get more regional gigs.
If you’re really serious about breaking into the college gigging scene, there are organizations that can help you. NACA, or the National Association of Campus Activities, is an organization that hosts conferences to help colleges find the perfect entertainment. With regional conferences all across the U.S., you can attend and connect with student organizers near you or specifically target any region that you’d be willing to travel to. Musical Acts, comedians, magicians, and even rental services like bounce houses or photo booths are sought after for campus events, so you’ll have a chance to connect with fellow performers in attendance as well.
To participate in NACA events, you must have a NACA membership. (Membership prices begin at $264/year.) With a Regional Membership, you’ll get access to the conference and member directory of schools in your region. NACA also offers a National Membership which gives you access to all national and regional conferences and the entire NACA member directory.
Performers are also required to purchase a booth space in the exhibit hall in order to attend a NACA conference. Booth costs vary depending on the location but will cost roughly $300 for each regional conference. Space is limited, so if you’re interested in attending a conference, be sure to reserve your booth space early.
You can also apply for a showcase performance, which is the best way to put your talent in the spotlight. There are a few different ways to showcase your act depending on the the size of your group, the type of performance, and the region you’re in. You can choose the showcase category that fits you best within the application. (See the 2017-2018 regional showcase application as an example.)
In order for your showcase submission to be considered, you must have a current NACA membership, an exhibit booth at the conference, and pay a $90 application fee. If you’re chosen for a showcase, there’s an additional fee up to $300 to perform. It may seem costly, but the benefits and opportunities are worth it for a lot of performers. Colleges and universities spend tens of thousands of dollars each year on campus entertainment, so this investment could lead to some very profitable gigs.