College Gigs and How To Market Them [Belmont University Series]

January 25, 2018

[Editors Note: The following is the first in a monthly series of a partnership between TuneCore and students at Curb College of Entertainment & Music Business at Belmont University. In an attempt to offer new insight and educational content for independent artists, we’re excited to give these music industry professionals of the future a journalistic platform.]


Have you ever wondered what’s the best way to book a gig in a ‘college town’? Or how to connect with students to build a fanbase who buys, shares and streams your music? Well, if you have, we have some answers for you!

Because of the fact the music business is a non-business, there’s no one way to do things. Here’s some ideas, tips, and tricks for show promotion we have compiled that are tried and tested by us, music loving college students.

Advertising On Campus

Once you’ve booked a gig at the perfect venue, you have to decide how you want to promote. If the venue is near a college campus, or if you are a college student yourself, the campus probably offers tons of avenues for you to advertise.

Many people don’t realize the various opportunities student campuses provide for the promotion of music. Some examples include campus-wide emails, university event calendars, campus radio stations and newspapers, and possibly more depending on what your university has to offer.

Firstly, email blasts are an awesome way to deliver promotional information to large amounts of people all at once. If student artists on campus want to advertise their upcoming shows, album releases, or already-released music on streaming sites, campus-wide emails can be a very effective way to do so. If they are formatted correctly, they can contain visual graphics that draw the reader’s attention, and they can even contain links to ticket sales or music downloads.

Additionally, college radio stations – often run by students – provide a broad selection of music to the public and give independent artists the opportunity to receive radio airplay. In fact, if a radio station is considered a “college market” station, it is possible to get on the national Top 200 College Radio Chart, which is reported weekly. College radio promotion is a great marketing strategy for anyone trying to break into the music business and can give you a taste of what radio is really like.

Newspapers are also available on most campuses whether electronic or physical, and they can be great tools for staying up to speed with local activities. Since most are student-run, it can be an easy avenue for any musician to promote upcoming gigs or releases. School newspapers offer another very effective tool to advertise talent. A study by 3D Issue showed that 72-80% of students read their campus newspaper. This news outlet is a reliable way to spread information about an artist and is trusted amongst the university population.

Furthermore, many campuses offer some sort of event calendar to students. The event calendar provides information (time and location) regarding upcoming events – such as sporting events, lectures, special guest forums, writer rounds, etc. As mentioned previously, much of what is posted on these event calendars is student-curated.

Printed Flyers

Another promotional tool for shows is traditional flyers. Flyers are an awesome way to promote shows and point people towards your band’s social media outlets. They can be super creative and showcase your music style through design. But, as we all know, a flyer that is just thrown together won’t fly these days. People like to see aesthetically pleasing graphics that grab their attention. Follow these simple rules to help you create the perfect flyer:

  1. If you’re serious about designing a great flyer, consider using a grid system. A grid consists, of course, of intersecting vertical & horizontal lines (i.e. rows and columns), often based on optimal proportions for the document’s size.
  2. Try aligning your text in the center of the flyer for a pleasing symmetrical look. Or, align text to the right or left side, with a margin that works well with other graphical elements.  Want more clicks on your social media promo flyers?  Text should be no more than 20% of the promo flyer!
  3. Three! Always three! The rule of thirds is when you break down an image or document as a whole into thirds, either vertically or horizontally. Placing the most important information on one of the intersecting areas can help with structuring the layout of text & graphics.
  4. Color can visually enhance a message and help to highlight particular points. Colors also evoke emotions that can support your tone or theme. Try using similar or complementary colors throughout the flyer to provide a consistent visual experience for the viewer.
  5. Stop uploading screenshot photos from online!  If you upload low-res image files, you’ll likely have issues when it comes time to print. Your best bet is to use photos that have been saved at 300 ppi (pixels per inch). For displaying your flyer on the web, 150 ppi is usually sufficient – just find the original photo.

Free Merch

Once you have promoted your show, and you’ve got a good audience, you might consider giving out free merchandise to drive people to your social media channels or to strengthen your brand identity. This can be a great tool to advertise, but can have some negative setbacks. Read more below about the pros and cons of free merch.


Many artists and record labels give away merchandise for publicity and promotion purposes. Items such as stickers, pens, buttons, and bracelets are commonly given away for free by artists. They are usually sold in high quantities for low prices by distributors, and are easily customizable. Artists may make them available on their merch table or personally give them out at shows, or even bundle with other merchandise as an added incentive.

Social media contests for free merch are common for artist promotion. Fans enter by sharing information or media from the artist, or by signing up for the artist’s email list. Giving listeners a tangible item is a simple yet effective way for artists to establish visibility and promote new music.

Less developed artists should be conservative when considering giving merchandise away for free; a band is a business, businesses have budgets, and merchandise sales may make up a decent portion of an artist’s income.


While it is tempting to simply give away free merchandise to an artist’s loyal fans when first starting out, it is beneficial to consider there are more people willing to pay for brand items than an artist might think. If the artist is especially talented, people will want to get their products while the artist is still a new act so the consumer can later say they supported them first.

In addition, continued distribution of free merchandise cheapens the artist’s brand. Free shirts, other swag, and even CDs can make the customer question the value of what they’re getting and the brand it represents. It’s OK for a new artist to ask people to spend money on merch if it contributes to a tangible return for the patron.

We hope these tips and tricks help you learn a little more about how to book college town gigs and how to promote your music to students!

Tags: booking campus college gigs featuring gigs