College Gigs and How To Market Them

[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!

4 Major Live Music Trends Changing The Industry This Year

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Rachel Grate and originally appeared on the Eventbrite Blog.]


We’re just one month into 2017 (ed. – this was originally published in February of 2017), and it’s already proven to be a year of big changes — and the live music industry is no exception to the rule.

To stay on top of your game in a shifting landscape, you need a firm grip on the music trends that will shift the landscape in 2017. But don’t take it from us — take it from the nineteen industry pros we interviewed, including Newport Folk Festival, Afropunk, National Sawdust, and more.

Here’s how tastemakers predict the live music industry will change in 2017 — and how you can use those trends to protect your business.

1. Activism will revive the live music community

“Music has recently been more about escapism than activism,” says Jay Sweet, festival director and talent buyer for the Newport Festivals Foundation. But with major political changes coming in 2017, fans may be looking to their favorite artists to take a stance. “I’m excited because I think this could be the year where musicians could… try to affect positive change through music,” Sweet says.

Matthew Morgan, the co-founder of Afropunk, believes fans will look to live music as an opportunity to make sense of the world around them. “We’re in line for some really great art over the next four years, [and] what we’re doing is going to be even more important,” Morgan says. “So many people are looking for things that are positive, that give them something meaningful in their lives.”

“We’re in line for some really great art over the next 4 years.” — Matthew Morgan of @afropunk

In this quest for self-expression, fans and artists will use live performances as an opportunity to build community around shared causes. “Festivals are a place for people to congregate safely — a place to share a common, collective experience,” Sweet says. It will be up to independent promoters and producers to create these safe spaces for activism.

2. Immersive theater will influence live music performances

From popular events like The Speakeasy in San Francisco to the topic of breakout HBO show Westworld, immersive theater made a big splash in 2016. These shows make audience members a part of the performance, and this year, we’ll see their influence begin to make live music performances more multidimensional.

“The world of immersive theater is about to explode,” says Nick Panama, the founder of Cantora. “We’ll be seeing a lot more experiential storytelling, and its influence on live music.”

Panama predicts live shows will expand the storytelling from the music itself to other senses. Instead of relying solely on audio cues or a screen behind them to tell a story, performers will begin to activate the entire room or stadium with immersive sensory details. Using a variety of new technologies, fans will become part of an alternate reality for the duration of the show.

3. Venues will band together to establish more sustainable economics

With rising rent prices in cities across the country, venues are facing a serious financial challenge in 2017.

“Venues will either buy the land they sit on, or they’ll move,” says Brendon Anthony, the director of the Texas Music Office. “We’re not going to see our favorite venues in the same place unless they own the land. The venues that are iconic and last [will] need to control their rent.”

“Venues will either buy the land they sit on or they’ll move.”@Brendon_Anthony of @txmusicoffice

But venues may not be able to crack the code to sustainability on their own. Venues will have the most success if they band together to protect their businesses.

“There are real ways venues can work together to make their margins a bit easier to handle,” Anthony says. In Texas and other states, for instance, venues, bars, and restaurants are all taxed in the same way, even though venues have to put more of their money back into infrastructure. There could be a way for venues to reduce their tax rate, “but for that to happen, venues would have to define what being a venue means, and then go to work to lobby as a group for the change.”

Fighting for this recognition won’t be easy, but it’s the best way for rooms to protect their business. Venues in the UK have already seen success with this strategy, led by the Music Venue Trust and their annual Venues Day, aimed at raising awareness and advocating for venue rights. Venues in the states will need to follow suit, banding together to protect the future of live music in their respective cities.

4. Brands will become even more intertwined with artists

Sponsors spend $1.4 billion on the music industry in the United States each year, and that number is only going up. Instead of investing in large activations or stages at festivals, our experts predict that brands will focus more on building relationships with specific artists in the next year.

Mark Monahan, the festival director of Ottawa Bluesfest, has seen this shift firsthand. “In the last few years, most sponsors want to activate around artists,” Monahan says. “Five years ago in the festivals space, that was a nonstarter. Artists are recognizing the role sponsors play in helping to fund festivals, and are more willing to participate in auxiliary activities.”

Currently, most of these artist activations look like meet and greets, or small, private shows with festival headliners. But these activations will need to evolve and become more natural to succeed in 2017. It is likely we’ll see more activations like last year’s Lady Gaga’s Dive Bar Tour, sponsored by Bud Light. The series focused on one of the most important roles a brand can play for an artist: delighting fans by bringing them in more direct contact with their idols.

But this integrated relationship between artists and brands could be in conflict with another trend — that artists are more openly expressing their political beliefs.

“I’m hesitant about what the branded content space is going to look like in the next year,” Gaston says. “If artists get more politically involved, will that impact how brands interact with artists? It’s going to be really tricky if that spending shifts, especially since brand dollars have become more important to the bottom line for both artists and labels.”

13 Tips For Getting the Gig From Talent Buyer Christina LaRocca

Hello music makers!

My name is Christina LaRocca, Founder/CEO of L Rock Entertainment.   As a talent buyer with a decade of experience, I get somewhere between 25-100 requests A DAY from bands all over the country, asking to play the Big Apple or looking for assistance with tour booking.  How do I choose which bands are the best fit for my shows?

First impressions are everything.  Remember you are contacting a human being, so it’s best to treat them like one.  No one is going to reply to an email that says: “My band is awesome you need to book us…check it out man”

With that in mind, here are some great tips to help you get the gig: Continue reading “13 Tips For Getting the Gig From Talent Buyer Christina LaRocca”

6 Tips For Selling Your CDs at Gigs

By Dwight Brown

Selling CDs at gigs can be a cash cow.

You’ve got a wide profit margin because the cost of CD Duplication is minimal compared to the price fans will pay for them. And, selling CDs gets your music out there to fans who will recommend your music.

Tempt audiences at your performances, keep these 6 tips in mind, and you’ll sell CDs and make money:  

  1. Pricing. Charge $10 for an album and $5 for a single and most fans won’t think twice about buying one or more CDs. Selling two CDs for a bargain price is irresistible. Keep prices at $5 increments, and you won’t have to mess with small change. 
  2. Giveaways. Consider rolling the price of a CD into the admission charge. It’s like you’re giving them away, but you’re not. Or hand out a few as door prizes—and watch the rest of the audience have CD envy. 
  3. Special CDs.  Selling CDs that are live recordings, impromptu sessions or feature songs that are not on an official release makes fans feel like they’re buying something special. These “quasi-bootleg” CDs become collectors’ items. 
  4. Concession stands. Mark the title, price clearly and keep CDs at eye level. If you’re selling more than one CD, put them in groups. Concession stand helpers who are personable and/or attractive entice fans to buy more. 
  5. Easy payments:  Take cash, checks and credit cards, which are easy to process thanks to smart phone/tablet mobile apps and dongles (hardware that offers a secure connection). 
  6. Strong shows = strong sales. Connect with you your fans on stage, win them over with a memorable performance and they’ll want a CD to take home that recreates that cool experience. It’s that easy.

Selling CDs at gigs can help you finance your next recording session or tour. If CDs aren’t your thing, USB flash drives work too. You can get started with TuneCore’s CD Duplication service.

Top 3 Reasons You Aren't Getting the Gig

[Editor’s NoteThis article was written by Jhoni Jackson, an Atlanta-bred music journalist and venue-owner currently based in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It was originally featured on the Sonicbids Blog.]

Not getting a gig you’re pining over can be incredibly frustrating. It’s especially disheartening when you can’t figure out why you’ve been turned down, whether you never received a response or simply got a blunt nope. Like record label execs, promoters and venue owners don’t always have time to explain their logic. Even fewer have the time or desire to coach you through a better chance of scoring a show. Instead of getting angry or giving up, instances of rejection should invigorate your independent spirit. Get proactive by studying these three reasons you might be denied a gig. Employ your DIY initiative in learning from them – and keep trying.

1. Your inquiry was too vague

Did you include enough information about your band? While this might seem like common sense, it’s unfortunately not common practice. I’ve received countless emails that look a lot like this: “Hey, I’m looking to book a show for my band at your venue. What dates do you have available?”

First off, what band? No right-minded venue is going to reserve a night for you without knowing anything about your music. A brief biopress photo, links to tracks via sites like SoundCloud or Bandcamp, and social media accounts are basic tools for thoroughly conveying who you are.

We’ve stressed this before, but it’s worth mentioning again: Sonicbids can help you with your electronic press kit. And, while an EPK isn’t the be-all, end-all for approaching venues and promoters, it’s definitely an industry standard that makes things easier for both booking and contacting press.

2. You approached the wrong venue

Picking a venue based solely on the fact that you like the atmosphere or that bands you admire have performed there is an easy mistake to make. What you should really be considering is whether or not that spot is a good fit for your particular band.

There are venues that cater to specific genres, like coffeehouses that host acoustic nights or bars that regularly book rock ‘n’ roll acts, and others that are open to a variety of styles. As much as that matters, so does size. All of these details can be found by reading about the club, checking out its website or Facebook page, or visiting it in person.

Objectively think about your band: How many people will you draw? Is your set loud and abrasive? Or is it soft enough to suit a small, hushed setting? Once you’ve nailed down what exactly it is that you can offer, you can narrow down your list of potential venues to only those that are truly appropriate.

3. You weren’t convincing

Yes, an EPK is tremendously helpful, but whether you include one or not, you still have to tailor your inquiry to the venue in question. Before they even hear the music, they’ll read your introduction. Make it a persuasive one. If all you did was introduce your band with no regard for the club’s style or regular patrons, you probably haven’t done enough to sway anybody.

What is it that they’re looking for, exactly? A promise that you can pull a sizable crowd carries a lot of influence. You can prove this with social media numbers, evidence of previous shows, or a promotion plan that includes a massive push of a Facebook event combined with nicely done flyers and posters that you’ll strategically spread throughout the city. Really, a mix of all three is your best bet.

In any case of rejection by a venue, there’s always this last-ditch option: Offer to play for free. This shouldn’t be a recurring event, of course. But when you’ve never played at a venue before and none of these methods work in winning them over, you can always propose a free performance – and prove your worth by playing a stellar set to a crowd you single-handedly drew.