[Editors Note: This is a guest blog post from our friends at IndieU, an online music platform that connects independent musicians to colleges and college students across the nation. Learn more about what IndieU has to offer independent artists at the bottom of this article!]
Radiohead. Queen. Vampire Weekend. John Legend. These are just a handful of the high-profile stars that launched their music careers in college, sprouting from DIY hopefuls to industry heavyweights thanks to the thriving local fan base universities supply.
College followers are important for a number of reasons: they’re enthusiastic as ever, hungry for music discovery, and have a growing appetite to go against the Top 40 grain. Most importantly, they’ve become steadily averse to record execs hand-selecting what they listen to, and are increasingly turning to friends to unearth new music finds. They’re also an important foundation for building credibility before focusing on a national stage.
In recent years, the internet has made tapping into these markets even easier for rising acts. Just look to the meteoric ascent of Chance the Rapper, whose young, fervent hometown of Chicago helped him make history as one of the most successful independent artists to date.
So what’s the secret? That’s a question IndieU has made its mission as a one-stop platform for up-and-coming musicians. Below, we share our tricks of the trade for making it big on campus.
Make a website and stream your music
First and foremost, set up a website where people can access your music, bio, and social media in one spot. Have a photographer friend take professional-looking pictures and feature sections for an about page, music, concert dates, contact information, and merch if you’ve got it. Add in a toolbar with all of your links, making sure to include your SoundCloud, BandCamp, YouTube, or wherever else you post your music. As the industry shifts away from record sales, it’s important to be on streaming sites, especially as a lesser-known act. You have to get people on board with your sound before they’ll shell out money for it.
Get On Social Media
Social media, social media, social media, and did we mention social media? This one’s kind of a no-brainer, but if you’re not on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the like, you’re passing up hundreds of thousands of possible followers. Think of it like those pedigree charts you glazed over during biology class: a student stumbles across your page, likes it, it pops up in the newsfeed of one of their friends, they like it, and so on. Soon, you’ve amassed a substantial audience rife with local fans to attend your nearby concerts. Make sure to post often to keep them engaged, and don’t be afraid to show a little personality.
Play Local Shows
This brings us to our next point: play often and play local. College offers an unlimited number of opportunities to score gigs, whether it be at a student group event, an off-campus party, or nearby coffee shops and bars looking to fill live slots. The more you perform, the more exposure you’ll rake in. This is a great way to both save up money for a tour and build a reputation for can’t-miss live sets when you finally hit the road.
Network On Campus
Networking isn’t just for the corporate crowd, it’s key to making it in the music industry. Start by forming relationships with your college radio, newspapers, and student group leaders: Spread your music and your story. Then target local publications and stations, especially if you’re near a big city, and reference back to the concerts and coverage you’ve already accomplished. That way, you have a résumé that gives you credibility.
Don’t Get Defeated
No matter how talented you are, catching a big break isn’t going to happen overnight. Music is a tough business to be in, and it takes patience, luck, and a hell of a lot of hard work. But if you stay positive and put in the time, there’s no reason you can’t make it happen.
About IndieU: IndieU is an online music platform that connects independent musicians to colleges and college students across the nation, with the ability for users to follow the music tastes of their friends, create playlists, and stream/download thousands of independent songs for free. With over 50 student representatives in 20 schools across the nation, IndieU helps artists grow a strong localized college fan base while providing students with everything they need to know about their local music scene. With hundreds of articles to browse through, as well as a recently launched interactive digital magazine, new music discovery is endless. In the coming months, IndieU will be launching an event creation tool in which students can create their own events, book local artists to perform, and share in the revenues generated by ticket sales. Learn more on IndieU.com.