Tuesday, June 10, 2008

College Radio Stations' Role in Booking Shows on Campus

Derek Sivers, founder of CD Baby, posted some advice on his blog for bands touring the "college market." He made an interesting point that the real music fans on campus are at the college radio station, not necessarily working in the organizations that fund and bring bands to campus. He writes:

"One thing to get straight: don’t confuse college radio with college gigs. The kids that run college radio are the real music fans. The ones deeply into music for music’s sake. But the ones with the big budgets for entertainment and activities are called the 'Student Activities Office'.

These are usually made up of the girls in pink sweaters who won the election for Class Treasurer in high school. (Think Reese Witherspoon in the movie 'Election'.) It’s a very play-it-safe environment because they want everyone (yes every last person) to be happy, so they can get re-elected.

This means that the Student Activities Office wants to hire the most fun, safe, lively, crowd-pleasing entertainment possible."

This characterization strikes me as a bit dismissive about women's taste in music...although, I'll give the author the benefit of a doubt that perhaps he just didn't have male pop culture reference that was as iconic as Reese. Regardless, I'm curious if this is true that those holding the "purse" strings for campus entertainment still have this conservative mentality.

Now, back when I was in college in the 1980s that didn't seem to be the case, although I was at a liberal arts school where we actually had funding for 2 different music series on campus: The New Music Series and the Alternative Concert series (if I remember correctly). Between the two, a wide range of interesting bands, artists, and performers were brought to campus (Feelies, Robyn Hitchcock with They Might Be Giants as the opener, Living Colour when they were a bar band, Jim Carroll, Aztec Camera, etc.) who were not considered the mainstream acts of the day. The guy who ran one of the series had a real ear for music and has gone on to be a well-known music booker/promoter in NYC, so, yeah, we were kind of lucky.

Now, in terms of college radio, I'd love to know if your station plays a big role in bringing bands to campus or if that's handled by other campus organizations? I know some stations put on their own festivals and showcases, which is pretty inspirational.

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