College Entertainment: the Ultimate Guide for Campus Activities Boards
Campus events are one of the best things about being a college student. No matter what time of year, day of the week, or even time of day it is, there’s always something fun and exciting happening on campus. It might be something as simple as a midnight pancake study dinner, or something much more elaborate like an all-day scavenger hunt -- but either way, it’s hard to end up bored when you’re on a college campus.
If you’re a student activities board member (or a staff member at the student activities center) and you’re looking for ideas for campus events, take a look at our guide to 18 amazing campus activities ideas. It’s a great place to start if you’ve run out of new ideas for events and you need a little bit of a nudge in the right direction.
Several of the items on that list fall under the “college entertainment” category. We’re talking bands, singer-songwriters, magicians, comedians, and even public speakers that fall under the “entertainer” category. If you’ve decided to book a college entertainer and you’re not sure what to do next, then this guide is for you.
While putting together a coffee hour or late night study breakfast doesn’t have to be all that complicated, trying to find an entertainer, book them, sign a contract, work out the logistics of their performance, promote the event itself, and ensure that everything runs smoothly is far from simple. And if you’ve never done it before, it can be a bit...well...overwhelming.
While booking an entertainer and hosting a successful event isn’t necessarily easy, it’s completely doable. The key is to familiarize yourself with how the whole process will work in advance, and ensure that you aren’t missing out on anything major (or forgetting to do something super important).
That’s why we’ve put together this guide to college entertainment for student activities boards. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll have a thorough understanding of:
- Where to find college entertainers
- How to book an entertainer
- What to look for in a contract and how to understand it
- How to promote the event
Ready to learn everything you need to know about booking campus entertainment for your college? Let’s get started!
How to find college entertainment
The first step to providing legit entertainment for the students on your campus is actually finding the entertainers themselves. How do you do this? Do you contact them directly? Where do you even find their contact information?
If you’re on the student activities board, there’s a chance that you’ve received emails, social media messages, and maybe even physical packages (although those are becoming rarer and rarer these days) from artists and entertainers looking to get booked at your school.
Working with these artists directly is an option, but it’s not necessarily the best one. The reason is pretty simple: it’s hard to vet these entertainers in advance. Sure, they may some followers on social media or a video that looks pretty good -- but do you really want to take the chance on an artist that’s reached out to you directly? What if they flake? What if they’re a total dud when it comes time for their performance?
Rather than relying on video footage and email messages to determine whether or not an entertainer is legit, a popular means of finding entertainment for your school is the National Association for Campus Activities, or NACA. Each year, NACA hosts both a national conference as well as a number of regional conferences: South, Central, Mid-Atlantic, Mid-America, Northeast, West, and Northern Plains. These conferences offer campus activities staff and student members to meet with entertainers and agents in person. You’ll have the opportunity to actually see an artist performing and decide whether they’re a good fit for your campus or not.
NACA is a great option, but it doesn’t always fit the bill for every single on-campus event that you’ll need to host. What if an artist you book at NACA has to cancel on you six months out? Or what if you end up needing to add another event (or 10 other events) to your calendar because of scheduling changes or the shifting needs of the student body?
In addition to NACA, a great way to find college entertainment is with an online platform like ArtistHub. With ArtistHub, the hard work has already been done for you: we’ve found and evaluated tons of up-and-coming artists and entertainers, ensuring that you’re guaranteed quality entertainment for your student body. Plus, browsing our database is easy, quick, and fun.
So, you’ve found some entertainers that you’re ready to work with. What’s the next step?
How to book an entertainer for your campus
Finding the right entertainment can be challenging, but actually going through the booking process can be even harder. You’d think that it would be simple: you find an artist, make them an offer, and then sign them on as entertainment. That last step can actually be quite complicated, though, as it involves a contract.
If you’ve never had to deal with a contract, the mere sight of one can be a bit dizzying. You open up the doc on your computer and what do you see? Page after page of tiny print, clauses, and legal terms you’ve never even heard of before. The whole thing can be pretty intimidating.
Understanding a college entertainment contract
First things first: sit and read through the whole contract. Don’t skip over sections because they seem repetitive, or because you assume that you already know what’s going to be said next. Small variations in language can be a big deal.
As you’re reading, highlight anything that you don’t understand or that isn’t straightforward. Remember, in the vast majority of cases it isn’t going to be up to you to deal with this contract entirely on your own. Instead, you’ll likely be tackling it with the help of your student activities board’s staff advisor, or another college staff member who assist with student activities planning. Set up a time to meet with them (or set aside time at your next campus activities board meeting) and go over the items that are confusing or unclear.
If your staff advisor isn’t clear on those items either, put together a list of everything that you have questions about and send it to the artist or agency that you’re working with. Be as explicit as possible. Above all: never, ever, ever sign a contract that you aren’t 100% clear about.
Your staff advisor will likely have a checklist of additional items that need to be taken care of, such as a W9 tax form for the artist or entertainer to fill out. Check with your student activities staff advisor in advance and make sure that you’re on the same page about any additional paperwork that the entertainer or their agent will need to fill out.
If you’re booking a particularly large artist, your university may have an attorney on retainer who specifically deals with more complicated, high dollar contracts. Check with your advisor about this, and set up a time to meet with them if necessary.
Other differences between non-college entertainment contracts and campus entertainment agreements can crop up, too. This is all the more reason to read the contract thoroughly and ensure that you fully understand it before signing.
Of course, booking an artist doesn’t have to be quite as complicated as all this. With ArtistHub, we’ve made the booking process as simple as possible.There may still be some fine print when it comes to signing an entertainer, but ArtistHub is here to help. Our standard booking agreements make things easier for both parties. This means that you can get back to doing what you do best: planning great events.
Speaking of which: what’s the best way to go about promoting an upcoming campus event? Keep reading to find out.
Promoting an upcoming concert or other campus event
If your experience thus far as a member of campus activities has mostly involved setting up coffee hours and clothing swaps, you might have a fairly limited sense of what it means to promote a campus event. Maybe you print out some flyers and stick them up around campus, make a post or two on Facebook, and then see how things go. No big deal, right?
If you’re just offering students a place to chill and de-stress during finals -- like a late night free breakfast during finals week -- you may be able to just rely on word of mouth and a minimal amount of promotion. After all, you don’t need to get a huge crowd of students all in one place, all at the same time. You’re simply looking to give students on campus an opportunity to experience a fun event, and the stakes are pretty low.
When you’re dealing with college entertainment, though, things are different. This isn’t a walk-in painting class where you’re expecting a dozen students and the entirety of the preparation involves you carrying some supplies into a room and setting them on a table. With a concert, comedian, magician, speaker, or other form of campus entertainment, the stakes are much higher. You need to get hundreds of students to show up at a specified time, and you want the event to be something that everyone on campus knows about. It should be a big deal.
So, how do you make that happen? For one, be sure to use the usual channels mentioned above. Printing flyers and hanging them all over campus is a great way to promote an event. The idea here isn’t to stick a single flyer on a single bulletin board in each campus building and leave it at that. Flyers are everywhere, and students will need to see the same flyer over and over (and over, and over) before the content of it actually registers with them. Then they’ll need to see it a few dozen more times before they bother to consider whether it’s something they’re even interested in or not. Then, the week of the event, the fact that the flyer is everywhere will be a constant reminder that they need to actually show up on a specific day and time for the event.
To that end, be sure that your flyers are minimalist: make it clear what the event is, when it is (day and time), and where it is. Don’t clutter the flyer with too much content, or it’ll simply be ignored.
Next up, be sure to post to social media. Be deliberate about it, though: don’t make a single post a month before the event and another post the day of. If you’ve booked a band for a big concert, set up a social media calendar that involves sharing a song or video from the band every couple of days leading up to their show. If there’s a college speaker coming to campus, share links to recent news articles about them and the work that they’re doing. Be sure to use as many social media platforms as possible, too.
If the event is ticketed rather than free for students, promotion becomes even more important. In these situations, you’ll really need to step up your game. Reach out to local publications (especially the free weekly arts and entertainment newspaper that most college towns tend to have) and ask them to write about the event. Work with your college’s radio station and have them announce the event repeatedly. If you’ve booked a musician, be sure that they play the artist’s music and plug the event. Connect with campus organizations and club, go to their meetings, and make an announcement about the event.
With all of these strategies in combination, your success is practically guaranteed. Remember: the more students there are at an event, the more it’ll seem like a big deal. People like to go to events that are well-attended: no one wants to sit in a room with 5 other people to hear a comedian. Work hard, cover your bases, and you’ll ensure an awesome turnout.
Book your next college entertainer
Are you ready to host an awesome event? Booking your next college entertainer has never been easier thanks to ArtistHub. Click here to sign up for a free account and get started.