Campus Connections

The Campus Bookstore

Campus Connections

In this edition of Campus Connections, our focus is on: the campus bookstore.

Students have a love-hate relationship with their campus bookstores. The love comes from easy access to not only books, but school t-shirts and sweatshirts and baseball caps and coffee mugs. The hate comes from over-priced textbooks and school memorabilia that, more often than not, you know you could find cheaper elsewhere, and yet it’s so convenient to not have go off campus or wait for shipping that you give in anyway.

While you’re welcome to maintain whatever feelings you may already have about your campus bookstore, it’s foolish to overlook opportunities to collaborate with them. The campus may well be eager to sell your group’s new CD by its cash register, or possibly even group swag like t-shirts of your own or promotional stickers. Sure, the store will probably take a cut of your profits, but you’ll be exposing yourself to potential buyers that don’t only include fans who come to your show, but also students, faculty, staff, and administration who may stop by the bookstore for anything from a windbreaker to show their school pride, to Christmas gifts, to a candy bar from the front counter. In any of these cases, you’re accessing people who were planning to spend money anyway, and, in most of those scenarios, have at least some level of school pride and thus may relish in supporting the school’s arts program.

Depending on your bookstore, fostering a relationship with the management may even afford you the opportunity to use the store for a performance space during a busy time like the start of the term or during a buyback period; the bookstore may also be uniquely equipped to facilitate sales for you during a new album release event in their space.

Not every campus bookstore will have the infrastructure of willingness to cooperate that I’m alluding to, but you may be surprised by how many would. Reach out, and this can become one of your most valuable connections on campus.

Campus Booking Agents

Campus Connections

In this edition of Campus Connections, our focus is on: campus booking agents.

Whether it’s a professional in charge of coordinating entertainment for the campus community or a student affiliated with student government who coordinates booking events, most college campuses have someone (or some group of people) in charge of putting together large scale events for campus that may including bringing in speakers, comedians, magicians, or, of course, musical acts from afar to the college.

On the scale that I’m discussing, it’s unlikely that the booking agents would book your on-campus a cappella group to be a featured act, but that doesn’t mean that they couldn’t fold you into a major event as an opening act, or work with you to publicize the act they’re bringing in. Sharing a stage with a professional can be a wonderful way of providing you with a larger audience, not to mention possibly affording your group the opportunity to interact directly with a major act backstage and learn from them as artists. And even if it’s a matter of your group publicly singing a song by a major artist in a public spot to promote the fact that that artist is coming to campus, you have now inextricably linked yourself, in the minds of listeners, to that artist, which is not a bad association to create.

Campus booking agents ultimately hold a lot of sway over what the campus is listening to, watching, and, perhaps most importantly, what the campus community is getting excited about. Form a relationship with them, and it could elevate your group in any number of ways.

Minority Affinity Groups

Campus Connections

College campuses offer a full slate of resources that might further an a cappella group’s artistic accomplishments and exposure. Who should your group reach out to? How? What do you have to gain? Campus Connections is here to answer those questions.

This column is targeted specifically toward collegiate a cappella groups, though some of the principles and ideas we discuss may transcend that sphere and be useful to high school and non-scholastic groups as well.

In this edition of Campus Connections, our focus is on: minority affinity groups.

During my junior year of college, I roomed with buddy Will. In a strange twist of fortune, despite being an ostensibly white man with western European roots, he was enamored with Asian culture—an active member of the Chinese student union and a practitioner of martial arts who decorated his side of the room with a Bruce Lee poster and assorted East Asian paraphernalia. Meanwhile, despite my half-Chinese heritage and blatantly Chinese last name, the most overtly Asian thing that I did was to eat my Chinese takeout with chopsticks rather than a plastic fork. Without fail, when I had a visitor to the room who didn’t know Will, he or she would assume that his side of the room was mine and vice-versa.

My roommate was one in a small percentage of students who saw across cultural and racial lines to embrace cultures that he just happened to be interested in, regardless of his own background. I say all of this to get at the point that, regardless of your a cappella group’s racial or ethnic composition, there can be a lot to be gained from reaching out to minority affinity groups on campus.

Minority affinity groups are typically in place to provide support and opportunities to socialize and network for students who might otherwise feel underrepresented or marginalized on campus. Students who do not belong to the minorities represented may be predisposed to steer clear of groups like this because they don’t feel that they will fit into them, or are concerned about the potential to offend someone else.

Just the same, students who engage with these groups—provided they do so with respect, humility, and a willingness to listen—are often surprised at how much perspective they can gain from the experience and the understanding that they walk away with, not just regarding the experience of fellow students who belong to that minority, but also themselves.

I say all of this not so much as a public service for people to see what they can learn from minor affinity groups and their events, but also to set up the value for a cappella groups networking with minority affinity groups. It’s easy to say that your a cappella group is open-minded and inclusive; it’s much more challenging and enriching to actively seek out opportunities to perform at events that minority affinity groups might put on, as well as to actively raise awareness of your group and recruit for future members from these organizations. Not every organization will end up being a perfect match for your group, but you may be pleasantly surprised with how wide an untapped audience and potential new member base exists out of people who may not have felt comfortable coming to you, because they don’t already see their brand of diversity represented within your ranks.

Think broadly about whom you might connect with on campus, and don’t be afraid to build a relationship with minority affinity groups.

Student Media

Campus Connections

In this edition of Campus Connections, our focus is on: student media.

Building relationships with the media is one of the most important connections for any a cappella group seeking an audience and seeking exposure. At the collegiate level, whether it's your school newspaper, TV station, radio station, magazine, or other outlet, campus media tends to have a foothold at colleges--an established name and audience. When you build a relationship with the media, you're setting yourself up for exposure and publicity within your local community on a scale that it's much more difficult to build on your own.

One of the biggest benefits of working with a newspaper is that it affords you space in writing—people are forgetful and having something concrete to look at and transcribe your group’s name, and performance or audition times and locations to make sure they’re getting the details right and can remember them. Moreover, when you get coverage of one of your events in print or on a website, you have a testimonial to refer to later to document your group’s accomplishments and refer other people to someone’s thoughts on your group, beyond the group’s own PR work.

Working with the campus TV station can also help spread the word about your work and document performances. Moreover, TV stations can afford you opportunities to have people with good equipment and a specific set of skills record and polish a performance, which can be great for archival purposes and even for getting performance out on YouTube if you don’t have anyone skilled in production within the ranks of your group.

And then there’s radio. When push comes to shove, a cappella is an aural form, and taking a step away from the visual elements that live performance and videos call attention to, performing on campus radio can be an excellent way of getting your music, in its most distilled form, out to an audience. Moreover, throughout my own undergraduate experience, two graduate degrees, and working on a college campus, I’ve consistently been surprised with just how often people actually do listen to the campus radio station—thus, you might be reaching a larger audience through this medium than you would originally expect.

You may also want to consider massaging relationships with campus media. While I’m not suggesting you should try to bribe anyone, offering free tickets to shows, free CDs, even free t-shirts can be an effective way of wooing attention, and getting campus media to notice and remember your group’s efforts.

There are those a cappella groups that prioritize their art over their exposure, and that is a perfectly natural place to fall, particularly at the scholastic level. That said, for groups that are seeking to build their audiences and recognition on a grass roots, local level, there’s little better way of getting started than to make the most of campus media.

Mascots

Campus Connections

In this edition of Campus Connections, our focus is on: mascots.

At colleges across the country, and particularly at big universities with at which there is a pronounced sports presence, there are few figures more recognizable than the school mascot. Whether it’s Big Red at Western Kentucky, Otto the Orange at Syracuse, or Puddles the Duck at the University of Oregon, these figures are inspirational, lovable, and nothing if not some of the most recognizable personalities on campus.

Making a connection with your campus mascot opens up all sorts of possibilities for publicity. Perhaps the mascot will be willing to take a picture with your group for Facebook, or wear your group’s t-shirt at a small event. In either case, having the mascot affiliated with your group is a magnet for attention.

To take things one step further, there’s a history of groups actually working with mascots on performances. This can be as simple as having the mascot stand outside the performance to help lure in audience members, or as pronounced as the mascot actually taking part in the performance, getting on stage to rouse some extra cheers and, in some cases, even participate in the choreography and make for an unforgettable performance.

Weaving a mascot into the scheme of you’re a cappella group—however briefly and to whatever degree—is like getting a celebrity endorsement. It will draw more ears to your product and make for one of your most entertaining performances.

The Athletics Department

Campus Connections

In this edition of Campus Connections, our focus is on: <b>your school’s athletics department</b>.

I’ve never been a jock by any stretch, and throughout high school and college I remember having the misconception that scholastic athletes got a disproportionate amount of attention. It wasn’t until I looked more objectively that I discovered, while sports teams may have more institutional support than the arts in terms of funding for equipment and transportation to events, they often suffer from very real challenges when it comes to attendance and recognition within their institutions. Yes, particularly at major universities, the football and basketball teams get attention, but what of the gymnastics, track and field, or wrestling squads? With a small handful of exceptions, these talented, hard-working athletes tend to be underappreciated by their peers and larger campus communities.

A cappella groups that reach out to the athletics departments or specific teams at their schools access the opportunity to cross-pollinate audiences. Given how much is going on at a college campus and how busy college students, faculty, and staff are, it can be a real struggle for anyone to promote sheer awareness about your events. Therefore, it never hurts to garner an extra source of publicity. What if tennis team is plugging you’re a cappella group’s on-campus performances, just as you’re promoting their on-campus matches? Just by getting the word out, you can likely bolster the audiences for each other.

In addition to publicity, sports events have a time-honored tradition of opening with a performance of the national anthem. Particularly at big universities, singing the national anthem in front of large crowds at major events can be an outstanding way of getting your group’s name out to thousands of new listeners. If you’re not sure how to get one of these slots, don’t hesitate to reach out to the administration at your school’s athletics department—more often than not, they’ll be eager to spotlight artists from the campus community. In addition to major performance opportunities, it may be little less gratifying to have the chance to sing in front of a dedicated audience at smaller events.

There’s a stereotypical depiction of sports and the arts being at odds with one another on college campuses. Break down those walls, and take advantage of all of the opportunities to cross-promote and perform in new venues!

The Campus Bookstore
Campus Booking Agents
Minority Affinity Groups
Student Media
Mascots
The Athletics Department
Res Life
Student Government
Dancers
Other A Cappella Groups