Continuing from my last post, there are many markets now available to entertainers. These include college performing arts centers and festivals.
If you have the passion and talent, I do believe you can find an audience. There is the college market…and there is the formal college arts center market. Two completely separate markets.
Universities and colleges have discovered that if they build a performing arts center, they not only attract the community (and make money), they can also attract a specific type of student — those that become innovators, risk takers and creatives — and the school builds a unique brand and differentiates itself.
The informed and willing college president or dean is aware they can advance their institution’s mission through the arts. This is something that is being deeply researched and explored; a few major research universities and leading art funders, including the Ford Foundation and Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, have joined together to form a national network “to support the integration of artists and arts practices…and have created taskforces to elevate and integrate the arts and creativity across campus.” So where do you, the entertainer, fit in?
The majority of these centers are funded through grants and the hiring person works for the institution. While the person doing the hiring may be beholden to the criteria for the grants funding, they also may have enough leeway through the education side to book talent that is cutting edge. In other words, if your program fits into something that is in their curriculum, you may have a shot!
I recently attended a presenters’ conference in Pennsylvania where the keynote speaker explained a program he devised centered around the history of hip hop music, which he tied to the Civil Rights movement. He planned a series that included hip hop performances and activist lectures, by icons such as Angela Davis. It was a big hit among his students, many of which couldn’t wait to volunteer. This is an example of creative programming and education combined.
Many universities are collaborating through guest lectures and guest artists; it’s all about engagement and learning. You will need to do your own research and see what’s out there. Check into school departments and the curriculum. Perhaps you can create a program that fits? Present it to the school departments and/or the center’s executive director or management. Be very aware that university-based performing arts centers and art department funding typically include faculty, artists-in-residence, public art, and student scholarships. They have strict guidelines they must abide to.
On the other side of the college performing arts market, there is the festival market. From Bonnaroo, Coachella, and Lollapalooza to Ozzfest, SXSW and iHeartRadio, festivals have become a rite of passage among twenty and thirty-somethings. According to Rolling Stone, festivals enjoyed record expansion in 2012. Here in Annapolis, we have a festival nearly every weekend from March through November. Most have a clear definition of what they offer their fans — alternative rock, jam bands, metal, local, specific ethnicities or cultures… so know the genre and demographic before you approach organizers. The majority of these festivals are funded by sponsors, and sponsors sign on because it means their target market has been isolated. If you’re not a fit, don’t reach out! There is nothing worse than a query from an interested party who hasn’t a clue what they’re inquiring about!
Festival organizers are fairly easy to find. You’re almost guaranteed to find a website with a “Contact Us” page. It’s that simple. If you are a fit, go ahead… reach out! Send them your professional materials and follow up.
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