How to Start a Band in College

Space, time and power are what’s needed to start a good band. Space can mean bars, basements and fields spotted in and around your college campus. Time refers to the precious uncommitted moments between your class schedule and self-enforced library shut-ins. Power, well, that’s a community of men and women on the verge of enlightenment, clashing together in the same place where J Cole, Girl Talk, and all members of Pink Floyd were when they started making music. We're talking about college. 

It doesn’t matter if you want to headline festivals by senior year or just make some good sounding noise with friends—If you want to play music in college then you should consider these four steps. 

  1. Listen to a lot of music. Good music is endless and so is a good musician’s appetite. Before you even play with future band mates, suggest music to each other. Pick something only you were down with in high school, like Rage Against the Machine, and the right people will suggest something equally as awesome and wildly different in style, like Donovan. Expand your likes and dislikes and then venture into the city and see local bands to feel the different sounds at close range. 
  2. Start playing. Chances are you’ll ignore this blog, skip freshman orientation and start playing on your first day. Sounds like a good time to us. Keep it up. Start off riffing with anyone who’s interested and when you’ve found the right people start doing some covers. This will add some structure to your band and help you figure out what your style can be. As far as simple covers go, I suggest some Sublime or punk versions of early Beatles tunes
  3. Play for crowds. Once you’ve got some good covers ready, or maybe even some originals, start gigging. This is where the constant parade of college life really starts to make a difference. Throughout the week there are parties, fundraisers, student government events and dive bars in need of some more noise. Playing in an open field on a Tuesday afternoon when no one really asked you too could be a gig. Put out a bucket and donate the proceeds to the American Red Cross if you want to get philanthropic with it. The point is to build your sound and make some people dance—when you do the band will get better and people will start asking you to play. 
  4. Market the band. This is the step that separates talented musicians taking themselves seriously from Yoko Ono. Marketing isn’t the same as selling out and you don’t have to be an amazing band for it to pay off. It’ll never be as easy to make connections without a label as it is in college so take advantage.
  • Tour and spread your name throughout your university and any surrounding ones. 
  • Try to get on college radio or on independent stations in the closest city. 
  • Play real venues and keep a relationship with the owners. 

Do all this and when you graduate you could spend some—or all—of your time making money playing good music with great college friends. 

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