Category: The Digital Age


Each post of the Digital Age will talk about different technologies that are effecting college a cappella, from recording to social media, and how groups are using them and can make better use of them to grow. This weeks topic is about a Culture of Recording.

As we enter the digital age, recording has become easier and cheaper. Groups can record an entire album from a member’s dorm room using a single mic, a laptop, and any one of a hundred recording software programs. Recording has become an art with aca-fans split right down the middle. Do you make the song sound like the original through heavy studio work, or do you leave a cappella to sound how it does in live performance? None really has the answer to this question, as it is a matter of opinion, but that’s not the topic of this post.

So why does a group record? The first type of group records to remember their college a cappella experience, making what we refer to as a “yearbook album.” It’s a great memoir for the members, their families, and some of their loyal fans. The next type records to change things. Tufts University Beelzebubs set the standard of production with Code Red in 2003. Stanford Harmonics take it one step further and include the production into their live performance. The final type of group records because that is what college a cappella groups do. They want to be the best live and then they want to be the best recorded. Each type uses albums for fundraising for tours, group shirts, competitions fees, and the other costs associated with being in college a cappella. Recording requires members to learn songs better and rhythms lock themselves into place. Syllables will become more important when they can other times fall by the way side in certain arrangements. All of this will in turn help with live performance and building a fan base.

There is a culture of recording on the coasts. Some groups will take one year to perform in ICCAs and the next year to record an album. Whatever the schedule many of the tops groups (Beelzebubs, USC Socal Vocals, BYU Vocal Point, Duke Out of the Blue, to name a few) all release albums every couple years. Why don’t we have groups in the Midwest that do the same? A couple groups from some of the Big Ten schools do, sure. But even then, for as many groups that exist at some of those schools, the number of albums we see are relatively few.

Take the Best of College A Cappella series. Granted, not every group applies to be a part of the album, but the best do. 2008 was the last time a group from the Midwest had a track selected with the University of Illinois Rip Chords and the University of Wisconsin-Madison MadHatters both making the cut (Just 2 of 18 tracks.) No other Midwestern group has been selected for the 2 albums and 39 tracks that have followed. I ask, Why not? There have been more groups selected for the Voices Only compilations of the past two years, although also relatively few proportionally.

Are Midwest groups not submitting to be involved on these compilations or do we just release fewer albums? I believe it’s the later and I’m calling for the Midwest to step it up and release the next great BOCA selections. Start recording your group today and you’ll see the benefits.

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Each post of the Digital Age will talk about different technologies that are effecting college a cappella, from recording to social media, and how groups are using them and can make better use of them to grow. This weeks topic introduces eMarketing in the Social Media World.

Raise your hand if you have access to a computer. All of you? Ok, good. And who has a Facebook, Twitter, or a MySpace? All of you? Ok, good. And who has ever watched a video on YouTube? Perfect. Social media has become a massive part of our lives and is changing the way the people can market both products and themselves. When it comes to college a cappella, one of the largest databases of any music exists on YouTube. Anytime that I’m thinking about where to start on an arrangement, I simply type in the song title + a cappella (or acapella) and invariably there are three groups that have already covered it and have it posted. So here’s another question, why not have a central location for all of your groups videos? There will always be fan videos, of course, but groups like Michigan State’s Capital Green (here) and University of Wisconsin – Madison’s MadHatters (here) make it easy for fans to find and watch videos. Also, by creating a group account, it can be passed on through the group more easily. Just posted a bunch of concert videos? Subscribers have one source to go to for them, and you can simply posted your YouTube page.

Where should I post that link, you ask? Well, first you should post it on your group’s twitter account. Now, I’ve been searching high and low, and I must say that the Midwest is lacking when it comes to making good use of twitter. Many more East and West Coast groups have accounts. Twitter is a lightning quick way of reach your fans and a great way to get feed back from them too. Don’t fear the tweet. Next, post the link on your groups Facebook Fan Page. Don’t have one? Get one. Finally, get your group involved in promoting themselves. Ever member wants to have standing room only at your next concert, so there is no reason why they can’t help market a little bit. If ever member posts their favorite video of the group in their status, you’ll see hundreds of views within a few short hours. It’s quick, easy, and free.

Make sure your group is taking full advantage of all of the social marketing options. I’ll cover more of these as we progress into the Digital Age. Remember, the more you can centralize things by having a single YouTube or Twitter account, the easier it will be for your fans to find and the legacy to be passed on.