It’s no secret that establishing a career in the music
industry is an ambitious goal. Dealing with the workload of an
average University student doesn’t make it any easier. For
local bands and solo acts trying to hit it big, the University
offers a few opportunities to get a head start.
U Club Live in the Michigan Union’s University Club
features some of the hottest acts in town on Friday nights.
“While we would like to get some up-and-coming artists, we
really focus on student bands,” said Karla Zinnecker, program
coordinator for the Union. Besides the usual alternative-rock
groups, the Union also offers open-mic nights, a stand-up comedy
group Comedy Co., and Spoken Word, a poetry reading.
As bands clamor for show dates, the Union begins booking acts
early in the semester. “By the third week into fall term, we
are already filled up and booking for winter,” Assistant
Program Coordinator Kristen Deaton said. To score a slot, bands
must submit a demo tape and come in to discuss contracts.
Headliners also get the opportunity to choose their own openers
after listening to other demos.
An attractive feature of U Club Live is that, while it’s
free for students, me band still makes a buck or two thanks to
support from the Union and University Activities Center. “We
pay headliners $200 for a 45 to 60 minute set and openers
$50,” Zinnecker said. Budget cuts might drop the rates in the
next year, but the Union is trying to save as much as possible with
minimal impact on students.
Future plans for the U Club and individual bands are on the
drawing board. “Next year we would like to expand …
record and compile a CD and release it at an event party,”
Deaton said. If the necessary equipment is available, this is a
likely venture for this Central Campus hot spot.
The Michigan League boasts a plethora of show opportunities for
local music acts. Friday Night Live, offered every other Friday
night, is similar to that hosted by the Union; bands that submit
demo tapes two to three weeks ahead of time can usually secure a
show date. “In the past we brought in locals, but now we just
focus on student groups,” Programming Coordinator Benita
Like the Union, the League provides a sound system, microphones,
minimal lighting and a stage. “It’s a great place for
people to see a free show and a nice opportunity to make money, but
it’s pretty informal. You don’t exactly feel like a
rockstar,” said Tres Wolf, lead singer of modern rock band
Oblivion. League headliners receive between $150 and $200 and
openers between $50 and $75. Due to future budget cuts, those rates
are likely to drop next year.
Thursday Night Spotlight at the League is a unique showcase.
There is a variety of performances, including a cappella groups,
comedic performances, poetry readings and Images of Identity, a
group of black comedians. Thursday Night Spotlight has also
featured Mentality, a student organization that presents dialogues
on mental health. Another distinctive feature of the League is
Saturday Broadway. Twice per term, the League sponsors Musical
Theater students to sing Broadway songs in the Underground. The
League also features Six String Coffeehouse. “It’s a
more folk-acoustic venue,” Murrel said. Six String provides
open-mic nights, too, where solo singers get the opportunity to
“A lot of times performing at the League can really open
doors,” Murrel said. “From here, students can then book
slots at the Blind Pig or other venues.”
Despite the available venues on campus, it is still an uphill
climb to break into the music industry. “It’s hard to
get a foot in the door, especially at places like Blind Pig,”
said Wolf. “We’ve been headlining there for a while
now, and we just started getting contracted for Friday
The University helps give aspiring musicians a leg up by
providing free venues for performances. Lots of talent, in
conjunction with affordable performance venues, paves the road for
a big musical break.