What is this and why should I care?

The National Association for Campus Activities is an organization with the goal of facilitating the communication between colleges' programming boards and talent agencies. In its own words:

NACA links the higher education and entertainment communities in a business and learning partnership, creating educational and business opportunities for our student and professional members.

In practice NACA tries to make it easier for student programming boards to plan, book, and execute quality campus programming, like comedians, bands, lecturers, and various other things that come to campuses (like inflatable dinosaurs).

NACA is a for profit organization, in that it charges for inclusion in conventions and use of its other services. The majority of the professional members are advisors at schools across the country, and they are involved in NACA in addition to their school's activities. The primary leadership comes from their headquarters in Columbia, South Carolina.

How do they do this?

Although they are a continuously operating organization, meaning they will help people who contact them anytime, they primarily work through several yearly conventions. These conventions serve as showcases of talent and a networking opportunity, and feature several hundred vendors and talent agencies, along with several dozen bands and acts performing for the attendees. They also serve as an educational experience, with different schools putting on educational settings on dealing with agencies, how to be creative with promotional material, etc.

There are regional conventions during the fall semester (generally around Halloween) for each of the seven regions. These regions consist of the following

Each regional convention tends to be held in some random central city that happens to have a nice convention center, it changes each year. For example, the Mid America regional convention for 2002 was held in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

During the spring semester a national convention is held, generally in the mid-west or eastern part of the United States. This convention is much larger than the regional ones, but tends to draw a much smaller crowd per region than regional conventions draw. This is most likely because of the increased cost for some schools in transporting students to and from.

Why would people go to these things?

Colleges generally have a committee or board of students who book, plan, and run events on campus, sponsored by tuition. These groups are called all sorts of things, like University Program Board, Student Activities Committee, University Board, Activities Council, you get the idea. These groups are generally mainly students with one or two professional advisors helping run the show.

The regional and national conventions serve a dual purpose. One, they allow students to preview artists and performers live before they consider booking them; and two, you can get good deals.

Artists who get to showcase at these conventions offer generous discounts to groups of colleges that can book them in a relatively local area in a short amount of time. For example, one band cost $1000 normally, but if three dates were booked in the same region during a 5 day period, the price would drop to $900. This process is called co-op buying, and is one reason many colleges go.

But I’m not in any activities council, why should I care?

Many colleges book ALL their small bands and lectures this way. That’s right, ALL OF THEM. Every single one. If they aren’t at NACA, you won’t be seeing them. The majority of colleges don’t book everything at NACA, but a great majority book a significant portion.

My college does not do a large amount of booking through NACA, but rather uses it as a training tool for new board members who express interest in sticking around for a while, or simply as a tool to find random acts that we can’t come up with on our own.

NACA sounds like a rocking good time, should I go?

The conventions are a real physical drain, generally having constant activities running from 9 in the morning till after midnight, for four days straight. That is negated by the simple fact that the majority of people involved in campus activity programming happen to be female.

In overview, the NACA conventions aren’t at all visible themselves, but their effects are. Around 1200 colleges nationally are members annually. The conventions are a lot of fun and are a large learning experience.

For more information, refer to the official website at www.naca.org.

If during the spring 2003 semester you notice your school is putting on the bands Red Wanting Blue, or the acapella group Chapter 6, then chances are they were booked through NACA.