Cracking Colleges & Special Events Course Applications

A hands on training on how to succeed in the PAC, special events, and college entertainment markets in the United States and Canada.

Live music is back! Are you ready?

This course will prepare you for some of the highest paid gigs for emerging acts in the industry.

Special Events

Performing Arts Centers (PACs) are located in most major cities around the US. There are around 1,400 PACs in the US and each one books around 50 acts a year. You do the math. Needless to say, there are a lot of opportunities for musical acts in this space. Each PAC pays anywhere from $1,000 - $15,000+ for unknown acts (of course they pay tens of thousands for the known acts). It is not uncommon for a 5-piece band to make $15,000 for one evening of music. And, like colleges, PACs pay for your expenses.

The corporate market similarly pays quite well for unknown acts who can serve the purpose of entertaining their company.

Cracking Colleges

The college market is the hidden secret of the music industry. Only in the college scene can you make $1,500 for 70 minutes of original music with absolutely zero fanbase. I know, I've done it. My gigs have ranged from $800 - $3,200 for a 70 minute set, but I'd say I've averaged $1,500 + expenses. That's the other thing, colleges will cover ALL of your expenses from plane tickets, car rental, hotels, food, sound and lights.

Even though there are about 4,000 colleges and universities that bring music to campus, each only bring a few artists a year. There are exceptions, some bring an artist a month (or week!), but most bring 2-3 a semester. If you do it right, you can make $50,000+ a year like I made my first year. And I know some who make $100,000 a year.

Booking for 2023/2024 starts NOW

Even though you may not be thinking about booking and touring for this moment, booking for these markets starts 1-2 years in advance.

Breaking into these markets takes time, money, planning and some rejection. It's definitely not for everyone.

Before you apply, pay attention to this next part. You may not be right for these markets. That doesn't mean you suck. It doesn't mean you won't go on to have a very successful music career. It just means that these scenes may not be the right avenue for you.

The acts that do well in the SPECIAL EVENTS market are: niche acts, cover bands, tribute acts, world music, reggae, R&B, lounge singers, soul, blues, funk, a cappella, comedy.

Acts that DO NOT do well for SPECIAL EVENTS: include hardcore rap, death metal, screamo, hard rock, punk, politically charged folk acts.

The acts that do well in the COLLEGE market are: singer/songwriters, pop/rock, dance, spoken word, conscious hip hop, high-energy catchy anything. Comedians and magicians also do really well...

Acts that DO NOT do well for SPECIAL EVENTS: include hardcore rap, death metal, screamo, hard rock, punk, politically charged folk acts, instrumental jazz, lounge, anything far-left of center, etc.

These courses is extremely hands on. Our instructor and moderators will guide you through the process of putting together a bulletproof package for special events and help you secure showcases at the biggest conferences around the country. This isn’t just dumping info into your lap and wishing you the best of luck. We will be with you every step of the way.

The Cracking Colleges course will culminate with (digital) showcases in front of top level college booking agents.

70% of our students in the 2022 class got signed to a top 10 college booking agency!

Additional Information

APAP, Arts West, Folk Alliance,

Arts Northwest, etc.

There are many PAC conferences around the country. Our instructor Carey has showcased at many of them and has the full rundown on how to crack em. We have also teamed up with agencies in this PAC market who will be lending their expertise to make sure you succeed on your performance journey with PAC, corporate and other special events gigs.


If you’ve spent any time researching the college market I’m sure you’ve stumbled across NACA (National Association of Campus Activities) and if you’ve dug even deeper you’ve heard of APCA (Association for the Promotion of Campus Activities). You may come away thinking “man, all I have to do is attend these conferences and I’m golden!”

You’d be so, so wrong.

Whereas, yes, NACA and APCA are extremely important conferences in the college space and yes if you want to crack the college market you have to attend them, you should not go at this blind. Besides the fact that these conferences are cost prohibitive for most indie artists (see the breakdown below), to be effective at these conferences takes a full understanding of the nuances in how they work. You can’t just show up, sit in your booth and hope by your sheer wit and charm college reps will just throw money at you and beg you to come play their campuses. It sounds absurd, but I can’t tell you how often I have seen this happen.

I’ve personally showcased at 3 NACA conferences (including Nationals) and 4 APCA conferences. As I was standing in my booth with a long line of college reps waiting to take photos with me and offer me bookings on their campuses, I would glance to the booth next door to see an artist hopelessly attempting to get people to come talk to them. In the end, I’d have a stack of secured bookings for the coming year, and the next door artist who went at it on their own would have exactly 0 bookings (and spent thousands MORE than me to be there).

How did I get to attend these conferences without spending all that money and get so many to hurl show offers at me? That’s part of what you will learn in this course.

Don't waste tens of thousands of dollars and years of your life attempting to break into these markets on your own.

Yes, these markets are incredibly lucrative, but they are incredibly competitive and insanely complicated. It took our Special Events instructor Carey just as long to master the PAC and corporate markets. Do not waste time and money on attending these conferences blind. If you show up with little to no idea of how they work, you will return empty handed. Zero gigs booked.

One gig covers the cost of this course. Let us show you the way. And get your live music game back on track.

(If accepted, the application fee will be deducted from your enrollment fee)

Get started now!


Ari Herstand

Cracking Colleges Course Instructor

"The poster child of DIY Music" –Forbes

Los Angeles based Ari Herstand (pronounced Ar*ee Her*stand), is the author of the best-selling book How To Make It in the New Music Business. It remains at the top of the Amazon charts and has been widely adopted by music business schools worldwide.

His music business advice blog, Ari's Take, has become the go-to resource for independent musicians on how to run a successful music career in the NEW music industry. Herstand's well-researched, relatable, no BS approach is why so many musicians continue to trust him for advice. He offers encouragement without condescension and maintains a "we're all in it together" attitude not found elsewhere in the space.

Ari Herstand is an independent musician who has played over 700 shows around the country (nearly all self-booked), has opened for or toured with Ben Folds, Cake, Matt Nathanson, The Milk Carton Kids and Ron Pope, has performed on Ellen, and has had his music featured in countless TV shows, commercials and films. He currently leads the 1973 funk project Brassroots District.

Herstand has written for many of the top musician trade magazines and websites including Music Connection Magazine, American Songwriter, Digital Music News, Playback Magazine, CD Baby, Tunecore, Reverbnation, Roland, Discmakers, ASCAP, Hypebot and others. He has been a featured speaker at SXSW, BBC One's Amplify, ASCAP Music Expo, SF MusicTech, CD Baby's DIY Musician Conference and Berklee College of Music.

Carey Rayburn

Special Events Course Instructor

Trained under world renown Trumpeter Allen Vizzutti and Seattle Symphony Principal Trumpeter David Gordon, Carey attended University of Washington to receive his Bachelor's Degree in the field of Orchestral Trumpet Performance. Deciding the Orchestral route was not for him, upon graduation Carey began performing as a side man in the Seattle music scene and teaching music lessons privately before starting his own project, the band 'Good Co'.

Good Co is now one of the premier acts in the Performing Arts Center market with major agency representation. Good Co has showcased at most of the major Special Events conferences around the US and they have played over 500 shows in the Special Events market alone and make over $200,000 annually performing in this market.


Jake Spinella

Jazz is NOT dead. I was considering throwing in the towel, but thanks to the Special Events course from ATA, my Jazz band has found a pathway to sustained success! The Special Events course has been worth every penny and, at the time of this writing, has paid for itself four times over - in less than a year! The instructor, Carey Rayburn, doesn't limit himself to content creation for the course; instead, he continues to guide anyone willing to do the work. The mentorship alone is priceless.


Never in a million years did I expect to get SIX offers from top booking agencies. Words will never express how thankful I am for all your guidance.

Kev Ohm

ATA is a great tool for working musicians. If I had known how much value I was going to get out of this when I signed up, I would have had zero reservations or doubts about the cost. The relationships that have been able to develop via the introductions made through this community are going to be vital in moving my career forward.

Ross Newhouse

The ATA Team is extremely hands-on throughout the process. I would highly recommend this program as well as all of the other programs. It's a really quality organization and it's an absolute resource for an upcoming musician like myself, or at any level that you might want to gain some additional knowledge.

Tiphanie Doucet

I would totally recommend this course. Three agents wanted to sign me, choosing was not easy but Ari was here to help with that too. He was there every step of the way, thank you!!

Lauren Frihauf

What I really loved about the Cracking Colleges course is the instructor. She was so amazing. She walked us step by step through the process, giving us very constructive yet positive feedback, so we could really craft a solid video to showcase to the colleges. There is also a really great sense of community amongst the artists taking the course, we're all just rooting for each other and trying to help one another end up with a product that we're proud of in the end. I was really fortunate to get on with a college agency and I honestly don't think I could have done it without ATA. So for anyone who is looking to get involved in the college entertainment market, I highly recommend enrolling!

Gospel Lee

Wisdom is priceless & Ari has a lot of wisdom. I made a small investment, but now I'm looking at being able to make several times that. It was absolutely worth every penny. The greatest investment you can ever make is in yourself. Nobody is going to invest in your career more than you.

Cas Park

I have meetings with University Booking Agents next week that I got directly through taking the Cracking Colleges course. I'm so grateful. I recommend it to every musician I know to go take these courses. They're so powerful. The teachers are great and the community group is great with all the students helping each other. There was lots of followup with the teachers. They keep giving more information through Zoom Q&As and stuff like that. Definitely take these courses because they're so, so powerful!

Frequently Asked Questions

When do these courses start and finish?

Special Events course begins immediately and will run ongoing. Cracking Colleges begins January 9th with showcases occurring March/April.

If accepted, how much do these courses cost?

Special Events costs $1,297 up front or 12 monthly payments of $127. Cracking Colleges costs $1,997 up front or 5 payments of $425. If accepted, the $25 application fee will be deducted from your enrollment. Remember, in this market, 1-2 bookings covers the cost of the course. Current ATA students, as always, get 20% off the course price.

You will be notified about your application status on Monday, October 31st.

I am an agent, will this cover how to go about booking my acts?

Special Events will teach musicians, managers and agents how to get showcases at conferences and master the marketplace. Cracking Colleges is primarily for artists and managers on how to break into the market, but focuses on getting an agent.

Is this applicable for artists outside the US?

These courses are specifically for musicians and managers based in the US and Canada. All of the conferences and booking agencies are based in the US and you will be required to attend these conferences. It will not be worth the cost for you to fly overseas to attend the conferences and shows.

Where does this course take place?

It is an online course. We will have regular video calls. The weekly assignments will be reviewed with thorough feedback given by our student advisor.

How much time will I need to allocate to this?

Anywhere from 2-10 hours/week is recommended.

I'm currently an ATA student, do I get a discount?

Current ATA students get 20% off the course price (not the application price).