With the rise of electronic dance music, the national College Battle of the Bands tour has evolved to add a new competition called Campus DJ. Starting last year as a way to provide a more appropriate outlet for the high number of DJ submissions in the classic college music competition, Campus DJ is now in its second season and is eager to find the next big college artist. The competition runs nationwide throughout the next few months, with the national finale on June 18.
The way the contest works is that it tours around the country, hitting various universities along the way. The tour includes Cal State Long Beach, Colgate, ASU, Emory, UNC Chapel Hill, San Francisco State, Michigan State, University of Oregon, Chicago Citywide, New York Citywide and UT Austin.
College DJs sign up on the Campus DJ website, providing info, music samples and social media links on their profiles, and from there voters choose their favorites. The DJ who gets the most votes in each region gets an automatic entry, and three or four additional DJs selected by the judges based on strength of submission and fan voting get to compete live in their regional competition. Winners of the regional competitions then advance to the national finale at Avalon Hollywood in June.
Francisco Gomez-Palacio, a sophomore at USC who currently works as an A&R assistant for Campus DJ, works toward finding this talent.
“My job is to seek out and find these talented artists, listen to their music and help make decisions, along with industry leaders, about who to select to perform at these regional competitions,” he said.
In addition to scouting out the best up-and-comers in EDM, Gomez-Palacio communicates with the DJs participating in the competition. This sometimes, proves difficult, however, with the amount of distance between some of the contestants. He is currently trying to solve this problem by working with the Campus DJ team to create an A&R scout program for Campus DJ. This would scatter scouts at colleges throughout the country to “have a more direct and effective interaction with DJs” and further improve the scouting and selection process.
Gomez-Palacio reports to Nate Howard, a 2013 graduate of the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, who is now a full-time member of the Campus DJ team, and coordinates all the events and serves as a host at the actual competition.
“I travel all around the country with our team to the various regional events to organize and eventually host them,” Howard said. “I also help answer any questions the competing DJs have, I help them prep for the competition when they arrive, I introduce them to the audiences and I interview them during the event.”
At each event, the judging panel typically consists of two experienced music industry judges, a Campus DJ representative and a representative from the hosting college. Past judges have included DJ Reid Speed, Ken Jordan of the Crystal Method and Academy Award Winning Songwriter Damon Ranger. DJs’ performances are judged based on originality, energy, presence and artist potential. Each regional winner then gets to open for a headliner later in the night and continues on to the national finale. Once all the finalists are chosen, two wild card finalists — one chosen by the fans, and one by the A&R committee — are added to the mix to compete as well.
Campus DJ’s National Finale on June 18 will bring all the finalists to Avalon Hollywood to crown the next promising new act in EDM. The grand prize includes a $10,000 cash prize from Monster Energy and Campus DJ and a free year of burritos from Chipotle. Even better, the finalists will be “spinning for a cause” and spin on behalf of a charity of their choice. Presented by Chegg, this bit of the winnings gives a cash grant to the winner’s chosen cause. Last year, grand prize winner DJ Flaxo donated his cash grant to 826 National, a free after-school tutoring program that helps students with their writing skills.
In addition, each competition features popular DJs to headline the whole event to draw students at the universities to come check out the contestants. In the past, the competitions have hosted DJ 3LAU, Carnage and The Cataracs, to name a few. This year, some of the guest headlining artists include Cash Cash, known for the hit “Take Me Home,” and the Chainsmokers, who performed at USC Phi Sigma Kappa MasqueRave last semester and recently came out with the viral track “#SELFIE.”
DJ Flaxo of Columbia University has received a lot of attention since his win from last season. Recently, DJ Flaxo was featured on BBC Radio and Vibe, and big time artists like Showtek, Baauer, Flosstradamus, RL Grime and Krewella have used his tracks for their radio programs and live mixes. With this kind of widespread exposure, his following has skyrocketed.
Gomez-Palacio is excited about DJ Flaxo’s expanding popularity, as that is the whole purpose of Campus DJ, and hopes that this year’s winner will reach the same success.
“We strive to find the next big thing and propel talented DJs as much as we can,” Gomez-Palacio said. “I’m excited to see who takes home the crown this year.”
For more information on Campus DJ and to sign up to compete in the competition, go to campusdj.com.