High School Nation: Exposing you to the one demographic you can’t afford to ignore


If you’re an artist who plays frequent shows both in your hometown and on tour, chances are you’re mostly playing to a 21+ age group. And usually, this is a good thing for a performer — this demographic tends to have more disposable income and is more likely to help run up your end-of-the-night payout with bar sales.

But by default, many artists end up overlooking a demographic that, according to a recent study by Nielsen, contains some of the most dedicated music fans — teenagers.

Nielsen’s study confirmed that 54% of teen concert attendees purchase t-shirts and merchandise [source]. Similarly, 51% of teens have purchased some kind of music (download, CD, etc.) in the last year [source]. These numbers are far above the national average, as well as being higher than any other age demographic.


Founder Jimmy Cantillon

So how do you get a foothold in this often overlooked but highly invested demographic? A good place to start is with this year’s High School Nation (HSN) tour. We spoke with founder Jimmy Cantillon about the festival’s inception and its benefits for the artists who participate:

“With HSN, you play in front of thousands of teenagers,” explained Cantillon. “Those are thousands of trendsetters; thousands of social media mavens; thousands of consumers. They will purchase your album. They will grow with your band and support you as an artist because they discovered you before you broke on a national level.”

Originally started as a lunchtime activities program for a small group of students, High School Nation has evolved into a national tour, visiting more than 20 cities across the United States. Now in its 11th year, HSN has grown from an afternoon of great new music to an opportunity to strengthen arts curriculum in schools, according to Cantillon.

“Over the years, we grew so close to the schools we worked with, that it was very obvious to us that they were hurting for funding,” he explained. “We felt we had an obligation to do our part to keep music alive for the students that would continue to enjoy our live acts during their lunch periods.”


Drake Bell at High School Nation

A returning opportunity for ReverbNation artists, the High School Nation tour offers bands or solo acts the possibility of opening up for Surfdog recording artist Drake Bell in front of thousands of high school students. It will also again seek to create a unique festival-like atmosphere at each school, while giving students the chance to explore various potential career paths related to the arts.

Cantillon clarifies that HSN focuses “on high school students because we think we can have the largest impact at this level. This is a time in life when many new things are presented to you for the first time.”

In short, High School Nation goes beyond most other shows you might play as an artist on the rise — it not only exposes you to an audience that is always looking for new music to consume and support, it also gives you the chance to create fans who want to grow with you.

Submissions close July 31st, so don’t miss out!

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