Low morale for LOCASH explains why students deserve more input in future spring concerts

Category:  Opinions
Wednesday, March 13th, 2019 at 5:25 PM

Between an ironic “yeehaw” when LOCASH is brought up among my peers, and the initial University Programming Board (UPB) Twitter exchange when this was first announced, I cannot say I’m anticipating a spring concert turnout like last year’s (T-Pain). 

Every year, UPB is tasked with finding an artist for the campus spring concert, as well as contributing other programs and activities for students’ enjoyment. This year, they settled on the country-pop duo of Chris Lucas and Preston Brust, otherwise known as LOCASH. Their biggest hit “I Know Somebody,” sits at a massive 46 million streams on Spotify, and they’ve co-written music with the likes of Keith Urban, Tim McGraw and Tyler Hubbard (Florida Georgia Line). 

Despite the big time associations and digital success, though, it seems like this choice hasn’t exactly generated much ‘Boro buzz. And considering we really only have the one, big concert in the spring, a lack of interest is an issue certainly worth discussing.

To gauge interest, we posted polls to our EdinboroNow social media accounts. On the Twitter poll, out of 49 votes, 27 percent were “Excited to see LOCASH” and 73 percent were “NOT excited to see LOCASH.” When we asked the same question on Facebook, we received 35 votes, with 14 percent being excited and 86 percent not excited.

Looking at additional social media interactions, there are five listed as “going” to the show, while nine are currently “interested.” Out of 21 interactions on the initial LOCASH announcement post, 13 people liked the post, four disliked, three loved and one person laughed. Digging up the old T-Pain Facebook post, there were 111 interactions with 86 likes, 13 laughs and 12 loves.  

Although everyone has their own tastes, and not everyone in the community uses social media, the response still seems muted, at best. I believe the issue lies initially in how little the student body is involved with decision-making of the spring concert. Traditionally, students receive an email in the fall where there is a poll on BoroSync, and we pick the genre. Then we continue about our lives and do not hear anything for the next four months as the UPB board lays out all the options and decides on the concert. 

Talking to someone familiar with the concert selection process, they explained that UPB receives an allotted budget from Edinboro’s SGA of $80K to $100K a year. Included in the cost is not only the money for the talent, but venue costs such as equipment rental and security, which alone could run upwards of $20K. That leaves the committee with only $60K to $80K to book an artist with. A huge artist is not very feasible on that budget. Then the committee brainstorms ideas for the artist, send out the poll and then work from there. Pop typically dominates the polls, and country is a genre that brings in the community, as well, so these genres do tend to drive the spring concert choices. 

So, first, we don’t have the money to book a huge artist, so we find ourselves settling in the middle. Even T-Pain, which brought people out, has seen more popular days. 

What if, instead of focusing on the biggest name we can pull in, which in reality ends up being a D- or C-list music artist signed to a big-name record label, UPB honed in on artists who are smaller, but who have a fanbase around campus or regionally. If anything, hasn’t the lack of hype for LOCASH shown us that just because an artists has big connections and a radio hit, it doesn’t mean people actually know them and want to drop cash on a show. This way, when people aren’t as enamored with one choice UPB makes, money isn’t wasted on a show nobody is really interested in. Why aren’t we bringing in 2-3 bands a year, smaller bands that have proven to be draws in Erie, Pittsburgh and surrounding cities?

If concerts were downsized from McComb Fieldhouse to, say, the Pogue Theater, or even the stage in Alexander (which actually has fabulous acoustics for live music), not only could there be a possibility of a sold-out concert, but there will be more chances for the students to get out and hear genres that they love. 

The initial genre poll would help streamline the search, but overall, I’d love to see UPB offer more options for input when it comes to these concerts. A defense I’ve seen and heard to feedback about the concert is to “join UPB,” so you can have a say. But that feels unrealistic to those who do care and are already involved in other organizations. As a music lover and frequent-as-I-can-afford concert-goer, I would love to get involved, but I’m already involved in three other campus organizations, work and go to classes, so it’s just not a possibility for me and other students who are in the same boat. 

Sending out a more in-depth survey early in the fall semester, with questions spanning from favorite genres to favorite artists in that genre (and an even an open-ended section that asks what students want from the concert) would be beneficial. This eliminates the guessing game for UPB, who could compare genres and names that come up frequently. If an artist who repeatedly comes up is not within our range, then they could move the search to someone with a similar sound, or even someone who has opened for them. The students spending the time to fill out the survey are likely to be the ones with the most interest in the concert, so I believe that could set UPB on a more successful path. 

So, second, let’s book more concerts, but focus on smaller acts that have proven, dedicated fanbases. Let’s not put all our eggs in one musical genre basket.

Many of my friends around campus like classic rock like Led Zeppelin or the Grateful Dead. Although these bands are not completely around anymore (and definitely not within our price range), a tribute band that covers their music could be a great side option. Or, can the university tap into the already burgeoning pop-punk and rock scenes in this and the Erie area in throwing shows on campus?

In addition, between the Soundcloud rappers, Bandcamp indie and all-you-can-listen-to buffet of music streaming, people, and especially the most hardcore music fans, are moving away from homogenized, radio-friendly mainstream music. Those hardcore fans will likely be the ones not bailing the day of a show, while invited out-of-town friends down for it. It also should be noted that overall streaming numbers are sometimes not an accurate representation of popularity, especially when taking into account the students of our campus. 

If you like LOCASH, I’m sincerely glad you have the opportunity to see them live. Support the bands you like. Concerts and live music can be incredible and fun experiences, and I wholly encourage anyone who enjoys their music to take advantage of those ticket opportunities and go.

If you don’t like the spring concert choice, though, voice your opinion, participate in next year’s poll (or hopefully survey) or join UPB. For those unhappy, let this be a lesson in the importance of exercising your right to vote and in participating, even in the microcosm. We need people who are passionate about music and all kinds of it if we want a concert we can be passionate about. 

It’s just disheartening as someone who is super passionate about music, I find that the money I have to contribute to this concert isn’t even going towards something that seems worthwhile to the majority of students on campus. I have to ask the question that as an Edinboro student, when I pay the $250 student activity fee, am I getting my money’s worth? Because right now I feel like I have little choice as to where it goes, and am even more disappointed that in my time here, I have not thought of the spring concert as worth attending. 

At the end of the day, I come from musician-folk and am a musician myself, so I just want people to get out, support live music, and have a good time. But it’s difficult to advocate for that when both myself and the vast majority of people around me are not interested in what is being presented to us with our own money. 

 

Livia Homerski | ae.spectator@gmail.com

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