Weighing the options

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October 21, 2008

1:52 AM

There has been a great deal of talk on campus about the University Center Activity Board’s choice of musical acts for Homecoming weekend; much of it has been negative.

“I would definitely go if it was a better band,” Jessica Rogers ’11 said.

“Yeah, it’d be nicer,” said Lauren Campbell ’12.

While UCAB has always aimed to find musical acts that appeal to a large percentage of the student body, the committee often is heavily limited in terms of what acts to choose from, according to Will Sealy ’09, a member of UCAB’s music committee.

“We’re always looking to find bands that students will look forward to and enjoy,” Sealy said. “The problem is that students don’t realize how complicated the process is.”

According to Sealy, UCAB is alotted $200,000 per year; this sum is distributed among all UCAB committees, meaning that even bands in the $60,000 to $70,000 range can be a stretch. A band as popular as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, according to Sealy, can cost as much as $500,000. The Ying Yang Twins, who performed at the Lake Matoaka Amphitheater last Spring, cost about $20,000.

Though financial limitations are always the greatest challenge for the music committee in selecting an act, other factors include a band’s competing offers and whether or not a concert at the College of William and Mary could be fit into a band’s slated tour route.

“A lot of students forget that the music industry is a business, and we’re a school. We’re not full-time employees,” Sealy said. “Getting [a popular band] out to a small state school cannot always be a reality.”
The music committee selects possible acts based on each member’s own musical interests, but has recently started using student feedback through the committee’s blog and Facebook group, where students can keep up with committee decisions.

One post on the Facebook group by UCAB committee chair Sean O’Mealia ’09 described UCAB’s goal “to appeal to sections of campus that have not been represented by past acts.” Sealy explained the selection of up-and-coming bands as a way of tapping into new genres.

“We’re simultaneously looking for bands that students know, but also up-and-coming bands,” Sealy said. “They’re more interesting, and we can get them while they’re cheap.”

According to Joe Lowder, assistant director of the Student Activities Program, over 100 agents were contacted for musical acts that ultimately rejected offers from the College, including groups such as The Decembrists, Ben Folds and Sufjan Stevens. Formal offers included artists such as Rilo Kiley, Michelle Branch and Death Cab for Cutie. Because UCAB cannot legally make a formal offer to more than one group at a time, the process can be slow.

“At the end of the day, it’s no longer us picking bands off our iPods,” Sealey said. “It’s what bands are coming to us.”

Members of WCWM radio expressed enthusiasm for the addition of The Cool Kids to the Homecoming lineup. WCWM DJ Zach Claywell ’10 cited the committee’s improved transparency on account of its Facebook group and student blog as a reason for a more student-friendly selection.

“I think UCAB, with The Cool Kids, have finally redeemed themselves for the past few years,” Claywell said. “I’m glad they’re not getting bands without our input. They’re pushing for more transparency.”

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