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Music Event Planning: Whys and Hows

Posted by Alexandra Voigt on 04/26 at 12:13 PM

Following up to my previous article on the booked acts for Movin’ On and the reasons for the committee’s final decisions, I want to delve into the nature and process of concert management and planning.

The students on the CORE committee of Movin’ On are each in charge of different assignments and tasks, but everyone’s work pertains to the overall goal of booking quality acts.

In the past three years, student opinion has varied as to the quality of the acts: Matt and Kim (okay response), The Blue Method and State Radio (decent response), The Spill Canvas (not-so-good response), and Say Anything (rain and thunder quickly aborted any potentially positive response). The reason for the relative lack of star power in who plays the festival is partly due to UPUA’s small budget for the organization — ultimately narrowing down the kinds of groups Movin’ On can choose from.

This year’s budget (though still limited) was greater than any past year by far. With more sponsors and more funding, this year’s entertainment budget was large enough to try to bring in more recognizable acts that the primarily uniform Penn State student body would hopefully approve.

Further, in order to truly produce a festival entirely dedicated to the students, the committee created three student-opinion online surveys regarding the most preferred genres of music and artists. The students’ feedback was then used to finalize the line-up. Despite these efforts, when the bands were announced, criticism prevailed.

Because of this criticism, it is necessary to explain why Movin’ On chose the bands it did, and what other factors go into booking acts.

First, it is very difficult to find a band willing to play to a college-based audience, in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania, and under University-approved guidelines within a limited budget.  Also, the student committee must incessantly check the band’s availability. Most of the prospective bands and artists that the committee was aiming to book ended up being on tour, out of the country, or simply unwilling to play college shows.

Because the music industry is so fast-paced and competitive, it is essential that band managers and publicists be just as dynamic. This inevitably means many artists become unavailable overnight. And it also doesn’t help that the student members of Movin’ On are indeed students, and not professionals—at least not yet.

Therefore, one can begin to see how unpredictable the course of events can unfold when planning a large public event. So Long, Pluto, for example, was originally on the list of the student bands to play Movin’ On. However, two of the band members’ schedules conflicted with the date. So the lineup changed accordingly.

Movin On isn’t quite on the same level as major music festivals when it comes to booking talent. Festivals like the widely known Bonnaroo Festival, Lollapalooza, and Bamboozle aren’t usually the ones doing the persuading. Thousands of bands apply to have the chance to play at these types of festivals. Ultimately, the majority of them don’t make it.  Currently in its tenth year of hosting a weekend-long music and art extravaganza, Bonnaroo works together with the press—as do other festivals and concert events—in order to promote and fund itself. Many various music magazines, newspapers, and entertainment agencies seize the opportunity to cover, sponsor and/or collaborate with events this epic.

New music festivals arise every year. Some flourish while others lag behind and eventually have to call it quits. Many assume a festival is doing well, executing lively, talented acts. Yet on the business side of things, the managing company has little or no money left.  The Rothbury Music Festival, for example, was a real phenomenon for the two years that it was running. Then, unexpectedly, the 2010 Rothbury was canceled in order to re-focus for summer 2011. However, it never worked out. Instead, Electric Forest took over and is now unveiling its artists for the first time this summer in place of Rothbury.

When Movin’ On starts on Friday, April 29 there will likely be skeptics. But this year’s headliners are sure to herald in a record attendance regardless of any negative comments.  After all, who is going to deny a free concert?  This was a tough year for the committee on Movin’ On—dealing with construction and inevitable location changes, forming partnerships with other clubs and radio stations, pursuing a larger budget, trying to differentiate “Movin’ On” from separate musical events, etc.  Having the increased budget actually made it more difficult in deciding how to balance out the headliners, i.e., how much to spend on the rock act versus the hip-hop act.  I think everyone would agree that the main thing lacking this year was organization and planning in advance.

Nevertheless, the results of the final online survey distinctly presented all of the students’ votes in order of which artist was most favored and which artist was not. The director completed the selection process fairly and appropriately.  Everyone, including the Movin’ On committee, had high hopes in featuring a music festival that could cater to all. However with a limit of four paid bands allowed, it would be quite impossible. Hopefully, though, students will come together and celebrate their academic achievements and accomplishments from the school year. Regardless of one’s musical preference, Movin’ On is sure to put on a memorable show.

{name} Author: Alexandra Voigt
Bio: [Alex] is currently a senior double majoring in Print Journalism and International Studies with a double minor in Music Technology and French. As random as all that may seem, Alex’s true passion lies within the art of music and the countless characteristics of rock and roll. Growing up to everything classic rock, she indulges in Led Zeppelin, The Doors, CCR, The Animals, Neil Young up through 90s grunge and today’s indie/folk rock and electro beats like: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Spoon, The Black Keys, TV on the Radio and Bassnectar!, (don’t turn away, that is only a taste of the list). Alex also loves using music programs like Logic Pro to mix, modulate and place different effects on songs, which is why electronic/techno and dubstep play an essential factor in her everyday life.

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