Grannell ’15: What’s the deal with Spring Weekend selection?

It’s that time of year again. Our Spring Weekend artist has been announced and the campus is buzzing. One of the biggest questions is, how did we decide on Sammy Adams?

Programming Council (PC) works with a budget of $25,000-$30,000 specifically to pay our Spring Weekend headliner. This budget does not, however, include our other spring weekend expenses for both Friday & Saturday. These can cost up to an additional $35,000, and include stage, sound, backline, lighting, generator, security, travel, accommodations, hospitality, novelties, advertising, and more.

Pushing the $30,000 headliner price-cap can impact funding toward other components of the weekend that we have come to know and love. Some of you may still be thinking that there are numerous artists within that price range for us to choose from, so again, how did we decide on Sammy Adams?

PC works with a middle agent in order to reach a suitable agreement for both Wheaton and our selected headliner. This is a common practice among colleges, but also limits the number of students that can be involved in selecting the artist.

As PC Chair I searched all sorts of places—including websites, pricing sheets, and YouTube videos—to determine a list of 10 possible headliners that seemed within our price range and appropriate for a Friday night Spring Weekend performance.

Last year’s PC Chair, Bailey McWilliams ‘14, sent a campus-wide email asking for Spring Weekend headliner suggestions. She did receive around 200 responses, but these included 145 different artists, resulting in a list that certainly could not be characterized as what the majority of the student body wanted.

Instead of asking for suggestions in this way, I had originally hoped to have students vote a short list of headliner options. But, upon discussing this idea with my advisor, Andrea Holden of SAIL, I soon realized that this was simply not feasible for the following reasons:

Of the top 10 initial choices, two were now out of our price range (a new album or heightened exposure can increase an artist’s price), three artists were unavailable, and one simply didn’t respond.

That left us with only four options just hours after selecting the initial list. I went back and reviewed these remaining four options by watching as much live footage as I could. After reordering my list at least a dozen times, our first official bid was decided and sent.

After letting us wait and wonder for over 2 weeks, the artist turned us down. I reviewed again, reordered again, added a new name, removed it, added it again and decided on our next bid option. This was done thoughtfully, but also needed to be done quickly and strategically.

Unfortunately, we were too late. The act was no longer available. It was back to the drawing board for round three, and the third time was the charm.

This initial selection process took almost a month, and we settled on Sammy Adams, but it still took him between 1-2 weeks to settle on us.

If you can’t tell from my description of the selection process, there’s a reason why it would not work to have students vote on a performer, even from just our top few options.

What can be helpful—but also makes the choice that much more difficult—is the access to other information we gain when using a middle agent. We are able to learn what performers have recently booked a show in the surrounding area near our date—which could mean scoring a great deal. Using a middle agent also helps us identify performers who might be flexible in pricing or are easy to work with.

Circumstances change in minutes, and decisions need to be reached quickly. Most importantly, if the majority of the student body voted—which seems doubtful since only 347 responses were submitted regarding this year’s Spring Weekend theme—and that act was unavailable or not interested, that would be disappointing result to a large number of students. It is heartbreaking to have an artist you are dying to see reject you, and this, I feel, would result in some seriously negative vibes across campus. If Spring Weekend selection were to be done this way, it seems reasonable to conclude that students would forever be focused on what could have been, and that’s not fun for anyone.

Is everyone going to be happy with the choice? No. It shouldn’t be surprising, but all 1600 of you will not be pleased no matter who comes for Spring Weekend.

As your elected PC Chair I did my best to select a Spring Weekend artist that was within the budget, available, and would provide a fun, lively, entertaining concert for all of you. I hope this explanation makes a difference to at least some of you, and helps everyone understand the process just a bit more.

I also hope that you will contact me with questions or concerns regarding Spring Weekend, rather than posting comments on various social media outlets.

I’m here to speak and I’m also here to listen—but don’t forget that we all have the same goal: to enjoy a fun and safe Spring Weekend. So let’s do just that.