Last week, the Student Activities Council announced its choice for Eastern’s fall concert, saying up-and-coming country artist Kacey Musgraves will take the stage at the EKU Center for the Arts stage later this month.
This decision did not come lightly and was the product of months of planning, Poynter said.
“It’s impossible to bring someone that everyone is dying to see,” said Ryan Poynter, SAC concert committee chair. “You can’t please everyone. What you can do is bring someone that everyone is interested enough to go see.”
Back in June, Poynter and the rest of the concert committee started working with its booking agent, who serves as a liason between the artists and venues that want to hire them.
First step: pick a genre. The concert chair and committee weigh the various kinds of music out there.
Once they decide on a genre, they pass along word to the booking agent, who then pulls touring logs, schedules and tour dates looking to furnish a list of artists who are both available and fit the venue’s genre.
“There’s two ways we can go about booking a show,” Poynter said. “Get a booking agent or interact directly with artist agencies. Using a booking agent helps alleviate some of the responsibility from us and makes our lives a little easier.”
During the next part of the process, the concert committee picks its top choices from the booking agent’s list provided by the booking agent. As a branch of Student Government Association, SAC will pass acts that allow it to submit bids to the artists. The bids are submitted to the artist and their agents, who either confirm or reject the offer.
Poynter said if the artist accepts, the contract goes to the Office of Student Life, which is responsible for implementing and executing all of SAC’s legislation. It will go to the University Council and then back to the concert committee. They send it back to the artist for official signatures and then it comes back to Eastern. Once it is signed by both parties, it is considered a fully executed contract and the show preparations begin.
SAC is allotted a budget from SGA which is divided among SAC’s four committees: concerts, weekenders, special events and cultural arts. The concert committee has a budget of $70,000 for the academic year. Typically, the budget is split in half between the fall and spring concert, but there’s leeway there.
“So far I’ve spent $50,000 on the two shows (Kacey Musgraves and Homecoming tailgate performer Landon Austin) we already have scheduled,” Poynter said.
The artist’s fee isn’t the only cost associated with a fall concert. There are also production and hospitality fees. Production fees are used to purchase different equipment, labor, or other additional things needed for the show. And hospitality fees go toward food and beverages for the artists and touring personnel.
“One of the biggest things we can do is spend smarter not harder,” Poynter said. “Let’s say we booked an artist with a really high artist fee, just because the artist fee is huge doesn’t mean they’re a great artist and we are going to bring a packed house to see them. But even when we bring an act with a small artist fee, it doesn’t mean we can’t or won’t sell out [the show].”
There are other obstacles aside from costs.
Richmond has its charms, but it’s not exactly a booming metropolis. And that makes it more difficult to sell an artist on visiting the area for a show.
“Richmond is not a place that you would necessarily plan to go see a show or come see the latest or greatest,” Poynter said. “It doesn’t really draw that crowd. You have to ask yourself the questions of who can you bring people to see? And how do you book the right performances?”
In addition, the venue, and its capacity, also enters the equation.
The EKU Center for the Arts may have state of the art equipment, but it’s still relatively small as far as concert venues go, with room for around 2,000 people. And that makes it a tougher sell to artists, who often prefer the larger arenas
“A lot of these artists I would love to bring, that I would spend the entire year’s budget on bringing here because they would be worth it, we can’t bring them because they’re booking arenas, places that hold seven to ten thousand people.” Poynter siad, “And the best I have to offer is a 2000 seat theater. So venue is another point of contention.”
Still, money ultimately does the talking. Just look at the University of Kentucky, which last week brought in The Lumineers Memorial Coliseum. The Lumineers play well to the college crowd, but they’re also significantly more expensive than the artists Eastern can afford.
“I hate to see our Eastern students going to other campuses to see their show,” Poynter said. “We should be bringing those shows for them to see here because they go to school here. It’s an Eastern pride thing.”
So what can Eastern do to bring in acts that the student body can get excited about? There’s really only one option: University officials need to allot more money to SAC to spend on artists. Seventy-thousand dollars, while a princely sum for some things, doesn’t amount to a whole lot on the concert front.
Maybe if the university found a way to bolster the amount—say $150,000—that would go a long way toward helping SAC bring in acts that generate buzz and put the EKU Center on the map.
Yes, this means some belt-tightening in other areas if Eastern is going to afford the bigger outlay. But the EKU Center is still new and still making a name for itself. So what better way for Eastern to make its mark than to bring artists that draw some attention.