By Sean Hudgins
Year after year, University students have watched a series of performers come to campus for a variety of concerts, including the Fall/Winter Concert, Spring Concert as well as Hoops Mania. For each performance, the theme seems to be the same. The performers have either been rappers or electronic artists.
Not since 2009, when CAT brought pop-rock group The Fray to campus, has there been an act that could accurately be described as a band playing actual instruments as opposed to synthesizers and pre-recorded tracks.
CAT representatives say that they are not responsible for the Hoops Mania performer, whom is selected entirely by Athletics. But since 2010, students have grown tired of the campus’ stagnant music scene.
“I don’t know why they don’t get an actual group,” said senior Catie Condrin. “Why are they always rappers?”
“I don’t even go to them,” said Ryan Amspacher, another senior. “I never know the performers.”
On Nov. 7, CAT announced that Twenty One Pilots would be the performer for the University’s second Winter Benefit Concert, bucking this three-year trend.
“We wanted to do something that was different,” says Kevin McClure, a CAT concert co-director. “We wanted to bring a band or group to campus.”
It would seem that many students would be happy to have a performer that isn’t a rapper, especially with one of the most frequently left comments on a student survey, according to McClure, being something along the lines of “no rap, please.”
But why wasn’t this done before?
“I couldn’t tell ya,” said a shrugging Evan McIntyre, McClure’s co-director.
“Those were the decisions that previous concert directors have made,” McClure said.
McClure and McIntyre admit to predominantly being fans of indie-rock and acoustic, folky music respectively——one might speculate that, with the selection of Twenty One Pilots, the director’s preference can be a determining factor in the type of performer brought in.
But according to Nikki Hornsberry, Assistant Director of Student Development for Programming, the final decision is not made by the concert directors.
Hornsberry says that the survey referenced by McClure is sent to 60 percent of the student body. McIntyre says this provides CAT with a representative sample and gives students the opportunity to tell CAT what their favorite genres are, as well as their top three artists, and a handful of other deciding factors.
“I think more people need to voice what they want to hear,” Hornsberry said. “That’s the beauty of free speech. That’s the beauty of music.”
Still, though the survey is designed to be representative, and most students do say that they have at some point received the survey, there are others who are not given this same opportunity to provide suggestions.
“I’ve never seen a survey,” said senior Kathryn Neuser.
“Nope, never gotten one,” said senior Colleen Donahue.
McIntyre says that regardless of who it goes out to, the problem with the survey is that the requests are unrealistic, and usually mention only the biggest names in the industry, including Jay-Z, Beyonce and Taylor Swift.
“I’d love to get them, but we unfortunately don’t have the means at this time,” McIntyre said.
Hornsberry says that even alternative rock band Imagine Dragons, who were once a consideration to bring to campus but were nixed in favor of a bigger name at the time, are now out of CAT’s price range.
She says that one of the big issues with many acts is that although their booking cost may work within the budget, the additional $10,000 or so necessary for production, travel costs and other general expenses can push them out of range.
McIntyre says that he and McClure are not given an exact budget number, but Hornsberry provides a ballpark figure that they try to work with. Neither the co-directors nor Hornsberry would disclose this figure.
“Our challenge is that you have to get an artist just as they’re starting to blow up, so that they’re not incredibly expensive, but by the time the concert comes around, they have blown up to the point that students are excited about it,” McIntyre said.
For McClure, budget constraints seem to be the most restricting factor in terms of deciding who will perform and he admits that part of the reason that Twenty One Pilots were selected was because “they were relatively cheap.”
But McIntyre says that the final decision comes from a consideration of the survey and a great deal of input and suggestions from the members of the CAT Music subcommittee.
In fact, Hornsberry mentioned that Twenty One Pilots was first tossed into the mix of potential performers last year when a CAT subcommittee member brought up their name at a meeting.
She says that once the group agreed on Twenty One Pilots for this year’s show, McIntyre and McClure were then required to put together a proposal, which they submitted to the director of Student Development and the vice president of Student Life, as well as herself, before the selection could be made official.
Regardless of the selection process, however, both Hornsberry and the directors expressed their feelings that the student body is tired of the hip-hop and rap scene and is looking for the change of pace that they feel Twenty One Pilots offers.
“I think Twenty One Pilots is absolutely on the rise and it’s going to be an awesome show for sure,” McIntyre said.
Yet, even with this change in direction from last year’s DJ performance to Twenty One Pilots, whose website describes their music as “piano-driven schizoid pop,” CAT certainly can’t please everybody.
“Why can’t they get a country artist?” Condrin asked.
McIntyre says that there are two main factors preventing the team from bringing in a country artist. The first is that the University would be unable to hold an outdoor concert, ideal for such a performer, because of Radnor Township noise ordinances.
The second, and more likely issue is that “any country artist that people would be excited about, is already a million dollars. It just isn’t feasible.”
“It doesn’t matter so much who it is as long as people have the perception that it’s something they want to be a part of, they’ll want to go,” said McClure of students like Amspacher who are unfamiliar with the artists.
“As long as we get people in the door, Twenty One Pilots will take care of the rest.”
“If students don’t go, they’re missing out on a true college experience,” Hornsberry said.