As students gear up to see 3LAU and Chance the Rapper at Spring Fling this year, it is likely that not many know about the complex process Penn’s student-run Social Planning and Events Committee goes through every year to secure the artists.
Generally the process starts after the SPEC Fall Concert in October, when the SPEC Concerts committee reaches out to major agencies to get a list of possible artists that fall within a certain price range.
“We want artists that are big enough that they have good name recognition but small enough that they are within our budget constraints. Beyoncé, Calvin Harris ... those artists would just never happen,” College senior and SPEC Concerts Director Spencer Jaffe said.
“Artists that were suggested to us are like Fetty Wap, Walk the Moon, Oliver Heldens, Ruby Rose ... prominent artists with one or two top hits,” he said.
Once SPEC responds to the respective agencies of the artists that interest them, the agencies and SPEC must coordinate to see if the artist is available on the weekend of Fling.
“The biggest misconception is artist availability. I know Penn students throw out a lot of great ideas, but it comes down who’s available on tour and who has other shows,” Engineering junior and SPEC Director Kelsey Simet said. “For example, Wiz Khalifa is promoting a movie all weekend ... so it is impossible to have him entertain the idea of performing at Fling.”
Once SPEC has confirmed that the artists are available to perform, SPEC Concerts sends them a bid, which the artists must accept in order to sign the actual contract.
The University also has to approve all the artists SPEC brings in.
“Every artist we’re looking into, we send to our advisor in the Office of Student Affairs and he sends it off to various groups at Penn like the LGBT Center and the Women’s Center to make sure these artists are okay,” Jaffe said. “Artists like Odd Future would probably not be approved just by the nature of starting riots at concerts and their very aggressive lyrics,” he added.
Ultimately, the biggest limiting factor in picking artists is cost.
At the beginning of each calendar year, the Undergraduate Assembly allocates the budget for SPEC for the next academic year. Within the lump-sum grant, the UA gives guidelines on how much to spend on production, security, talent and other subdivisions.
The SPEC Concerts talent budget for this upcoming Spring Fling is set at $180,000, but for the 2016-17 school year it will increase to $185,000. But this increase will not necessarily go directly into talent.
“Even if talent appears to go up by $5,000, we might see that this increase needs to go elsewhere in order to not lose money,” Simet said.
And this increase in talent budget seems almost negligible in comparison to the 100 percent increase in security costs for next year. The 2016-17 budget has $40,000 designated for security and $250,000 for production. Part of production involves building the stage overnight from Tuesday until Friday, because athletic practices take place at Franklin Field during the day.
“Last year the security costs were significantly higher than what we had budgeted for and we are required to hire more security due to intoxicated students,” Jaffe said.
The 100 percent increase in security allocation is a reflection of these rising security costs, which must be met to fulfill University requirements in order for Fling programming to take place.
Renting out Franklin Field is also becoming more and more costly every year, and extraneous costs are added on top of the rental cost.
“The athletic field has had renovations; there’s a new track laid down and in order to protect it [when building the stage] we have to lay down plywood to cover it up,” Simet said.
As the trend of increasing security, production and facility rental costs continues while the talent budget remains largely stagnant, SPEC Concerts is looking for creative solutions to deliver the same high quality Fling to students.
“Historically, Fling used to be in the High Rise Field and then it moved to Wynn Commons,” Simet said. “It only moved to Franklin Field in 2011, so it looks like the next stage may be to move Fling to another location.”
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