The buzz behind the act

Last year, MUSG brought Guster to the Varsity Theatre on April 30. This year, MUSG has made some changes to how they chose the act and where the concert will be hosted.

Coordinating 65 events throughout the course of one school year, Marquette Student Government certainly knows how to draw a crowd.

This semester, MUSG expects to draw its largest crowd yet. As 1,000 concert tickets become available on March 1, MUSG is preparing to fill the Monaghan Ballroom in the Alumni Memorial Union to capacity to welcome a highly anticipated artist.

What will that crowd be thinking when Girl Talk, aka Gregg Gillis, floods the ballrooms with the sounds of his mash-up pop mixes on April 20? Probably not about the agents, contracts, budgets, venues, tickets and advertisements that have been in the works since last year.

Finding the talent

MUSG Program Vice President Erin Shawgo, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said Concert Commissioners Edson Juarez and David Bosch have wanted to bring Girl Talk to Marquette since last spring.

“We’ve never had a mash-up artist before,” Shawgo said. “We thought this new genre would be popular with students.”

Juarez, a senior in the College of Communication, said he and Bosch wanted to find a unique artist that would have campus-wide appeal. Girl Talk seemed to fit that mold.

“It’s pretty much all about pleasing the students and getting someone they want to see,” Juarez said.

Shawgo said securing the right artist also depends on what students are currently listening to, which performers other campuses are bringing in and the artist’s availability.

Prior to 2007, MUSG provided programming surveys to students to gain more insight into which artist they wanted.

Recently, MUSG has tried a different approach to receiving student feedback.

“Since the process started earlier this year, we were able to bypass the surveys and do our own research, asking our own friends and people we didn’t know in our classes with all types of majors,” said Bosch, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences.

MUSG began negotiating for Girl Talk in August.

“We really didn’t have or need backups this year because the planning started so early,” Shawgo said.

Bang for their buck

The program board started trying to book Girl Talk before they even knew if he would fit their $45,000 budget.

Part of the $30 Student Activity Fee students pay with tuition covers the entire concert and publicity. The ticket price offsets the initial cost.

This year’s budget will allow tickets to sell for $15 each.

In past years, the MUSG Program Board has had a larger concert budget allotted for two concerts — one in the fall and one in the spring. This way, a $60,000 budget could be split equally for two “smaller” bands.

Since sponsoring two smaller concerts meant bringing smaller-name groups to Marquette, MUSG saw less interest in the concerts. This made it difficult to meet revenue lines, which led MUSG to the decision of hosting only one larger concert.

Shawgo said last year’s Guster concert at the Varsity Theatre confirmed their decision to cut it to one, at least for the following year.

“We chose a spring show because we thought it would be a nice way to culminate the semester,” Shawgo said.

But other changes are coming to concerts at Marquette.

This year, members of the program board decided to switch from the usual venue of the Varsity to the AMU ballrooms. Shawgo said the Varsity is a perfect venue for student music groups like band and choir, but not necessarily for a college concert.

“It’s a beautiful and newly renovated building that we don’t want to damage,” Shawgo said. “Also, the ballrooms are a much more open setting and can fit more people looking to move around.”

Bosch said they wanted a bigger space that would feel more like a concert venue. He added that Girl Talk’s “dance party” music style had a lot to do with the decision.

The ‘big time’

The artist a college chooses to bring to campus not only depends on student preferences, but also on how much the university is willing to spend.

The MUSG Concert Commissioners used the price estimates provided by Concert Ideas, a concert booking Web site that caters to college students with little concert planning experience. The site served as a reference to gauge which artists fell within their budget. Both Girl Talk and Guster are listed in the $25,000-$35,000 price range.

But some colleges have the budget to bring big names to campus.

Loyola University Chicago allots twice the funds to their concert budget as Marquette.

Matt Gebhardt, graduate assistant for Loyola’s student government Department of Programming, said Loyola’s big show in the fall, featuring Flo Rida with DJ Lil Boy and Hollywood Holt, dried up the majority of its $80,000 concert budget.

Gebhardt said part of Loyola’s $29,850 undergraduate tuition goes toward the Student Activity Fee. Flo Rida attracted 1,250 students at a $5 ticket price.

In recent years, Loyola’s Department of Programming has presented Lifehouse, Third Eye Blind, Cartel and Carbon Leaf, Plain White T’s, Michelle Branch and Black Eyed Peas.

For other campuses, such as Central Michigan University, the venue itself attracts big names.

Dave Breed, President of the CMU Program Board, said tickets are usually free to all 34,168 students for smaller-name concerts. The budget comes out of a portion of the $16,000 to $18,000 tuition that goes into the “Campus Program Fund,” he said.

“Only when we have the biggest shows do we charge for tickets. So I think students really respond to that well,” Breed said.

When CMU brought rappers T-Pain and Lil Mama to their Rose Arena in 2007, the 5,000 capacity building was full. Breed said the performance cost the program board $45,000, allowing them to charge $20 for the VIP section, $17 for general admission and $14 for floor seats. They were able to make their entire budget back.

“We have an easy time bringing in pretty big name people. Our organization has been around for 80 years,” he said. “Rose Arena is recognized as a good venue, so artists are pretty willing to come out here even though we’re pretty much in the middle of the cornfields.”

With such a nationally known organization, CMU has brought such artists as Ozzy Osbourne, ZZ Top, Aerosmith, Dave Matthews Band, Yellowcard, Lonestar and Eve 6 to its campus.

While Girl Talk may not seem comparable to bands like Aerosmith and Dave Matthews Band, the artist’s original musical combinations make him appealing to college students.

Dave Stevens, the Midwest representative for Concert Ideas, served as a middleman between MUSG and Girl Talk’s agent. Stevens said Girl Talk has a close-following crowd, especially after the underground release of the artist’s mashups.

College campuses attract artists like Girl Talk because students are the audience buying his records and seeing his shows, Stevens said.

“College kids are the ones that are searching the Web to find that stuff, so his music appeals to them the most,” Stevens said.