This semester, Glow — an up-tempo, high production dance — is at the forefront of Programming Board (PB)’s fall agenda. They have scheduled the dance, which has not been held since Fall 2013, for Oct. 14. Traditionally, PB’s main fall event has been Fall Fest. However, this semester, they are opting for a lower-budget event in favor of a larger-scale Spring Fest. The extra funds allocated for Spring Fest will ideally allow PB to get an artist of increased name recognition, according to PB Manager Kylie Teller (senior).
According to Teller, PB’s mission statement is to provide students with fun, free activities ranging from smaller-scale events to large-scale productions such as Spring Fest. In order to satisfy as many people on campus as possible, they must allot adequate funds for all of their programming. This rationale is what led to their decision to prioritize Spring Fest.
“Even though it’s hard to spend so much [money] on one artist, at the same time it really is what students want [based on] the feedback we’ve gotten from people,” Teller said.
Last semester, Assistant Director of Student Life Diego Silva first suggested that PB replace Fall Fest with a campus-wide dance, according to Teller. This recommendation came in light of recent budgetary constraints that PB has grappled with.
PB’s budget is currently static with no opportunity for increase in the foreseeable future, Teller said. This has forced PB to more carefully manage the funds they are allotted. Their primary source of funding is the Associated Students of Occidental College (ASOC) Senate, from which they receive near-six digit figures annually. However, due to a slightly lower first-year enrollment rate this year, there is less money available to PB from student body fees.
They also receive funding from the Dean of Students Office, which contributed $30,000 last year. According to Teller, although that figure used to be $40,000, the Dean of Students is now trying to redirect those funds into additional scholarships for students — an effort that Teller fully supports.
“I completely understand. I’m not fighting that at all,” Teller said. “You can give an additional $30,000 to a concert that happens one night a year, or you can give three $10,000 scholarships that help someone go to college.”
PB Event Coordinator Nikolai Birch (junior) thinks there is a misconception among students regarding the total cost of bringing in quality artists. In addition to the sum that the artist receives, there are production costs that often double the expense of a concert. According to Teller, artists that have performed in the past have actually cost less than production. Even if the artist only charges $20,000, the stage costs $20,000-$23,000. By replacing Fall Fest with Glow, PB has an additional $30,000 to devote to a larger-scale Spring Fest artist.
“We’re putting a lot of pressure on ourselves to have a really phenomenal Spring Fest,” Birch said. “But I think we’re giving ourselves a better chance of doing that.”
Another factor to consider is that most artists’ contracts stipulate a performance venue and sound equipment of a specific high standard.
“You can’t set up the Cooler stage and rent a [microphone] from the library and call it a day with them,” Teller said. “Their contracts specifically prohibit that kind of production.”
Teller and Birch both acknowledged that in the past, PB has been very fortunate in securing up-and-coming artists at relatively low prices. According to Birch, many artists double their prices directly after PB books them; by the time they perform at Occidental, their prices are no longer within PB’s budget.
For the class of 2017, Glow will be reminiscent of their first semester — the last time a Glow dance was hosted. Birch, who has heard good things about it but was not yet an Occidental student, believes it will be a good event to bring back.
“I think it will be a good way to give the students something without having to sacrifice in order to get a better Spring Fest,” Birch said.
Teller thinks students’ experience at Glow will be more similar to Fall Fest than they may expect. Although PB plans on bringing in a quality DJ rather than a live artist, there will still be plenty of music and the venue will be well-thought-out, she said. Since a large portion of the student body prefers fast-paced electronic dance music, according to Teller, she is confident that a lot of students will still get what they want.
Teller imagines Spring Fest as a larger-scale event all around. She is planning for a longer, carnival-style pre-show that will ideally segue straight into the concert. Additionally, she hopes that an artist with more brand-name recognition will have the repertoire to perform a set that is longer than an hour. Smaller-scale artists such as Kehlani and Odesza that PB has hosted in the past have often been in the beginning stages of their professional career, and thus simply have not had that many songs to perform.
“When we have someone who has more of a brand name, they’ll have more of the brand name music,” Birch said. “More so in terms of popularity, but also in terms of quantity.”