On Sunday, April 26, I attended what turned out to be the most disappointing event I had ever been to. That’s right: I made the mistake of buying a ticket to go to the Student Association Programming Board Spring Concert.
I went to the box office to get my ticket soon after they went on sale, figuring I’d be safe and guarantee myself a ticket in case I couldn’t make it later in the week. When Thursday rolled around, and I found out that they were offering $5 off tickets, I felt just a little cheated.
So when I left the concert after The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus’ set, only to get a text message later in the evening saying that anyone was being allowed in for free, I almost started to wonder how something like this could happen. Even after reduced ticket prices, the crowd for a concert at a college was so small that the headlining act refused to play until it got bigger? Who could have seen this coming?
I could have, and here’s why: You can’t just expect a concert to be successful if you don’t plan for your audience.
Now just to be clear, I don’t purport to know how the entire process works, and I have no idea how much it costs to bring a band to Oswego State. But the SAPB concert coordinator said that a 900-signature petition to bring N*E*R*D to campus was brought to them by a student.
That was SAPB’s first mistake. Using a petition to decide what band students want to see is about as effective a method as having concert attendees text message their friends to get a bigger crowd. Anyone who has ever run for a hall council position can tell you how easy it is to convince people to sign a petition. That doesn’t mean the people who sign it actually care. I don’t doubt that some people signed it just to get the person to leave them alone.
SAPB’s other mistake was in picking the other bands. To do this, SAPB put out a survey with a list of possible bands, asking students to pick three. The problem with this? The survey wasn’t circulated well, and it contained bands that many people complained they had never even heard of.
Wouldn’t it be possible for SAPB to send a link to the survey to students via e-mail like the Student Association does for its elections? Everyone who wanted to vote could, and no one could vote more than once. People could suggest their own bands or rate their level of interest in pre-chosen ones. They could even say whether or not they would attend a hypothetical concert at a hypothetical price. It might not work out much better than the antiquated method of printing off surveys, but if Sunday night was any indication, it couldn’t fare much worse.
To be fair, not all the blame should be placed on SAPB. While I can’t speak for Secondhand Serenade, since I didn’t stay for his set, the first couple of bands didn’t succeed in stimulating the audience, and that’s probably a big part of the reason people left before N*E*R*D.
The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus was an utter disappointment. Their stage presence was abysmal and they did nothing to get the tiny audience excited, despite having a few hit songs in their arsenal. At least the opening band, Drive A (whose parents presumably had to sign permission slips for them to come all the way from California), had some energy. At one point, the singer tried to crowd surf but was dropped immediately. He was a trooper though. He just got up and kept on singing. I respect that.
I remain pretty disappointed that I wasted $20, which could have bought me three Zonies, but hopefully this flop has at least taught SAPB a lesson. You either have to commit to figuring out what the people who might actually come to the concert want to see, or you might as well just pick the bands without giving the students any say.