Talbot: Concert selection falters in absence of student input

I’m sure Mary Lambert did a great job when she performed in the College Union Ballroom on Sunday March 29. She seems like a talented singer with some really refreshing ideals. I didn’t see her show, however, because her music isn’t really my taste. It seems that the vast majority of Geneseo students shared my feelings about the choice of Lambert as this year’s sole spring concert performer, as only about 120 students bought tickets.

Part of the reason ticket sales were so poor was because no one formally voted for Lambert. This semester, the voting—which was poorly advertised—was based purely on genre. The voting included such broad categories as “pop/alternative,” which predictably garnered the most votes. Based on that incredibly vague result, Activities Commission set out to find a relevant act that this semester’s slim concert budget could actually afford. This is how Lambert ended up in the Union on Sunday, unbeknownst to many because of the decisions of a very small number of students.

Before this academic year, Geneseo had a single concert system—one big concert that took place in Kuhl Gymnasium in the spring. Last year’s poorly received Mac Miller concert, which was selected by a comprehensive student vote, resulted in a drastic budget cut for AC, however. With its funding reduced from approximately $85,000 to $51,000 in the fall of 2014, members decided to institute a two-concert system, with concerts taking place in the CU Ballroom instead of in the gym.

The budget cuts were unfortunate, of course, but the decision to have two small concerts instead of one big one was made separately, and it was a mistake. It doesn’t make sense to divide an already tightened budget in half. Sure, the Ballroom is smaller and a lot less money is involved where sound is concerned, but an act booked for within roughly $25,000 budget is likely to be a lot less popular than one booked for more than triple that. Clearly, the money was not used wisely this semester.

In contrast, last semester’s Walk the Moon concert was entertaining and well attended. The problem there, however, was not the band so much as it was the venue. Walk the Moon is a decently popular indie-pop band, so the show naturally sold out the first week tickets went on sale. Plenty of people who wanted to go didn’t because they simply couldn’t get tickets and the smallness of the audience detracted from the intensity of the performance.

The Ballroom itself also proved too small for the magnitude of Walk the Moon’s high-energy sound. The doors stayed open for the duration of the concert, revealing a glimpse of the Union lobby to anyone who turned away from the stage. I still had a good time, but all this made me feel like I wasn’t at a “real” concert.

A real concert—just one per year—should happen in the gym, with big sound and a big crowd. A big crowd will show up if the act that gets the most votes is actually the act AC books. This stipulates that there is a vote among real bands and not just vague genres. If there is decent advertising with each stage of voting and the bands are affordable—but largely known—money should be the only issue.

Thankfully, the preliminary 2015–2016 concert budget was announced on March 6, and it has been raised to $67,000. Hopefully, this money will be used wisely and—even more importantly—democratically in the future.