“Did you hear? The Red Hot Chili Peppers are playing Spring Fling!”
“No way! I heard that Dave Matthews was coming and that Aerosmith might drop by.”
Sound familiar? Every year, rumors similar to the ones above trickle through the undergraduate body like the flu, and hope blossoms that Yale secretly decided to spend 0.009 percent of its $11 billion endowment to bring a big-name band to Yale. And every year — unlike the flu — it does not happen. Take this year’s band, Guster, for example – a band that sold out before they had anything to sell. Even during the Tercentennial, when Yale spent G-d knows how much on a 300-pound cake and gigantic blowup bulldog, we got Ben Harper. Harper was a decent choice, but when one friend passed along the rumor that for just another $5,000 we could have booked Tom Petty, he piqued my interest. And Guster? Come on.
What, I wondered, would it take to bring a big-name band to Yale?
The YCC discovered the answer last year when the administration agreed to pay whatever it cost to bring in a famous name in honor of the Tercentennial. Alas, despite calls from influential administrators, U2, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Dave Matthews, and a short list of others, would not come.
“I am not really sure how close we ever were [to booking them],” Libby Smiley ’02, last year’s YCC president, said. “It was just sort of a matter of when we would ask the bands; they were either not available, or they were not interested.” Thus, the YCC this fall got the Counting Crows, who were pricey and relatively popular, but did not break the bank.
Last year’s experience begs the question: is it simply unreasonable for students to expect to see a big-name band at Yale?
Yes and no. Besides Tibetan freedom, famous bands are motivated by one thing: money. Yale has plenty of that, and even when it doesn’t have a tercentennial-sized excuse to shell out, there may be ways of getting around that issue. With U2, however, prestige and sheer desire enter the picture as well. At the same time that Yale administrators were trying to call Bono and friends over the past year, U2’s agent was making plans to play in front of millions at the Super Bowl. While Yale may offer a certain inherent academic attraction to some musicians, especially those like U2 who play for human rights causes and enjoy forums where they can trumpet their views, the Superdome beats Old Campus any day.
Still, Yale has one venue that could potentially stage a major concert. What if, instead of having spring fling on Old Campus, the YCC put on a festival out on the intramural fields and then had a real concert in the Yale Bowl? The show would be free for Yale students, but a regular concert with standard ticket prices for the general public. That would solve monetary and venue issues that severely impede a big band from coming to Old Campus.
“In theory, people are not opposed to that,” said Nina Glickson, assistant to president Levin, who added that variations of the Bowl option have been discussed in the past, but nobody has seriously looked into making it work. Among other obstacles, a contract exists with the surrounding neighborhood that prohibits concerts at the Bowl, and a tremendous community outreach effort had to go into the tercentennial extravaganza this past fall.
Nevertheless, the option remains open to an ambitious future YCC member. “If there is a good, solid proposal on the table with finances that are reasonable, I have never found the administration to be antagonistic,” Smiley says.
Although not impossible, maybe getting super groups like Pearl Jam is a little unrealistic. What then, should a Yale College student expect?
When asked whom the $45,000 that the president’s office gave YCC this year could buy, Richard De La Font, a renowned industry booking agent, rattled off some less than thrilling choices: Marshall Tucker Band, 38 Special, Fifth Dimension, Johnny Rivers, Three Dog Night, and, “–maybe even Cheap Trick. Those are just a few names that might be doable,” De La Font said. Guster didn’t even cost that much.
What if the YCC had another $30-50,000? Now, according to De La Font, Blues Traveler, Three Doors Down, Alice Cooper (“if he feels like playing”), Cake, Doobie Brothers, 311, Blondie, Juvenile, Macy Gray, and Sisqo are in play. For around $100,000, Snoop Dogg and Incubus may be possible. After those names, the prices start to go way up.
“The hardest part with bands is there is a huge discrepancy [in their pricing],” Smiley says. A relatively famous, although not universally popular band like Sugar Ray goes for around $35,000, while Jay-Z, who has about the same number of Billboard hits, but a much bigger following, starts his bidding at $200,000.
Clearly, the $75-100,000 range provides better groups with more name recognition. To get Snoop here, however, would require more money, and thus far the YCC’s fundraising and sponsorship efforts have been disappointing. “[Fundraising] has been kind of a new experience and it is still kind of ongoing — It has not been as successful as we wanted it to be,” said Brad Kahn ’04, who chairs the spring fling committee along with John Harabedian ’04.
With little or no sponsorship available, the YCC could charge to bring in bigger names. If the administration tacked on $10 per year to undergraduate tuition the YCC would have another $52,000 to work with. If it added the same amount to all University students, it would have another $110,000. Combined with what the president’s office already provides, the YCC would have over $150,000 in the latter case — enough to smoke up Snoop and afford the rides and other accoutrements of spring fling. Even if Snoop were too blazed to make the trip, the YCC could procure two or three different, less expensive bands that would satisfy the eclectic tastes of the Yale population.
Until now, however, the YCC has rejected the idea of charging for spring fling. “[Charging] is against the spirit of spring fling,” YCC president Vidhya Prabhakaran ’03 said. “It has been discussed, but nobody ever wants to go through with it.”
“Students do not appreciate it,” Kahn said of the effort the YCC puts in every year to put on spring fling. “I like students to have high expectations. It makes us work harder, but they should not be disappointed when Dave Matthews does not show up.”
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