CAB plans big concert in Spring of 2009

By Lochrane Smith

The University of Richmond's Campus Activities Board is planning a big spring of 2009 concert with a headline-name band because CAB received increased funding from the Board of Trustees, sophomore Josh Huffines, vice president of finance, said at the end of the spring semester.

CAB's budget will increase from $75,000 to $90,000 because the Student Organizations, Budget and Appropriations Committee, SOBAC, received additional funding from the Board of Trustees for student events, and its members allocated an extra $15,000 to CAB, Huffines said. CAB members hope to have a big spring of 2009 concert with a group that will attract a large crowd, and members are considering Lupe Fiasco, Guster and the Ying Yang Twins as potential entertainers, he said.

"The increase in budget helps, but we're still quite a ways off," Huffines said. CAB spent only $69,000 of its $75,000 budget this year, which is good for CAB because the group benefits from rolling funds over each year to cover costs, Huffines said.

CAB members have discussed a joint concert with a rock band like Virginia Coalition opening for a rap group at a big spring concert, sophomore Natalia Sanders, special events coordinator, said. A joint concert would cost around $90,000, she estimated. To promote a big concert, CAB would call radio stations and pay for newspaper ads, freshman Jen Le, publicity chairwoman, said.

CAB's biggest problems in recent years include insufficient funding and facilities that are either too big or too small for an event, such as a concert, a comedy show or another entertainer, CAB advisers Max Vest and John O'Donnell said.

The University of Richmond does not match up with a number of comparable institutions in regards to funding, Vest said. Senior Maggie Lubbers researched student funding at other institutions and found that Davidson College has $250,400 reserved for student funding, Colby College has $230,000, Rhodes has $194,000 and Wake Forest University has $200,000. Of these institutions, Davidson, Colby and Rhodes have no more than 2,000 undergraduate students and Wake Forest has just over 4,000 students, she said.

CAB has a budget of $75,000 for the year, and it replaces money lost in previous years' events by charging admissions, though the admissions typically make no more than $5,000 a year, Vest said. Last year Matt Nathanson's concert, for which students paid $7 per ticket, sold out, but Robert Randolph and the Family Band, which cost $20 per ticket, lost $20,000, Huffines  said.

CAB's biggest limitations include having a facility and a time for an event, Vest said. Because the university plans to renovate the floor of the Robins Center in the fall of 2008, CAB will not have that space available for a large-scale concert or event, he said. In the past, CAB has used the Robins Center for large concerts, such as Robert Randolph and the Family Band in the fall of 2007, Vest said. In previous years, CAB has brought to campus Yellowcard, Guster, Ben Folds and Maroon 5, he said.
"It's college.  People expect a big concert with a headline name," junior Mary Colleary, CAB president, said. "People don't take CAB seriously because of our lack of ability to bring that big concert."

On average, concerts lose $30,000 per show, Vest said. Kenny Loggins, Dave Mason, George Clinton and Ben Folds did, however, make money for CAB, he said.

Folds, whose concert profited CAB, attracted a 75 percent non-UR crowd, as evidence that CAB concerts need the support of the Richmond community because usually around 1,000 students attend, Vest said. CAB needs about 3,500 people in the audience to break even, he said.

Many students who have attended CAB-sponsored concerts in the past have enjoyed themselves. Sophomore Liza Billington attended the Matt Nathanson concert in the spring of 2007 because she had listened to his music before she heard he was coming to campus. "The venue [Modlin] wasn't that big, but it was packed," she said. "Half the people had heard of him, and those who liked him just spread the good word."

Freshman Amelia Vogler attended the Robert Randolph and the Family Band concert in the fall of 2007 and said, "It was a good concert, and it seemed like a lot of people were there, but apparently they didn’t sell as many tickets as they would have liked to have sold€¦ maybe because it was on a Thursday night, and the fact that Robert Randolph is usually an opening act for bigger bands, not just a solo act."

Robert Randolph and the Family Band invited audience members on stage during one part of the show, sophomore Hillary White said.

"The Robins Center is not really equipped for a show," Vest said. The university needs to rent generators, a stage, lights, sound and security and to promote the event by advertising in roughly six or seven student newspapers, he said. "You need to hire it out because students have classes," he said.

CAB members attribute poor attendance to not enough students recognizing the artists, different tastes in music and the wrong timing in conjunction with other activities, Vest said. "The availability of the Robins Center is the big factor as they are limited one to three dates a year," he said. "Lining up the date and talent is the prime challenge." Concerts have been poorly attended in the past because students have other obligations during the week, and with limited funding CAB cannot attract an expensive headline group to appeal to all students, Vest said.

Because Camp Concert Hall holds 600 and the Robins Center holds 5,000, CAB struggles to juggle the two options, Colleary said. The Greek Theater seats roughly 1,200, but CAB needs a back-up facility in case of rain when planning events there, she said.

O'Donnell said, "In my opinion, we shouldn't be doing major concerts here." O'Donnell tends to have a pessimistic attitude toward CAB, Colleary said.

CAB puts 75 percent of its budget on the line when it sponsors large-scale events, such as concerts, O'Donnell said. To break even or pay off debt from a poorly attended concert, CAB will hold off on other events, he said.

"We get around 900 to 1,000 students and need to attract 2,000 plus non-students to break even," Vest said. "The cost of a large concert is $100,000 plus, and CAB can only loose so much money."

Few small private schools can afford to hold events on a regular basis, Vest said. Although it is not a small private school like Richmond, "VCU virtually does nothing," he said.

CAB has looked into other alternatives for concerts, and next year it hopes to better promote Toad's Place in Shockoe Bottom in downtown Richmond, a venue for concerts that holds roughly 1,700 people, Vest said.

In addition to concerts, CAB plans movies every week in the commons, the student organization fair, orientation events and comedians, and it donates money to other organizations, such as Alpha Phi Omega, the university's service fraternity, Vest said. CAB usually puts on 30 events throughout the year, he said.

During orientation, hypnotist Tom DeLuca consistently attracts from 1,200 to 1,500 students, just as comedic magician Craig Karges has a large turnout of roughly 500 during family weekend, O'Donnell said. The Cellar also does between 25 or 50 events per year with grants up to $100, he said.

The comedian Zach Galifianakis did well, as did Stephen Lynch, Vest said. Comedians from Comedy Central or comedians whom students recognize from other television shows usually attract large crowds, he said.

Steve Starr the Regurgitator comedian attracted so many people that some had to stand in the back, Colleary said. Comedians have been sold out for the past three years, she said.

Next year CAB members plan to capitalize on Fall Festival, which will have a fair atmosphere on the Westhampton green during the day, and a band will cap off the night, Vest said. Student groups can perform to keep costs at a minimum, he said.

Student groups can sponsor different events, however big or small the groups would want, Colleary said. "It's a work in progress right now," she said.

CAB members are more seriously looking into a big concert in the Greek theater, for which CAB would need a back-up location other than the Robins Center, Colleary said. CAB could work around a smaller-named band because of the expected cost and turnout size, she said.

Sanders planned Taste of Richmond, and she will plan the fall fashion show and a cookout on the James River. CAB members are even looking into bringing in a portable ice-skating rink, she said.

CAB members are also planning a trip around Richmond for freshmen to museums and different venues downtown, which is scheduled for Sept. 27, in addition to a trip to Washington, D.C., in October or November and a trip to the outlet malls in Williamsburg, freshman Colby Sheffer, the trips and travel planner, said. "As a freshman, I didn't have that experience of getting outside the UR bubble," she said.

Commenting on the funding required to maintain so many student organizations, Vest said, "We need to do a little bit better job to work the groups together." Nevertheless, groups like individuality and working separately as long as there is money for them, he said.

As the president of CAB, Colleary meets with members of the executive board for one hour weekly in addition to constant email correspondence, she said. "As president, my foremost goal is to bring what the students want," she said.

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