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The Dartmouth
April 14, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Booking big acts is no small feat

This term the College hosted two giants of the recording industry. The Pretenders played in Leede Arena last month and Natalie Merchant, formerly of the 10,000 Maniacs, performed in Webster Hall last weekend.

In the past few years, Billy Joel, the B-52s, 10,000 Maniacs, Phish and Ziggy Marley have performed at the College.

Despite this plethora of popular music acts, Hanover doesn't strike one as a cultural mecca, probably because attracting big-name singers is a complicated process involving the coordination of logistical details and a lot of luck.

According to Linda Kennedy, the coordinator of student programs and adviser to the Programming Board, the Programming Board can only bring a band to campus if the band is on tour and will be performing in the Hanover vicinity.

Kennedy explained that when a band decides to go on tour, agents representing the band try to sell gigs to promoters. These promoters are called "middle agents" and serve as the link between the agents of popular musicians and the colleges that are trying to attract performers.

Dartmouth's middle agent, Pretty Polly Productions, works for 65 schools in the northeast and contacts Kennedy every day trying to find appropriate and available bands for the College. Pretty Polly attempts to match students' tastes with available bands. The schools must also have an appropriate venue for the bands.

"Bands have pretty definite parameters about where they want to perform," Kennedy said. Some bands will only perform in the northeast, others will only perform in theaters and others perform just in arenas.

Once Dartmouth finds a suitable match, the Programming Board checks to make sure the facility is free for the date that the performer is available. Kennedy said this becomes a particular difficulty during the winter, when Leede Arena is frequently used for basketball games.

If the middle agent finds a match and the performer is within Dartmouth's budget, the Programming Board puts the performer's name on the concert BlitzMail bulletin in an attempt to gauge student interest in the performer.

If the Programming Board receives positive feedback, it will submit a bid and then wait for a response from the middle agent. The Programming Board usually spends about $25,000 for acts that perform in Leede Arena and about $10,000 or less for those who perform in Webster Hall. When Webster is converted into housing for Baker Library's special collections, the campus will lose that space as a concert venue.

The Programming Board never makes a profit from the concerts they bring to Dartmouth, Kennedy said, since all student tickets are discounted. When the audience contains a high percentage of students, the Programming Board loses more money than when more non-Dartmouth students attend the performance.

The money the Programming Board spends on attracting bands to Dartmouth comes from the Undergraduate Finance Committee, which receives its funding from the $35 activities fee students pay each term.

The Programming Board tries to attract between two or three big acts to campus each term, Kennedy said. Tickets for the Natalie Merchant concert last weekend sold out almost immediately. More than 400 tickets for the show were sold the first day they went on sale.

What can we expect next term? Since many bookings come together at the last minute, keep an eye on the Collis Info Desk so you won't miss out.