The dust has settled on another Sun God. The A.S. Concerts and Events office’s $540,000 behemoth of a concert went off with a few minor glitches, like running out of student wristbands on the first day and a few performance disappointments; but despite these small problems, Sun God 2011 was a relative success.
While the concert had its successes, student tickets were a big factor in drawing the ire of students who didn’t get their desired wristbands. A month ago, guest tickets sold out in four days. Then, the day before the festival, student wristbands ran out on the first day of distribution.
This is the third time in Sun God history that all 17,000 student tickets and 3,000 guest tickets sold out, and the first time that student tickets ran out on the first day.
It’s frustrating not to be able to bring friends to the party of the year, and worse to pay $23 in student fees for the festival and still be denied entrance. But given the “caging” of the festival on RIMAC Arena starting in 2009, and RIMAC’s 20,000 maximum capacity, there’s not much that A.S. Concerts and Events could have done to make things run more smoothly. The office can only sell as many wristbands as RIMAC can hold, and had already cut the number of guest tickets so more undergraduates could attend.
When it comes to wristbands, it’s a lose-lose situation for the organizers: Increasing the number of wristbands would lower the number of guest tickets sold. And given how poorly that strategy went with guest tickets, that solution wouldn’t exactly please everyone either.
On Thursday, sales started out on a bad note with ASCE choosing to open the line more than an hour before its announced 12 p.m. distribution time. ASCE Media Liaison Oliver Zhang claimed that this was done in order to prevent unnecessary line build up, but the move that ultimately hurt students who planned on waiting in line within the time frame set by ASCE.
Still, the line moved briskly, and was nothing compared to the epic lines that stretched all the way to Warren College in 2009. Plus, with tickets on sale for seven hours, there was time for all but students with the most packed schedules to retrieve their wristbands.
Though students are ultimately responsible for picking up wristbands themselves, ASCE could have avoided some of the anger by altering its marketing methods.
The office’s announcements that wristbands would be available on both Thursday and Friday implied that tickets would be available both days, providing a false sense of security. Instead, the office should advertise that ticket lines will open on Thursday at noon and will reopen on Friday if wristbands are still available. That way, students will feel more compelled to actually get their tickets when the lines open instead of at the last minute.
Though Sun God primarily advertises the big name artists it manages to snag, some students just came to dance. Others fled RIMAC field after mistaking Big Sean for Wiz Khalifa (according to Big Sean’s Twitter feed on Friday: “Today is just not a good day for me”).
Last year, the dance tent hit the 3,000-person capacity at 9 p.m., causing it to be shut down and cutting short DJ Z-Trip’s set. In response, ASCE decided to turn the tent into a stage instead — an open arena, flanked by pillars, that was a smaller version of the main stage. The stage lost the enclosed, club-like atmosphere of the tent, which, despite the overcrowding issue, was a crowd favorite in years past.
Still, the new, open dance stage managed to keep the character of last year’s tent without any space issues. In the end, the stage is a worthy compromise between having 1,000 students angrily try to push their way into a tiny structure and having no place to learn how to dougie at all.
Due to possible conflicts in scheduling large campuswide events, attempts to permanently reserve the seventh Friday of Spring Quarter as the Sun God Festival date have proven unsuccessful.
Sports Facilities and Programs Director Don Chadwick said he supports the idea but believes that unforeseeable circumstances could make institutionalizing the change unlikely.
A.S. media liaison Oliver Zhang said the main reason Associate Vice President of Concerts and Events Wong wanted to have the seventh Friday of every Spring Quarter earmarked is so that other departments could plan their events around it.
“Brian got a call from Revelle College [over the summer] asking what date the Sun God Festival was so that they could plan their events around it,” Zhang said. “Brian could not give them an answer.”
Chadwick said UCSD officials also want to accommodate the seventh week date, but there are also other on- and off-campus events that may be scheduled during the same week, such as regional sports conferences.
“[For] real major events, such as the U.S. Open, we will know a few years in advance, but most other events aren’t like that,” Chadwick said. “Suppose our softball team does really well one year; we would want to be open for some home-turf post-season games, which are usually controlled by the conference we’re in.”
According to Chadwick, if UCSD had to host a post-season game, the date of the Sun God Festival would have to change, as UCSD would not be able to handle the influx of visitors.
“The Sun God Festival is just so large — with almost 20,000 participating — that you can’t really do much else during that time,” Chadwick said.
Chadwick said he recognizes the problems of event planning.
“We understand the difficulties of planning for an event of such magnitude and we want to ensure seventh week, but sometimes there are just [conferences or events] beyond our control,” Chadwick said.
Wong has been in contact with administrators since the beginning of January regarding a tentative hold for the festival.
By the end of February, Chadwick decided the move wasn’t feasible, though he and Wong established an agreement to ensure that the date of the festival will be announced by the first week of Fall Quarter.
Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Penny Rue and Campus Events Manager Alex Kushner told Wong that some faculty members want to see the Sun God Festival moved to a Saturday, because they recognize that the Friday event encourages students to skip class.
“There was a push to change Sun God to Saturday, but there isn’t consensus for this across administration,” Zhang said. “One of the reasons that some administrators want to change Sun God to Saturday is that Friday is a school day and the festival encourages ditching. One way we’re trying to address this problem is starting the festival at 2 p.m. instead of 12 p.m.”
Another benefit of holding the concert on a Friday is that it deters non-UCSD members and community members from attending.
“One reason that it should be kept on Friday is that there is no free parking on Friday,” Zhang said. “This helps keep the festival for the students. In 2007, we had a lot of [non-UCSD students] and the majority of the arrests were of [non-UCSD students].”
Hosting the event on Saturday would also make it difficult for the Concert and Events office to clean up afterwards.
“We have an agreement with RIMAC to return the field by Sunday [following the festival] at noon,” Zhang said. “If the festival were to be held on Saturday, there would be no way for us to do the clean up and dismantling in time.”
Wong is continuing to negotiate with Chadwick to have next year’s date of the festival announced before the agreed-upon date of the first week of Fall Quarter — ideally during the summer or the end of the previous academic year.
The line-up for the Sun God festival will be announced during the second week of Spring Quarter.
Students can look forward to higher-profile entertainers on campus as a result of RIMAC Arena’s new partnership with Nederlander Concerts, a West Coast entertainment production company.
The five-year contract, announced Feb. 23, stipulates that the company will bring a minimum of six large arena shows to RIMAC per academic year. Nederlander will also have rights to RIMAC Field, which has a max capacity of 20,000.
“RIMAC is a fresh venue that is well suited for concerts and attractive for performing artists,” Nederlander CEO Alex Hodges said.
The partnership went into effect in early February. The company’s first event on campus this year was last month’s Interpol concert.
Rise Against is scheduled to perform at RIMAC Arena on April 8 and Sugarland will play at RIMAC Field on July 23.
According to Hodges, Nederlander will help RIMAC Arena become a popular destination for musicians and other live entertainment acts.
“If artists aren’t constantly reminded about other venues, they will continue to be booked in the same places,” Hodges said.
He also noted that the bolstered venues should generate more revenue on campus.
According to Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Life Gary Ratcliff, the university generates income from large concerts.
“Expanding the number of concerts at RIMAC Arena and Field will enable the numerous departments involved in these events to support their budgets through additional event revenue,” Ratcliff said in an e-mail.
According to Ratcliff, Nederlander will be required to pay a percentage of the gross tickets sales of each show, with a rental amount that increases each year of the agreement, though Ratcliff did not disclose specific figures.
If Nederlander does not meet the minimum number of shows in a year, it is required to pay rent for that number of shows and the university has the option to end the contract, Ratcliff said.
Ratcliff said the deal will bring critical funds to campus.
“UCSD has become a model on the West Coast for schools looking to expand student life through increasing numbers of events,” Ratcliff said. “This partnership with Nederlander Concerts will enable our campus to keep raising the bar as a premier presenter of the arts and live events.”
Hodges hopes the partnership will succeed and plans to continue booking shows at RIMAC after the contract is up.
Nederlander will work with student organizations to put on shows, but the partnership will not prevent student organizations from using RIMAC’s facilities for existing annual campus traditions, like the Sun God Festival and Fusion — Multi-Asian Student Association’s annual hip-hop dance competition.
“In the last decade, UCSD has grown to producing over 250 concerts a year,” Ratcliff said. “Student surveys have repeatedly demonstrated that continuing this trend is a priority for our students.”
The partnership is a result of an open request from the sports facilities office to local concert promoters for an exclusive partnership in spring 2009, Ratcliff said.
The office wanted to see if promoters could increase the quantity and quality of advertised and ticketed shows and increase student participation in concert planning. Nederlander responded with a proposal outlining its plans to achieve the goals.
According to Ratcliff, students will be able to purchase discounted presale tickets. The discounts will vary for each show.
Students will also have the opportunity to intern with Nederlander in the areas of marketing, production and programming. For the booking and programming internship, students will learn about concert promotion and contract negotiations. The production internship includes learning about technical aspects of shows, such as lighting and audio, and working with artists.
The details of internship positions are still being finalized, though Ratcliff expects the positions to be available during the 2011-12 academic year. Nederlander will work with A.S. Concerts & Events to create programs to incorporate students into activities around live shows.
ASCE will act as an adviser to help create student events, Associate Vice President of Concerts and Events Brian Wong said.
Nederlander will also consult ASCE to set ticket prices and presale dates.
Per the agreement, student organizations may not partner with other promoters, such as Live Nation or Anschutz Entertainment Group, Wong said. He expects ASCE to partner with Nederlander in the future.
“The nature of RIMAC shows are difficult to do by ourselves, as there are lots of overhead [costs] to cover,” Wong said. “Working with a partner would make it easier, so I see it being beneficial.”