Concerts are all happening remotely now. Hannah Rosenberg and the team at KSDT needed to adapt and do what they could given the constraints of the pandemic. Out of the struggle rose some potential room to evolve the booking process.
Jumping up and down. Heads banging to the rhythm of music. All of these parts of a concert happen in a venue. With the pandemic developing and more events being held remotely, this type of setting for concerts is not possible in America for the time being.
If people want to unite to watch a concert, they need to host the event via Zoom. The physical connection to the music needs a buffer, in this case the Zoom meeting, so that the viewer and artist can connect.
The A.S. Council cancelled the Sun God Festival last spring, leaving the future of in-person events unknown. Ever since, both KSDT and the A.S. Council have held events remotely with a host of musical acts giving remote renditions of their performances.
The radical, unforeseen shift left many organizations without a vision for the future. Hannah Rosenberg, the events director for KSDT, took over this past July and the future of events remained up in the air.
Regardless of the questions about whether or not events would happen or any idea about what the budget would be, the fourth year from Eleanor Roosevelt College put her head down and continued to work under the impression that events would happen in some sort of manner.
Rosenberg and KSDT hosted various events during the pandemic with the latest act being Tems, a Nigerian singer-songwriter.
“I feel like it hasn’t necessarily been easier or harder. There are pros and cons both ways, but putting on events this year has been the greatest thing I have done as a student at UCSD.”
She manages the event-planning section of KSDT along with other interns. Her role is to pitch ideas for the next event, get the required approval, and book the artist for the show.
During her first event, she began to realize how much of a toll and time needed to be sacrificed.
“I thought I had a vague idea on how things work, but I didn’t in this virtual world. You need to be all in, be ten steps ahead, and all the pieces have to line-up.”
Rosenberg begins her process by surveying the community around her and attempting to figure out what kind of music is having a moment and what artists are making an impact. She keys in on artists that have a fan base and are creating a buzz.
In an attempt to avoid using previously hired acts, she makes sure to not book people who performed in the past and avoids repeating similar styles of music.
During the research phase, she stumbled upon Tems’ music from a recommendation.
“I asked how she is not bigger or have more streams. I sent her music to my mentor, who is an A&R. and she said I ‘had a good ear with her. She is going to be big.’ It turns out she just got signed to RCA Records. She is from Nigeria and at the time I was thinking ‘what if we had someone from out of the country.’ I decided to store her name in my mental open tabs.”
When choosing an artist, there needs a balance between both the fee that the artist charges and their development as an artist. Rosenberg needs to make sure that the artist is developed to the point of having an agent, a decent catalog of music, and some following.
This “sweet spot” comes from doing the work to make sure the artist has potential, but still needs a push in order to reach stardom. Acts like Drake and Taylor Swift remain unreachable, but the next stars are out there somewhere.
“We need to find a perfect sweet spot where they are developed enough, but not too big yet which is what let UCSD have Drake early on. That’s what I want to happen with Tems.”
Her list of acts is not done at one name, as there needs to be fall-back options in case of a setback or scheduling issue which could potentially arise.
She considered Maggie Rogers as an act that could potentially be chosen. A lot of her friends talked about Rogers as a name that should be brought up as a musical act which further sparked Rosenberg’s interest.
“I really wanted Maggie Rogers. I found it weird that she had not come to our school. So, I reached out to her agent after digging online and asked for her price for performing at a school remotely. It was way too far out of the budget and I asked the agent for any other names and one of the names was Tems.”
Luckily, she could further along the interest in Tems. When in these moments, she believed everything lined up perfectly for her to jump at the opportunity and capitalize that she was already in contact with Tems’ agent.
“I took advantage that I had the agent’s attention and got all of the basic details taken care of starting in December. I scheduled a meeting with some A.S. advisors and they were down with the idea. A bunch of documents like the TAP, which generates the performance agreement needed to get started.”
The legal documents remain the hardest part of booking someone to perform according to Rosenberg. They need to sign and process throughout the school. The agents and the artist’s team as a whole attempt to make sure the documents are sound with the artist being covered no matter what happens.
Once this hurdle is past, the event begins to get planned and laid out according to the artist. Since the concert is streamed over Zoom, the display and layout of the stream needs to fit the artist.
“Nelson from the University Events office, I don’t know how he does it, but he makes Zoom not look like regular Zoom meetings to deal with Zoom fatigue. We walked through the vision for the event.”
The functions of the people behind the scenes present the largest challenge when it comes to pulling off the event. Everyone is doing their job on a remote basis rather than being in person with a green room.
Someone could fall asleep before or during the event which could cause several layers of the production to misfire.
The artist is removed from most of the process as they remain distant and simply block out a certain time slot in their busy schedule to perform. Most of the contact with the artist happens in an indirect fashion as the agent is the only real means of communication.
All of the contracts need to line up and the whole process needs to be done for the most part until it is appropriate to reach out to the artist.
“Something I did not fully understand is how distant the artist is before an event. Most of the time the artist is told to just block out the day. I did not have contact with the manager until Tuesday and the performance is on Saturday so I have not had too much contact with the artist. I didn’t realize how distant the artist is and all that you need to do before it is even appropriate to be in contact with them.”
The ability to put on a show remotely does come with some positives and the ability to change what acts are welcomed at schools.
There is less of a need to limit the search to music here in the United States. The door is open for any artist to perform their music without being limited to travel.
“There are ways to make it the best and using limitations as not limiting, but as strengths. We can push boundaries by having an international artist perform at UCSD which would be hard to fly in, but now because everything is remote so we can manage to make it happen.”
Art by Angela Liang for the UC San Diego Guardian.