Behind the scenes of the biggest spring concerts on campus
While the two main musical performances on the Washington University campus this semester are both less than two months away, one announced its headliner more than a month ago, and the other has yet to sign an artist.
Though many students view WUstock and W.I.L.D. very similarly—both are free, outdoor, student-organized performances in April featuring major headliners as well as student bands—the two are quite different in the planning that goes into them.
W.I.L.D. is planned by Team 31, an SU group, takes place in Brookings Quad and features free food as well as music. Congress of the South 40 (CS40) runs WUstock, which is held on the South 40 Swamp.
CS40 announced in early February that WUstock will feature Gym Class Heroes, but the bureaucracy involved in finding artists for W.I.L.D. forces it to make its announcement much closer to the event.
Team 31 co-chair sophomore Casey Hochberg said the process entails a meeting with the Social Programming Board—which includes representatives from Team 31, the Gargoyle, the Campus Programming Council and representatives from the general student body—where groups compile and present lists of artists they would like to pursue. From there, the group discusses the artists, votes and decides on an order in which they wish to reach out to artists and contact their agents.
At that point, they reach out to the artists one-by-one until they get a hit.
“Unfortunately we can’t let students vote like WUstock does because we’d lose credibility with agents if we put out multiple offers to multiple artists at the same time and then suddenly withdrew some of them,” Hochberg said.
She added that it is particularly difficult getting artists to sign because the date for W.I.L.D. is set by the administration. CS40, on the other hand, is able to set its own date for WUstock.
“Booking is tough under such strict specifications,” Hochberg said. “It kills us that we can’t move the date because a lot of the time an artist is available the day before or after the one we’ve been given. While we could appeal for more money, it seems more efficient to just move onto other options since there are other artists who we could find to work for the amount we’re given.”
WUstock organizers find the process a lot less stressful.
“We basically went through a list of bands within our budget and ones that people had heard of and generally gotten good reviews,” CS40 Swamp Committee Chair Bailey Breems said. “It was a pretty relaxed process since there wasn’t a specific deadline at that point.”
Once the group narrowed its list down to 10 choices, they took it to the Services Board of CS40, which reduced the list to five bands. Following this, voting went live on Facebook for Washington University students to name their top choices.
With the voting finalized, the committee made sure the band was still available before getting in contact with a booking agent. Throughout December and winter break, the committee worked with the agent to ensure the contract would come through. Details were cemented sometime in January before the decision was released.
Because the committee changes every year for WUstock, there are some differences between shows. Last year’s performance was strictly headliner and student band performances; the year before, a few inflatable items and a mechanical bull were provided. Nothing is set in stone for this year, though the committee has a few ideas in terms of philanthropic events and food.
Though there are similarities with W.I.L.D. , there are also distinctions between the two.
“WUstock usually starts a bit earlier in the day than [W.I.L.D.],” Breems said. “We also try to give off a more relaxed feeling rather than a kind of ominous night party one. We want WUstock to be a chill-out-enjoy-free-music type of event.”
In the past, Team 31 has used a booking agent to help collaborate with an artist; this year, however, they decided to remove the middle man in order to help save money, which they hope to put towards paying for talent.
“We’re really looking for artists that put on a great live show; we want to catch them on their way up,” Hochberg said. “This year we’ve cut out the middle-man so our money can go further and we can secure quality artists.”
The process of securing a headliner is complex. Most of their budget is devoted to the main act while other openers are paid for through Team 31 fundraising.
Traditionally, fall and spring W.I.L.D. are distinguished between the genres of music presented at each; while fall is generally more hip-hop based, spring W.I.L.D. tends to feature more indie, alternative music. The group currently has an offer out and once an offer is accepted, it will take three to four weeks to draft and finalize the contracts. Shortly after the contacts are signed, the artists will be revealed to the students.
“We sift through so many artists over the course of the semester,” Hochberg said. “It’s a shame that the only name that people know is the one that we ultimately bring to W.I.L.D.—we’re working on being more transparent about the process and sharing who else we’ve looked into.”