SPB to split next year’s WILD budget in search of bigger talent

| Senior Editor

In a move aimed at bringing a more famous headliner to campus, Student Union’s Social Programming Board will differentiate funding for WILD between the two semesters, producing one “small WILD” and one “big WILD” during the 2020-2021 academic year.

Photo by Curran Neenan

After years of historically equal funding for fall and spring WILDs, the shift will cut the talent budget for one of the concerts from $125,000 to $45,000, allowing for a budget increase from $100,000 to $200,000 for the other semester’s WILD. The change was part of SU’s general budget, which Senate and Treasury passed unanimously Feb. 16.

The big push for restructuring the concert was mass student body support for an emphasis on one WILD with a more popular headliner, according to SU Senator sophomore Gaby Smith, who led the team responsible for allocating SPB funding during general budget discussions.

“When SPB submitted their budget request, they showed us that there was significant support for having the bigger WILD with the bigger headliner,” Smith said. “Ultimately, we honored that request from both students and SPB.”

Smith referred to the spring WILD survey SPB distributed in the fall to measure student opinion regarding future WILD planning. According to the survey results, 62% of the 2,686 students sampled answered that they supported “One spring WILD (with a higher-caliber artist) supplemented with a small-scale fall concert.” 38% of students reported preferring “Two WILDs (what SPB currently does).”

SU Vice President of Programming junior Charlotte Pohl explained that both concerts would still resemble past iterations of WILD, and the smaller WILD would be of similar stature to current WILD openers, who have in recent years included Tinashe, Roy Wood$ and Kiiara.

“The way that I see it, the only difference will be the talent,” Pohl said. “So I hope that everyone still gets excited and plans their whole day around this concert… It’s just not going to be as big of a name, but I hope that everyone still celebrates around it.”

According to a list that SPB compiled in January and that Pohl provided to Student Life in an email, artists like Alessia Cara, Gucci Mane and Rex Orange County are among those who would fall into the newly expanded budget for the bigger WILD.

SPB has not yet finalized whether the bigger WILD will be in the spring or in the fall.

“We are working on some other things that are in early stages so I can’t discuss what they are, but if those did go into effect, it would make more sense to have the big concert in the spring,” Pohl wrote in a statement to Student Life.

According to Pohl, next year’s SPB executive board, which will be led by the VP Programming elected in next Tuesday’s SU elections, will be responsible for the final decision on concert timing.

Some students expressed an interest in having the larger concert in the fall, before many juniors go abroad and some seniors graduate early.

“I think people have been sort of disappointed with the headliners in the last couple of years, so I get them wanting to allocate more money to a bigger crowd-pleaser, but I hope they do not do it when I go abroad,” sophomore Maya Horn said.

Horn’s wariness was not the only hesitancy regarding the shift. Treasury representative sophomore Fadel Alkilani dissented in the general budget recommendations, arguing that “the idea that a ‘small concert’ must cost this much is unrealistic.” He said that since the survey question did not refer to a second WILD, SPB was being disingenuous by requesting funding for both a smaller WILD and a larger WILD.

“I didn’t want [the second WILD] because I felt that if we hosted a smaller concert [other than WILD], we could still fulfill the mandate brought by the survey, which was one very large WILD and a small concert,” Alkilani said. “I was going for the most fiscally responsible way to still fulfill the wish of the voters,” Alkilani said.

Pohl disagreed with Alkilani’s interpretation of the survey question, saying that the question was intended to draw a distinction between two equally funded WILDs and the differentiated funding SPB ended up choosing.

“Past SPB [executive boards] have put the question on the survey ‘Would you rather have one WILD or two?’ and they haven’t explained that the resources for two WILDs would go towards one WILD, they just made it seem like one concert or two concerts. People have always voted for two concerts,” Pohl said. “I don’t think people want to take away one of the biggest social days from a semester.”

SPB Finance Director senior Shelly Gupta said that she believed both concerts will sustain the same sort of campus culture as past events.

“I think there will be a similar vibe to what current WILD is,” Gupta said of the smaller WILD. “There will still be a survey for the talent and it will still be in [Brookings] Quad, so a lot of the elements that people are expecting out of a WILD show will still be the same.”

Gupta added that she expected attendance for the small WILD to rival what it has been in past years. She said that she was unsure if the small WILD attendance would reach the record SPB set in the fall, when nearly 4,000 people attended the concert headlined by A$AP Ferg, but remained confident that large crowds would turn out for both concerts.

“We’ll still have in the 3,000 to 4,000 range for a small WILD and I think for the bigger show we would get over 4,000,” Gupta said. “WILD as an event — people look forward to it even before they come to Wash. U. It’s the only event on campus that I think everyone unites around traditionally every semester.”

Junior Adin Ehrlich, the SPB president from 2018-2019, predicted that student reactions to the change would depend on the organization’s ability to bring in a well-known artist.

“I think that Wash. U. is a very name-brand school,” Ehrlich said. “If you see a name like T-Pain or A$AP Ferg [on the survey], you’re going to vote for that name, because that’s who you know. If [SPB] puts some big artists on the survey and we get them to come to the school, they’re available and make it happen, I think it will [have] a great impact and I think students will have a great time.”

However, Ehrlich cautioned against what would happen if the artist for the bigger concert was of similar caliber to recent years.

“I think that if the artist is somewhat to the same level as artists that we’ve had in the past, it’s not really going to change the perception very much,” Ehrlich said.

WILD has been an integral aspect of campus life since 1973, when a group of students known as Team 31 first started hosting a movie night on Brookings Quad each semester. Team 31 introduced live music to WILD in the early 1980s, but movies kept their hold on the event through the end of the century. Since 2000, when hip-hop duo Outkast headlined spring WILD, music has been the focus, with other key performers including Busta Rhymes in 2003 and Chance the Rapper in 2013.

“I think this is definitely one of the biggest changes to the format since the elimination of the movie aspect,” Ehrlich said.

Students expressed measured support for the changes.

“I think it’s a good idea to have one smaller artist and one bigger artist,” junior Nurzhan Kanatzhanov said. “Mainly because it would bring more value to the show itself and because more people would like a bigger artist once a year than two smaller or medium-sized artists twice a year.”

Junior Samuel Liu suggested that SPB should attempt to bring in a local artist for the smaller concert.

“I think it would be really dope if [for the smaller WILD] they did a local artist and really supported the St. Louis community through that,” Liu said.

The changes for the 2020-2021 year will not affect this spring’s WILD, which is scheduled for Friday, April 24, the last day of classes. Pohl said that SPB has not yet determined exactly when it will announce the artists for spring WILD but that students can expect to know in early April.

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