Although it scarcely seemed possible after letdowns like Coolio, Third Eye Blind, and T-Pain, the Georgetown Programming Board hit a new low with its most recent concert, the underwhelming Kevin Rudolf and his even more obscure openers. The disappointing lineup drew hardly any student enthusiasm. In a pre-concert poll on Vox Populi, just eight percent of respondents said they were excited about the concert, and 30 percent chose the “Who is Kevin Rudolf?” response. A concert attendee reported that there were only 20 people or so left in McDonough by the end of Rudolf’s set.
But concerts at Georgetown weren’t always such lackluster affairs. During the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, the Hilltop hosted the likes of The Who, The Beach Boys, and Bruce Springsteen. The music industry has changed a great deal since then—most importantly, booking fees have skyrocketed—yet other schools have managed to continue putting on impressive shows. This year, MIT is hosting Jason DeRülo and Janelle Monáe, and Vanderbilt students will have the chance to see The National, KiD CuDi, Public Enemy, Matt & Kim, and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes.
With a little more effort and forethought, Georgetown’s concerts could regain some of their former glory. But that won’t happen until the Georgetown Programming Board starts prioritizing quality over quantity. Between WGTB and the cornucopia of campus a cappella groups, there are already a number of opportunities for students to enjoy lower profile musical events.
Where GPB really has a chance to impact campus life is in hosting signature concerts from big name artists who can appeal to a broad segment of the student population.
GPB needs change its current booking model. Instead of hosting both a spring and fall concert, GPB should consider dedicating its entire concert budget to a single event. GPB could further increase the caliber of artists by cutting down on the number of openers. Instead of booking four middling acts, as they did for this most recent concert, GPB should concentrate its resources on one major performer.
GPB should also start thinking more creatively about how to finance its shows. GUSA’s recent changes to the Student Activities Fee should mean more money for all student groups, including GPB. But if the funding boost doesn’t fully cover the cost of bringing a good artist to campus, GPB should push for additional funds from the administration and consider increasing ticket prices.
It’s true that in general, broke college students prefer cheaper tickets. But if an extra five or 10 dollars is the difference between a one-hit-wonder and a genuinely popular artist, many students will be more than willing to foot the higher bill. Decades ago, Georgetown attracted legends to the Hilltop. GPB has the chance to recapture these glory days, but unless it starts seeking quality acts, its events will continue to feel like middle school dances.