Every year at the beginning of fall quarter, a mass of students crowd into the UC Riverside quad to see the beguiling attractions available and musicians performing at Block Party. For students, Block Party serves as a rite of passage from the end of summer into the full-fledged return to school.
And yet, for such a massive event, which regularly hosts such top-tier artists of from different genres — from Kendrick Lamar and Schoolboy Q to RL Grime and DJ Snake — the individuals orchestrating it all are relatively unknown, working behind the scenes to plan the highly anticipated final products of Block Party, Winter SOULstice and Spring Splash. Enter stage right: The Associated Students Programs Board (ASPB) Concerts Team. Surprisingly, the team is relatively small, consisting of Vice Chair person Sadie Padilla along with Concert Directors Michael Carella and Grace Baek. We were able to sit down with the team to discuss the various dynamics which go into planning such large scale events with high profile artists.
Our initial question going into the interview was: How does one manage to navigate this massive library of artists, and make any picks at all? Carella, a fourth-year, claimed, “It’s definitely like this vast library of musicians and artists, but this picking and choosing is somewhat limited, because there are so many factors that play into it. Like some artists don’t play college shows, some artists are doing a festival, or are on tour, or some other limitation. From the outside looking in it looks like there’s this library of artists, but once you start diving into it, there are so many different factors that take out so many options.”
Because of various factors, the list inevitably gets whittled down. However, the issue remains: What artists would students like to see? With such diverse student demographics, it can be challenging to feel comfortable with their choices. However, as Michael explained, “For us, no matter what event we put on, someone will be dissatisfied, so with that in mind we just try to cater to as many people as we can. What really hits home for a lot of people is usually the EDM and hip-hop artists that we bring, so that’s the direction we like to go in. And that’s kind of how we get started. We do surveys, and try to get a feeling for what the students want. If we brought a big name country artist, not many people would be excited.”
However, this is only the beginning of the process. Once ideas for potential artists are generated, the Concerts Team begins consulting a middle agent, who was connections with a number of different labels and managers. According to Carella, the process begins “by working with a middle agent, contacting the management of these artists becomes much easier because he has already planned college shows with different colleges. So from the outset, we just sit down with him and figure out the direction we are going in. From there, we work around the budget we have and the artists themselves.”
The entire ASPB board works together to make final decisions on which artists to book, once a finalized list of potential artists is developed. When it comes to making final decisions, Padilla says, “the whole thing goes through board votes. We work with a lot of opinions, so we primarily reference the surveys which give us an idea of what the students want. For each of us on the board, we realize that we are each representing almost a thousand students, so we make sure to be careful with our votes.”
The Concerts Team works tirelessly behind the scenes to bring forth a thoughtful, well-balanced lineup of musical artists and unique attractions whilst navigating a host of outside factors and limitations. Next time you enjoy a concert at UCR, remember to thank the students behind the curtain.