What does it take?
Two years ago, a large crowd of students gathered in the atrium awaiting an announcement. Campus Entertainment Commission members stood above the students and unfurled a banner revealing the headliner of Cornstock. When students saw Karmin would be the headliner of Cornstock 2013, there was clapping, but there were also whisperings among the crowd asking, “Who is that?”
While there is sometimes criticism for the headline act of Cornstock, many students do not realize the amount of consideration and work that goes into choosing a headliner.
Senior Luke Fitterer and CEC Lead Commissioner said he used to get frustrated by those who were upset over which artist played Cornstock.
“When I was a younger member of CEC, I would hear people badmouth CEC and complain about the act and it was upsetting,” Fitterer said. “Now I don’t get frustrated because I know we can’t make everyone happy, but we do try to appeal to as many people as possible.”
Before the music, before the lights, before the bouncy houses, there are months of planning that go into Cornstock. And before CEC let’s the students know who will headline Cornstock in 2015, there are many decisions that must me made.
What exactly does it take to plan Cornstock?
Fitterer said the work required to find a headline act for Cornstock is immense.
“Trying to find a headliner is a continual process,” Fitterer said. “Since this was my first Cornstock as lead commissioner, I wasn’t really sure where to start.”
The event as a whole has a budget of $65,000. The headliner is budgeted for $35,000 of that total and the opener is $2,000. The rest of the money, $28,000, plus whatever is leftover from budgeting the music acts, is used for lights, security, sound and other costs.
Fitterer, who has been a member of CEC since his freshman year, was acquainted with the Cornstock planning process.
The planning for the April 25 concert begins in November. Fitterer said the CEC commissioner team meets in mid-November to brainstorm headliner ideas.
“We pay attention to who is being played on the radio and see who is popular at the time,” Fitterer said. “We compile a list of who we think would be a good list of names.
Then in December, the list, which has more than 100 names of bands and artists, has to be narrowed down. Fitterer said the commissioner team votes to narrow down the list to a list of around 10 performers. This top 10 list is then debated and organized into ranking by preference.
“We talk about who would be a good performer and who would put on the best show for the student body,” Fitterer said. “The list can change at anytime.”
Once a top ten list is decided, it is given to CEC’s agent, Lance Hughes. He contacts artists’ agents to check availability for the date of Cornstock, their pricing and how interested they may be in playing.
This process can take time. Fitterer said ideally, CEC finds an artist by January, but sometimes they may not be able to ink a deal until February.
“At the point when we give everything to our agent, it’s out of my hands,” Fitterer said. “So much can happen in one week. We could have someone say yes and be done by Friday. We only have so much power and it all depends who will say yes or no.”
Fitterer added that some years are better than others. He said last year Hoodie Allen was one of the top choices and responded right away, and they had a deal shortly after. Some years, they have to go through quite a few different options to find the headliner.
This year was no exception. Brent Johnson Assistant Director of Student Engagement and CEC advisor said this year CEC went through their whole top ten list because many artists were either unavailable or declined to play. He said the group had to reorganize after that.
“There are always roadblocks in the way when choosing a headliner,” Johnson said. “It’s hard when we want to see a specific artist, but none can do it. Then it’s back to the drawing board.”
After Hughes, the agent, finds an artist who is interested in playing, contract details are negotiated. Such details include how much they charge to play the event and the artist’s compliance with school policies.
Once the details are finalized, the contract is signed by the artist and the headliner is booked, only the first piece of the Cornstock puzzle.
Headliner only the beginning
In February and March, after the headliner is decided, CEC begins to look for an opener to play before the headliner. Because the budget is less for the opener, smaller artists are vetted to play the event.
Last year, Hoodie Allen cost less to play than the total amount budgeted for the headliner, so CEC was able to use that extra money to bring in a bigger opener, Ben Rector.
CEC also chooses a student band to play before the opener. In years past, there have been auditions, but this year student acts will play in a battle of the bands during Dance Marathon. Whichever group wins that competition will be the student opener.
In March, once the opener is signed and the student group is chosen, the roster for the event is finalized. Another puzzle piece completed.
The logistics of the concert are hashed out beginning in March.
CEC uses their remaining budget to provide lighting, sound, inflatables, security and other costs such as food for the artist and their hotel costs.
Like last year, Cornstock will be using a system called University Tickets for students to use. Students will have to print out tickets, even though the event is free, to help with accountability and safety. CEC advisor Johnson said the use of the ticketing system, along with campus safety, Moorhead Police and a private concert security company helps to keep students safe.
“When we put on a show like this, we always keep safety in mind,” Johnson said. “We make sure to have the support and people with knowledge to ensure that. At the end of the day, safety of the students is the number one priority.”
Alcohol part of the Cornstock experience?
While safety is a major aspect for CEC and those involved with the concert, it is hard to deny some students will go to the concert looking to have fun while under the influence of alcohol.
Freshman Bjorn Hagen didn’t know much about Cornstock or its planning process, but he did relay what he has heard about the concert.
“I just know that people go to Cornstock and get really drunk,” Hagen said.
Senior Emily Dahlin, who was a member of residence life her sophomore and junior year, said some artists are artists many people would enjoy while intoxicated.
“I feel like CEC brings in artist that many people would enjoy while they are drinking,” Dahlin said. “But the whole weekend is fun not just because of who they are bringing in to play the concert.”
Fitterer said there is no reason behind CEC choosing one artist over another because students may enjoy them more because they are drinking.
“Ideally, we want to choose a big name that will bring up the energy at the concert,” Fitterer said. “But does the headliner really impact the amount that people will drink? No. The artist we bring in and why we choose to bring them in does not correlate with how much students will choose to drink.”
Both Fitterer and Johnson don’t shy away from the fact that some students choose to drink before Cornstock. There are proactive measures taken by CEC and the security at the event to help ensure an enjoyable, safe time for students.
“Cornstock is strategically planned the weekend before finals so students can participate in safe, on-campus entertainment,” Johnson said.
Dahlin said while she didn’t encounter many problems as a member of residence life while she worked at Park Region hall, she did hear of many issues relating to intoxicated students from other RAs, especially in East Complex.
Despite all the time it takes to plan Cornstock and the hurdles, Fitterer is excited to move forward.
“I’m really proud of the work done by members of CEC already,” Fitterer said. “I’m excited for it to pay off.”
Johnson, a 2010 Concordia grad and in his second year overseeing Cornstock planning, has been able to watch Cornstock evolve over the years.
“Every year those who plan Cornstock bring their own interests and it reflects on the concert,” Johnson said. “It’s fun to see the history of Cornstock as both a student and now an advisor.”
While Fitterer wouldn’t say if CEC has nailed down a headliner or opener, he said students would find out after mid-semester break.
“We’re hoping to bring in an artist that all people want,” Fitterer said. “We want people to listen. We want people to dance. We want an artist that resonates with others.”
I’m Sean Plemmons, the Editor-in-Chief for the 2014-2015 school year and a member of the class of 2015 at Concordia. I am a Multimedia Journalism and Political Science major with an English Writing minor. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Journalism is part of my life, and everyone else’s. Let’s tell stories the right way.