Fall performers come with half-million dollar price tag

A beat-busting DJ, adult contemporary rockers and horn-blaring disco barons will come to campus this fall – for a price tag of nearly half a million dollars.

The University will shell out a total of $472,500 to bring Diplo, Train and Earth, Wind & Fire to play during Fall Fest, Colonials Weekend and Alumni Weekend, respectively, according to contracts obtained by The Hatchet.

In June, the University agreed on a $240,000 contract with the Los Angeles-based entertainment booker Creative Artists Agency to bring the soft rock troupe Train to the Smith Center Oct. 20. It was a popular choice for Colonials Weekend, because the band has cross-generational appeal, which is ideal for parents and students, Senior Associate Provost and Dean of Student Affairs Peter Konwerski said. Tickets range from $45 to $125.

“Ticket prices are set to cover the costs associated with the performer and production. This has worked well in the past, and we expect to do well again this year,” Konwerski said. “Ticket sales and event expenses are carefully monitored to ensure that our budget is maintained.”

The booking was a shift from the University’s typical choice of a comedian to headline Colonials Weekend. According to estimates on the college booking agency Concert Ideas’ website, previous Colonials Weekend acts like Jon Stewart usually demanded upwards of $150,000. The University will pay $190,000 for the ‘70s soul icons Earth, Wind & Fire to play the Smith Center Sept. 28. The group, which has won six Grammy awards and is most famous for its disco hit “Boogie Wonderland,” will entertain about 2,700 alumni, whom the University will encourage to donate to the school.

“While we don’t comment on specific costs, our goal is to ensure that we are able to cover all costs and fees associated with the show, while offering a range of ticket prices,” Konwerski said.

Through the booking company The Windish Agency, the University will pay Fall Fest acts Diplo and RDGLDGRN $42,500 to play a free show for students in University Yard Sept. 1. The student organization Program Board, which is appropriated money by the Student Association, manages the Fall Fest band selection and was appropriated a $60,000 budget last year.

An estimate by Concert Ideas shows the price of a Diplo show at more than $35,000, while a college booking agency Main Stage Production pegs the price between $25,000 and $30,000 for a spring show. The Fall Fest contract also includes the charge for the opening act RDGLDGRN, pronounced “Red, Gold, Green.” The contract stipulates the opening band play for a half hour, followed by the main act performing for 75 minutes.

“It’s a high profile, high expense event, but we’re really thankful for the co-sponsorships that we get. We’re lucky to be financially supported the way we are,” Program Board executive chair Lauren Shenfeld said.

The Philadelphia-based mash-up artist is the second DJ in a row to be tapped to headline the fall performance for students, Program Board confirmed Tuesday. Under the alias Diplo – a moniker inspired by the dinosaur Diplocodus – Thomas Wesley Pentz has been mashing beats across the U.S. and Japan for nearly a decade.

“There were a lot of other artists we were looking at – some other DJ artists similar to Diplo but not as big as him,” Shenfeld said. “But we always really wanted Diplo.”

Diplo, a producer, songwriter and performer, is best known for his musical melees of big names like Beyoncé, Usher, No Doubt and M.I.A. – his R&B artist ex-girlfriend who helped him break into the industry.

He is also part of the DJ group Major Lazer.

Mash-up artist Girl Talk electrified the crowd at last year’s Fall Fest, a vibrant show that Shenfeld hopes to repeat with another DJ performance this year. A cost estimate on the website for Main Stage Production shows the price for Girl Talk at about $40,000, while Concert Ideas places it at $50,000 or more.

Program Board paid $25,000 for the alternative rock band OK Go to play Fall Fest in 2007, according to a contract obtained by The Hatchet. That equals about $27,600 in today’s dollars, accounting for inflation.

The cost of booking bands varies by the artist’s popularity and demand. For example, the pop band fun. garners more than $45,000 per show, according to estimates by Concert Ideas. Indie groups like Local Natives and Metric usually ask for about $20,000, and more mainstream artists like Jason Mraz and Kelly Clarkson typically draw more than $100,000.

Agents at The Windish Agency and Creative Artists Agency declined to comment on the market for on-campus concerts and their discussions with the University.

Kaya Yurieff contributed to this report.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.