As the Spring Concert approaches, it remains to be seen whether or not Ludacris will be able to break the trend of low attendance.
The duty of planning the Spring Concert belongs to WAC, a branch of SGA in charge of activities.
“They [WAC] provide a lot of events on campus that are almost continuous every single year that a lot of students look forward to,” SGA president Daniel Hager, said. “Every single year, the numbers grow and grow.”
However, when it comes to the Spring Concert, the numbers have not continued to grow. In fact, records show that attendance has decreased by over 50 percent since 2009.
The highest record for attendance in recent years actually occurred in 2009. Country artist Blake Shelton headlined the concert and brought in 2,795 people. The following year another 2,282 people showed up to see rock bands, Puddle of Mudd and Saliva.
In 2011, when WAC invited hip-hop artists J. Cole and Jeremih to perform for the Spring Concert, attendance dropped by 49 percent from the previous year. Only 1,163 people attended, marking this event as the lowest-attended Spring Concert in the last five years.
Kendra Greer, a student senator who will be attending her fourth Spring Concert this year, noted the decrease in attendance.
“I think the number of attendance, at least in the students, seems to be going down, but it always seems that there’s a pretty good crowd from the community,” Greer said. “I think more students came when it was free; I think that would help get more students to come again.”
After the drop in 2011, attendance for the Spring Concert never even reached 1,500 again. The following year, WAC brought country back to Western with headliner Sara Evans, and pulled in 1,300 attendees, 200 more than the previous year.
In 2013 WAC drifted away from country again and invited American electronic duo 3OH!3. Unlike the JCole and Jeremih concert though, this show did experience a rise in attendance, with about 175 more in attendance than the Sara Evans concert.
The luck that WAC experienced in 2013 did not carry over into 2014 though. B.O.B. continued the trend of low attendance for hip-hop artists when he headlined the Spring Concert last year, bringing less than 1,400 people in attendance.
Despite attendance records, WAC has chosen yet another hip-hop artist for the 2015 Spring Concert. Ludacris, a popular performer from the early 2000s, was chosen by WAC’s director of music, Reyhan Wilkinson, along with WAC’s advisor Isaiah Collier and vice president Julia Buesher who both declined to comment.
“Since he is an older artist, I’ve gotten good feedback from some of the more nontraditional students,” said Wilkinson. “I feel like it will bring in a wider range of people. Also, it’s on a Saturday this year, so that will open it up more for people from the St. Joseph and Kansas City area.”
However, there are some SGA members who question the decision made by Wilkinson.
“I don’t know where Ludacris came from,” Greer said. “I think that it’s kind of old, but at the same time we’re not a school like Mizzou that has millions of dollars to spend.”
Despite the conflict that arises while choosing an artist, Hager stands beside the decision made by Wilkinson.
“You’ll have some students that will speak up and say ‘Oh, we should have had country; we should have had Gabriel Iglesias [a comedian],’” Hager said. “This is what the director thought was in his best decision as to what the majority of the students would want.”
Rather than follow a rotating genre system used by other universities, WAC’s music director chooses the artist for the Spring Concert based on music that is popular that year in order to appeal to most students.
While trying to appeal to the majority of students, Wilkinson may not be reaching the entire campus. Through E-board meetings and write-ins, WAC members have their say about suggestions made by Wilkinson. Students on the other hand, are reached in more casual ways.
“I’ll tweet out every once in a while who I might be thinking for the Spring Concert,” Wilkinson said. “But it’s mostly word of mouth and the members of WAC.”
The music director observed that word of mouth is not the best method for student input.
“Obviously there’s some limits there,” Wilkinson said. “We just try to keep it the broadest with someone who’s been on the radio a lot.”
One way WAC has considered reaching more students is by hosting a more festival type of Spring Concert, with several artists from different genres. If this were instituted, WAC would be spending $20,000 on a four different artists, rather than $80,000 on a single headliner like Ludacris.
Although there are doubts about how much draw Ludacris will have, Hager remains confident that this year’s concert will be a success.
“The only reason I was upset with Ludacris is just because he hasn’t released anything new recently,” Hager said. “Just because he hasn’t made a single recently, I don’t think that will diminish how many people want to go see that artist.”
Contrary to Hager’s beliefs, Ludacris released a single called “Party Girls” just last December, a fact known by Wilkinson. On top of his recent single, Ludacris will be releasing his new album Ludaversal the same month he will be performing at the Civic Arena, which may bring more in attendance.
While a new album may draw people to the Ludacris concert, Wilkinson is aware that campus atmosphere plays a big part in turnout.
“I know student interest peaks and has its lows” Wilkinson said. “It just depends on what the student atmosphere is that year and what school spirit is like.”
Another big factor the music director must consider is of course, artist genre.
“Genre is very difficult,” Wilkinson said. “We do our best to pick one that will please most students.”
Even with Ludacris’ new album being released in march, attendance records from recent years show that Missouri Western may not respond well to another hip-hop artist.