The Wild Ride of B.o.B
April 26, 2019
When I heard that B.o.B was the artist for our Spring Concert, I was not surprised. He makes perfect sense for our environment. The choice of B.o.B also reinforced that this concert is not solely put on in the students’ best interests, but is for the school’s image and donors alike. This is why a flip-phone era artist, regardless of how spherical he thinks the Earth is, is perfectly in line with Stetson’s attitude toward this concert. Stetson wants to promote what they interpret as a safe, family-friendly show bereft of artists who can produce dangerous rhetoric and weed smoke. Choices like T-Pain and B.o.B would make sense to an administrator or an organization as something that can tap into the childhood memories of the students’ iPod Nanos, while not putting the reputation of the school at risk by bringing young, more relevant artists.
As the music industry conceives a more rowdy set of young and popular artists like Lil Pump and Kodak Black, Hatter Productions’ allergy to booking artists whose music has been popular with college-aged students this half of the millennium is unsurprising. They have donors to please and an image to maintain, and booking artists who may bring potentially threatening lifestyles to this campus could reflect badly on them.
During the Hatter Productions booking meetings, I assume they highlight every artist they can possibly conceive that won’t bring objects that are normally banned on Stetson’s campus, a true “catch .22” in today’s popular music climate. We can see how these situations are potentially harmful for all parties involved, specifically with incidents like the arrests of the Migos for possession of marijuana and firearms during their show at Georgia Southern University. However, Stetson’s policy is to withhold payment from the artist until after the show, which holds the standards set contractually over the artist’s head to comply with the contract they sign.
This fear of the relevant comes from a place of concern for Hatter Productions. While I understand this fully, I truly do not agree with their line of thinking. We do not have to succumb to artists with niche markets, like Hoodie Allen, or the artists who ruled the days of Bar Mitzvah parties for this fear of image upkeep. The potential risk of bringing someone who may be more controversial than other options is worth it in my eyes if it can directly benefit the student body as a whole. Bringing someone like B.o.B. is not really bringing a family-friendly act to Stetson either.
Though it is clear that I enjoyed his music from my name on Facebook, “Sam IGotTheMagicInMe Hadelman,” I was truly off-put as a Jewish member of this campus by his statements promoting David Irving, a known Holocaust-denier. The fact that this aspect of his image was consciously ignored yet supposedly we cannot have more relevant acts on this campus due to “safety concerns” is an enormous double-standard. I am not really sure how his David Irving statements and his flat earth ideas did not disqualify him from coming to Stetson University.
While speaking with members of Hatter Productions, I was informed that the issue with securing performers is not just the artists themselves, it is the venue in which we can hold them. A significant portion of the budget for the spring artist goes into hiring outside companies for staging and lighting, as the Edmund’s Center is not “equipped” to hold the number of people that would be anticipated were Stetson to host a pertinent artist. This was part of the explanation I received concerning why we did not land the popular, nautically themed artist Lil Yachty. He was my initial guess for who Hatter Productions was going to invest most of their time and effort into securing. He has no face tattoos, is sober, has a deep and relevant discography, and his performance could have been a catalyst for Stetson to book acts in the future that meet the interests of the general student body. My guess that he would be booked only arose when Hatter Productions used their playlist-style marketing plan to get the word out about the artist. With a list of artists that included Lil Baby, Gunna, Sheck Wes, and Lil Yachty, they set the bar incredibly high.
When I found out we did not book Lil Yachty for the Spring Concert, I thought it was due to scheduling conflicts. This was disproved when I talked to a Hatter Productions team member, who stated that Lil Yachty was not booked due to the cost/benefit analysis of the show. It was decided that the cost to bring him here would not be worth it, and that booking smaller shows makes more sense for the student body. Furthermore, this person said that Hatter Productions felt as if bringing Yachty, or any artist of similar merit to Stetson would not be worth it financially, especially because there isn’t a sufficient venue to hold them.
This explanation was really infuriating for me. The issue with this statement, in my eyes, is that it feels as though our interests as a student body are not being catered to, and the benefit to said student body is not the main concern. Why shouldn’t we expect Stetson to go the extra mile to book acts that fit our needs and wants? If cost is truly the issue, there are many acts that are more relevant and as cost efficient as Hoodie Allen, B.o.B, and T-Pain that simply can’t come here because of the reputation Stetson wishes to uphold. A$AP Ferg is a perfect example: his booking costs are cheap and he is known for performing at schools with the same capacity as Stetson. Though this would make sense, I truly don’t believe that Hatter Productions would ever consider bringing him here, based solely on his image.
With increasing numbers of non-family friendly artists on the radio, Hatter Productions is going to reach a crossroads where they must decide whether they should book someone who will make the student body happy or the donors happy, and this time they picked the latter. At the end of the day, we, students, are supposed to be the target audience and recipients of the benefits of this show. If Stetson were truly worried about the cost of the show, they could have charged us money to see Lil Yachty, and I am fairly confident the student body would pay, especially since a small chunk of students eventually paid to see B.o.B. I believe that all concerts held by Stetson should be free to students, but that line was crossed by the marketing decisions of Hatter Productions.
Let’s highlight the marketing strategy, or lack thereof, for this event. In a microenvironment, such as Stetson University, marketing should be simple: flyer two weeks ahead, social media post, free event. It is the model that every organization uses. Instead, the marketing for this was so limited that most people I spoke to said that they had not even heard we had a Spring Concert ‘till the day of the show. Hatter Productions’ marketing plan was to announce the show through social media, which did not actually happen until days after it was supposed to. They then used Instagram live to communicate that the artist was B.o.B., which is a social media element similar to Snapchat that goes away after 24 hours. Not exactly the best way to reach the student body. It was not widely communicated that we were even having a Spring Concert until Hatter Productions made posters announcing the $5 charge, to see an artist whose last Top 50 Billboard hit was in 2012.
The $5 charge for the Spring Concert was flat out a horrible idea. The whole point of these concerts, as I see it, is a thank you to the student body from the school, a token of appreciation even. By charging us $5 to see this act, it felt as though this relationship had been severed. Being a member of the student body, I and many others were completely bewildered by the motivations behind this. Was it for the $35 dollars made between the seven tickets sold before the show? To my understanding, the $5 charge was used as a way to track the attendance at the show, rather than for the revenue generated. Whoever thought of that idea was definitely not a student. It resulted in nothing but confusion and frustration within the student body. The low level of enthusiasm among students prompted Hatter Productions to market the event in several last minute ways, including putting balloons filled with tickets around campus and giving away tickets by spinning a wheel.
Due to how few tickets were sold, Hatter Productions was forced to create a code that allowed students to get tickets for free the day of the concert, up until it began at 7 P.M. By this point, though, it was too late and the student body was not only frustrated, but unwilling to go the extra mile to buy tickets to a show that should have been free in the first place. Furthermore, after this grace period was over, students were again charged $5 to get in at the door, which was completely unfair and shows a true lack of communication in Hatter Productions’ marketing.
From our reporters on the ground, we tallied that around 50 students were charged to go to this show at the door. The revenue generated by this was not worth the distaste left by this sentiment in the attending students’ mouths.
This distaste does account for the attendance at the show. Though it was far more than I expected, if the marketing and planning had been more efficient, I truly think the numbers would have been exponentially more impressive. The show itself was actually quite lively and fun, with B.o.B. hopping into the crowd at points and being more interactive than T-Pain or Hoodie Allen. He actually has a sufficient discography to put on a show at a college, though most people did not understand this. I did find it interesting that B.o.B. was deemed the safe choice for Hatter Productions, especially when the highlight of the show was him inviting students to twerk on stage and hoisting one of them into the air. At a normal concert, this would be considered crowd interaction, and although this was not a breach of his contract I highly doubt this was the image Stetson was attempting to uphold. The concert was actually the best part of the whole process, from the crowd-surfing, to the frequent tossing of promotional t-shirts. It actually felt like a normal concert and not a quick money grab for an artist. B.o.B genuinely had fun with it, while keeping the student body engaged and entertained.
I do not want to come off as overtly critical here, I understand that Hatter Productions is burdened with a borderline impossible job: keeping the interests of 18-21 year old college students and those of older, impressionable donors sufficiently satiated, while at the same time running a large- scale concert. My point is that I would appreciate if the scale for whose interests are the most important weighed in favor of the student body, and I truly do not think that the B.o.B concert communicated that. Like I said earlier, Hatter Productions has finally hit this crossroad where they can continue recruiting throwback, “safe” acts, and have this recurring disconnect with the student body, or they can take a chance and book someone who will actually please the students and maybe turn a couple of administrators’ heads. The choice is theirs.