The Student Union Board of Governors will have to pay nearly $200,000 for UCONNIC artists Lil’ Baby and Sean Kingston, according to artist contracts requested by the Freedom of Information Act.
While Kingston’s performance was cancelled due to student outcry over sexual assault allegations against the artist, the contract entails payment upon cancellation from the University of Connecticut. Kingston will be paid $44,000, and Lil’ Baby will be paid $148,500.
Summer Walker, who was unable to attend the concert due to travel issues, will not be paid the $55,000 allocated in her contract, SUBOG president Adam Sherif said. This will result in at least $192,000 loss for SUBOG based on artist fees alone, since all tickets for the event were refunded after Kingston’s cancellation.
The concert’s final expenditure line will be determined sometime in June, Sherif said. According to the original budget drafted in November, requested by FOIA, $385,500 was budgeted for all concert expenses, including artist fees ($220,000), staging ($98,000) and other costs, including security and agent fees. A net loss of $150,000 was planned after $235,000 of projected ticket revenue.
The $180,000 in SUBOG’s reserves will be used to refund the tickets sold, though it is currently unclear how many tickets were sold, and how much revenue was made for 2019, Sherif said.
Despite the numbers, Sherif said he was “proud of the decision” to cancel Kingston’s performance.
“We recognized it was [about] way more than the numbers,” Sherif said. “Students were feeling personally affected by this … I know it was hard and it was frustrating, and we should’ve been more diligent [in our research,] but I’m glad we made that call.”
The announcement, which was made about 45 minutes before concert doors opened Thursday, took several days of deliberation with the university and the artist, Sherif said, before it could be announced. While the official call was made on Wednesday night, “just because we make the call internally doesn’t mean we can say it to the masses.”
“The burden is not on [us.] The burden was because people were spreading rumors of it because of internal conversation. My goal was for [the announcement] to be as swift as possible,” Sherif said. “[However, the announcement] wasn’t officially clear to send out … We weren’t allowed to publish it until it was officially agreed upon [by the university.] We would have loved for students know earlier.”
Between the time Kingston was announced as a performer on April 5, and the subsequent outcry by the student body, the cancellation decision on April 10, and the announcement on April 11, SUBOG was “all hands on deck,” Sherif said.
“If it was any earlier, the end result would still be the same,” Sherif said. “Unlike any organization, SUBOG is all student volunteers. When you’re talking about a five day turnaround ... you’re not talking about full-time staff who can make the judgement call. But when you talk about student volunteers that are planning a concert and selling tickets and trying to market and promote the show, and handling all these other logistics, unless they get approached or a direct email about it, communication is hard.”
Much of the conversation was around the students who bought tickets to see Kingston, Sherif said, which is why the decision to refund all tickets was made, and partly why the decision to cancel Kingston took so long.
“A lot of the students were buying tickets to the lineup we presented,” Sherif said. “There was a lot to be done in five days to reach that decision. It’s not as cut and dry as you think ... there’s a lot of conversations to be had with a lot of people, and that doesn’t take two hours ... for a minute there, it looked like it wasn’t gonna happen.”
This is the first time a Spring Concert performance has been cancelled by SUBOG. So far, there has not been any word of litigation by Kingston, Sherif said.
While the proposed budget projected approximately 4,200 tickets sold, a number based on previous performer Khalid’s sales, the actual number sold was lower than that, Sherif said. While he did not know the exact numbers, he estimated them to be around 3,000, partly due to the late announcement.
“There were a lot of different variables that pushed the timeline back,” Sherif said. “Our sales numbers were not towards projected.”
While the loss in revenue due to the refunds will affect future concerts, other SUBOG programming will not be affected, Sherif said, and the future concert chair Jacob Stockman will work on increasing feedback from students for future lineups, and in researching the artists.
“I can promise you next time they book artists, they’re gonna Google ‘Sexual Assault Allegations’ on them,” Sherif said. “We need to do more research, not just on the artists’ personal history, but on what students want to see.
Part of the problem is trying to meet the needs of everyone in terms of music taste, Sherif said.
“It’s impossible … to please everyone,” Sherif said. “It’s why we have the survey and the concert committee.”
The top choice on the SUBOG survey was Cardi B, Sherif said. When she won a Grammy for Best Rap Album, the artist became ‘in a stratosphere we cannot book.”
“Superstars … aren’t fully feasible or attainable,” Sherif said.
Other artists were booked elsewhere or had other obligations in the timeline of the concert, Sherif said.
While many students dislike the hip-hop trend in the Spring Concert, it still remains the most popular option on the concert survey. Future concerts will have a more diverse lineup, Sherif said. He added that ticket prices will be reduced.
“We can’t expect to sell tickets at $75 anymore,” Sherif said.
Overall, while this year’s UCONNIC “could have been better,” Sherif said he is glad other universities, such as Fordham, Ohio State University, and, most recently, State University of New York at Oneonta are pushing to pull Kingston from their concert lineups.
Overall, Sherif said he is confident about next year’s concert.
“We have a whole new board, a whole new committee, a whole new generation,” Sherif said. “[Next year] is for them to make what they want out of UCONNIC.”
Marlese Lessing is the news editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. She tweets @marlese_lessing.