‘Powerhouse female lineup’ set to take Spring Fling stage

4/2/15 – Medford/Somerville, MA – Concert Board chairs Katie Kurtz and Matthew Marber hold their weekly meeting to discuss Spring Fling on Thursday, Apr. 2, 2015. (Sofie Hecht / The Tufts Daily)

Pop artist Kesha is scheduled to headline this year’s Spring Fling concert on April 25. Her performance will follow opening acts Lion Babe, an R&B artist, and MisterWives, a former ’80s cover band.

It is no accident that women are dominating this year’s lineup, Concert Board Co-Chairs Matt Marber and Katie Kurtz explained. When looking at previous Spring Fling lineups, they said they noticed a historical lack of female representation.

Marber noted that Spring Fling has not seen a female headliner, or even female performers, in the last 20 years.

“We knew we had to change that,” he said. “We don’t want another male artist, we don’t want another rap artist, we want something female, fresh and fun.”

Immediately following Cage Rage in November, Concert Board established its goal to book a female lineup, the co-chairs, both juniors, explained.

“We set out from the beginning, not just to have a female headliner, but we wanted this powerhouse female lineup,” Kurtz stated.

She mentioned that previous co-chairs have tried to book female acts, noting the difficulty in finding “big-enough named” female artists in an affordable range.

“It’s so hard to find a woman who is touring and in our price range, so people have looked at opening acts, they’ve looked at female-fronted bands … Last year, the co-chairs tried for Azealia Banks, but [were] told that she’s too hard to handle,” Kurtz said. She added that when she and Marber were first-years, “Kesha came up in conversation, and one of the talking points was that we can’t book her because we’ve heard she’s ‘rough’ hospitality-wise, which is a story based on nothing. How would we ever know that? It’s just things that we were told to deter us from booking females.”

Assistant Director for Campus Life Ashley Tello, who acts as staff advisor for Concert Board, noted similar stigmas toward women in the music industry and said she fully supports Concert Board’s decision to solidify a female lineup.

“I think female artists in general get a lot of trouble from the music industry,” she said. “They are disrespected a lot, or music isn’t very woman-friendly as an industry as a whole, so I thought it was really important for them to make that decision for the right reasons in saying that we support women as musicians, and we support the women on campus that are going to be at the show.”

Along with its initial $100,000 budget allocated at the beginning of the year for Spring Fling performers by the Tufts Community Union (TCU), Concert Board received an additional $25,000 in supplementary funding from the TCU Allocations Board to ensure a “fuller lineup,” Marber said. He noted that Concert Board also received another $25,000 from a re-allocation of funds within Programming Board, initially intended to finance the Fall Gala tent, which was not rented because the event was moved inside the Gantcher Center.

Marber said that while planning the lineup, Concert Board informally surveyed the student population to determine its genre preferences. He said that most people surveyed preferred a headliner in the pop/hip-hop genre.

The co-chairs organized performances act-by-act, beginning with the headliner and continuing onto the opening acts, Kurtz said.

According to Marber, Concert Board works through a middle agent at Pretty Polly Productions to organize contracts with the performers’ agencies. He said that in late November, the co-chairs reached out to the agent to maximize the options for female headliners.

Marber noted that all of the artists on the agent’s initial list were either too well-known — and therefore out of the group’s budget — or not known at all. He said that the agent would periodically update the list, and the co-chairs would check it regularly throughout their search for a headliner at the end of the fall semester.

“We saw a new chunk of names were added, and in the middle of it was Kesha, and we were like ‘that’s it,’” he said.

Kurtz said that she and Marber immediately responded to ask for more information about pricing and availability, and that upon the agent’s response, they decided to put a bid in to have her perform.

Kurtz and Marber said that waiting for a confirmation from Kesha took much longer than expected, as the deadline for response kept getting pushed back. Marber noted that this anticipation was especially troublesome while trying to organize the rest of the lineup.

In the last week of January, the co-chairs received confirmation that Kesha would headline Spring Fling, Kurtz said.

“From the get-go, having positive female representation in our lineup was super important, and given the options that we had, we had so much hope for Kesha,” she explained. “And so when the show was confirmed with her as the headliner, it was just like ‘everything is starting to come together, and it’s going to happen. It’s going to happen for us, and for the school and to change what the norm has been so far.’”

After Kesha’s performance was confirmed, the co-chairs set out to book the opening acts.

Marber noted that the middle agent initially recommended booking MisterWives to perform at Cage Rage, but that Concert Board was not interested at the time. But when another Concert Board member suggested MisterWives as a Spring Fling opener, the co-chairs decided to reconsider. He noted that after reaching out to the band, the group immediately responded that it was available and that it was in the co-chairs’ optimal price range.

She noted that by that point, the co-chairs were working with limited funds, so they accepted that few members of the student body would have name recognition with the third artist. They were not satisfied with the initial list provided by the middle agent, but upon following up, the middle agent suggested Lion Babe to open the concert. Within the first three seconds of the first Lion Babe video they watched, they said they were sold on her and asked the middle agent to submit their final bid.

The co-chairs remarked that they think they made the right choices, noting positive feedback they have received from the student body.

“Everybody that I’ve talked to who’s put the effort in to look up the artists in the lineup that they don’t know, whether that be MisterWives or Lion Babe, has been very excited to find out who they are,” Kurtz said.

This year, Concert Board decided to announce the lineup via a Snapchat Geofilter, a concept that first came up in a Programming Board meeting. The co-chairs worked with Concert Board Production Assistant Benjamin Averill, a sophomore, to create a design to submit to Snapchat.

In the past, the lineup has been announced at Battle of the Bands, though Marber noted that two years ago, news of the headliner leaked, so Concert Board had to scramble to announce it at a campus event.

Kurtz noted that, to avoid leaking, Averill and the co-chairs were the only three students who were allowed to know about the proposed lineup.

According to Marber, after the first design submission was rejected, the team submitted two more designs and developed an alternate release plan through Concert Board’s own Snapchat account.

“We had people add us on Snapchat,Kurtz said. “We plan on using it during the concert to give backstage snaps, because we thought that would be pretty cool. And we figured we’d have it if, in the worst-case scenario, we really had no other way to announce.”

Fortunately, at about 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 26, the co-chairs received an email that the Geofilter had been approved, according to Marber. It went live at midnight on Friday, March 27.

According to Kurtz, Concert Board members also generated anticipation by putting up posters with the group’s personal Snapchat code and with various images that were vaguely linked to the performers.

“We wanted to have as much hype as possible, but we wanted to keep the actual names of the artists so far away from the rumor mill, that when it dropped, people were shocked,” Kurtz explained.