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November 23rd, 2013

Sammy Adams: Behind the Scenes

A line of students waited outside of Wilson’s front entrance on Thursday night. At 7 p.m. on November 11th, the doors opened, and a sea of JMU students filled the rows to the max. At 8 p.m., Boston-native and rapper, Sammy Adams, jumped—literally—onstage to greet the mass of screaming admirers in the crowds.

Sammy wasn’t the only one working hard that night. Hidden in the dimmed lighting of Wilson Auditorium, as Sammy dazzled the crowd with both old favorites and new releases, dozens of staff and UPB employees worked to ensure that the concert was a success. It’s a big job—a job that began long before Sammy stepped foot on stage.

The planning for the event officially began in late summer, when a list of potential artists was compiled from a variety of factors.  First, UPB’s Center Stage Director, Whitney Smith, worked along side Babco Entertainment and their middle agent, Melissa Aronson, to create a list of suggested artists. Second, UPB sent out a survey to the student body in order to gauge likes, dislikes, and popular trends. Next, they looked for artists that are touring during the venue’s available times. UPB can only use the Convocation Center once per year. And since Convo comes with a larger price tag, a commitment to JMU athletics, and a much larger size, UPB decided that Wilson auditorium was best suited for this fall’s concert. 

For each concert, including Sammy Adams, UPB also looks into up-and-coming artists, as well as currently popular artists when considering a concert performer. Remember the Lumineers? UPB hosted a free show for them in TDU, and within a few years, they accepted a Grammy. 

“We definitely weigh the benefits of bringing burgeoning artists to JMU; a lot of times these artists are ideal because they’re not so famous that they’re unreachable and they fit into our budget,” says Ale Buitrago, UPB’s Public Relations Director. “These up-and-coming artists succeed because the music industry produces some of the buzz on the artist and we help them gain an audience with our JMU population.”

Once all factors were balanced and considered, the UPB Center Stage committee voted on which artist to bring. The UPB Executive Council also has an opportunity to share their opinion, but, ultimately, the Center Stage committee has the final vote to ensure a successful concert. 

When Sammy Adams was ultimately decided upon, UPB worked with their middle agent to create a contract. According to Buitrago, this is lengthiest part of the planning process, primarily because it requires communication with the artist’s management team. 

Advertising was the next step; it stays low-key until all of the contracts are signed and agreed on by both parties. Once the the paperwork is finalized, the UPB Marketing Team dove in with full force—flyers, bus advertisements, tweets, and Facebook events galore. 

After Sammy Adams was announced to the student body, the response was overwhelmingly positive. Thanks to the help of University Business Office employees at the box office in Warren Hall, the student tickets sold out within four hours. And the online tickets that were open to the public sold out within two minutes.

The closer the date of the concert got, the busier UPB employees got. During the week prior to the concert, they were responsible for organizing press releases, authorizing access passes, and recruiting UPB members to volunteer their time to work the show. The Executive Council and Center Stage Committee are expected to attend as well. For larger concerts, such as Sammy Adams, over half of UPB’s members work at the event.

Equipment loading and setup began around noon on the same day of the concert. The volunteers working the concert arrived around 5 PM to be briefed. 

Once the doors opened, UPB members are placed in every direction: at the front entrance directing traffic, behind the merchandise table selling t-shirts, at the auditorium entrance collecting tickets, standing against the auditorium walls keeping the crowds in check, in the media booth, backstage, outside, the list goes on and on. It’s an all or nothing event.  

As Sammy Adams performed, UPB members simultaneously enjoyed the music while watching the crowd to make sure everyone stays safe. And as soon as the performer bowed, UPB members worked on safely getting the crowd outside, and escorted anyone with meet-and-greet passes backstage.

Thanks to UPB and their hard work, the Sammy Adams concert was a success.

Interested in attending more UPB concerts on campus? Keep a look out for UPB’s spring concert list on their website, including the Convocation concert, and other events such as the free Spotlight Series in TDU featuring San Fermin on December 4th.