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Thursday, October 06, 2022

​​As a graduate student and a leader in the Gainesville music community, seeing that Student Government Productions recently spent $350,000 on one performer shocked and appalled me. 

That also doesn’t include the opener fee, venue fees, staff or any other expenses — so one can safely assume the total cost of the event was even higher.  

SG paid Roddy Ricch to perform at the O'Connell Center Feb. 8. In 2021, UF Student Government transferred $1.55 million from its reserves to improve the student experience “as in-person activities return[ed].” Of that money, $750,000 went to SGP.

I don’t have an issue with Roddy Ricch as a performer. In fact, I was at the show. But as someone who has worked in live event production for years, I can tell you that’s an obscene amount of money for one act — especially given the turnout of the event. 

According to The Alligator, of the 6,500 seats available, only about 3,000 were filled.

Even if every one of those 3,000 tickets were sold at the non-student price of $20 (they weren’t — students paid $10-15), UF would have still lost upwards of $290,000 on Roddy Ricch’s fee. 

For reference: In 2017, SGP spent $130,000 to bring Snoop Dogg to the university and only $91,500 to book Tory Lanez in 2020.

A few years ago, I helped run a multi-day, multi-venue music festival in Gainesville. The total budget — including talent fees, venue rentals, staff costs, marketing and all other fees — was around $117,000 (to be spent on the event annually). Over a few years, we booked artists including Big Freedia, Japanese Breakfast, Talib Kweli and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

Any given year, we had a much larger turnout than the 3,000 people who bought tickets to see Roddy Ricch.

This is because we worked with industry professionals and hired a local booking agent that negotiated reasonable rates for every artist involved. Working with professionals who have decades of industry experience would generate much better results than the current situation at SGP. 

There is a lack of transparency regarding how student funds are used for concerts through SGP. I also question the logic of having college students who do not appear to know the ins and outs of the concert booking industry choosing where hundreds of thousands of dollars of other students’ money goes — all without an industry veteran at the table to advise them.

The $750,000 allocated for SGP alone is more than the annual budget of many professional music organizations. With this amount of money, financial responsibility is key.

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Alternative models exist for using student entertainment fees. With this budget, rather than simply booking a small number of shows per year and massively overpaying artists for half-sold concerts, SGP could partner with a professional booking agent and downtown music venue within walking distance of campus. 

If it really wanted to, SGP could divide that $750,000 into numerous concerts of nationally-touring acts throughout the year that UF students could attend for free. 

This model is how FSU runs its “Club Downunder” concert series. They partner with professionals and local venues to book shows but still have a strong student board and student presence in the decision-making. Spending $350,000 and not even selling half of the available tickets is an irresponsible way to use the money students are entrusting them with, especially when there are professionals in the area operating with a fraction of that — and doing much more with it.  

Contact Brandon Telg at brantelg@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @btelg.

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