Event organizers at colleges and universities nationwide work year-round to plan spring concerts for student entertainment. Spring concerts help provide respite for students after almost an entire year of studies – and are often presented in the tradition of inclusivity. Starting months in advance, event organizers source top musical talent and throw huge parties to attract attendees and generate school spirit.
We’ve rounded up five of the top spring concerts in the U.S., and we have sourced the top ten strategies that seasoned event organizers use to host successful events and keep attendees returning year after year.
Main challenges in planning spring concerts
Courtesy Associated Students Concerts & Events, University of California San Diego
For Ace Antonio, the Campus Events Manager at the University of California San Diego, keeping students safe and secure in “an increasingly vulnerable environment and communicating that priority” is one of the biggest challenges they face. Organizers should finalize the security budget before sourcing talent, in an effort to communicate to attendees that student wellbeing is the number one priority. Having students watch or attend speaking engagements that highlight safety tips and school emergency procedures prior to the event can further mitigate risk.
Securing the lineup
Choosing a concert lineup that satisfies a wide array of tastes can be difficult. Organizers aim to strike a delicate balance between mixing different musical tastes (such as pop, hip-hop and country) and artists that resonate with a college-aged crowd, while taking regionality into account. If a popular artist happens to be touring nearby, a spring concert may easily be added to their schedule; it's important to keep contacts for big name artists and talent and maintain relationships with managers and bandmates throughout the year.
Top artists performing at spring concerts in 2019
During the planning stage of spring concerts, student organizers work with major internal bodies, such as the administrative office and budget committees, as well as external stakeholders, including food vendors, security companies, and artist management and public relations. For Chris Begler, Director of the University of Southern California Concerts Committee, the biggest challenge in putting on their annual Springfest is “trying to manage expectations from different interest groups.” Having a well-designed event plan with a specific budget in mind is key to ensuring satisfaction with both internal and external stakeholders.
Strategies for attracting guests to spring concerts
Courtesy of Student Entertainment Events, University of Maryland
Host pre-concert events and activities
For many colleges and universities, spring concerts are the penultimate event during a spirit week or after midterms. Francesca M. Leite, Assistant Director for Student Organizations and Programming at Fordham University, holds daily events leading up to the Spring Concert, including “a Battle of the Bands where a student band can compete to be the opener for our concert.” This activity helps increase engagement among students and gives them a vested interest in participating in the spring concert, so organizers should strive to work with vendors for exciting activations that can help increase attendee engagement.
Keep up with student traditions
Tradition helps solidify school spirit and brings alumni back to campus year after year. Sun God Festival at UCSD has been running since 1983, and USC always employs the marching band at any school event, large or small, which delights all observing attendees. Many spring concerts have been going on for many years, which establishes them as must-see events and provides an additional draw for college applicants.
Length of popular U.S. concerts (in years)
Present the “WOW” factor
For some college campuses, attracting attendees requires generating excitement and surprising concert goers. At Sun God Festival in 2019, UCSD installed a “5,000 square foot silent disco featuring genres that weren’t represented on the stage...and a 51-foot water slide on a flat field.” UC Riverside throws Spring Splash annually, and their secret sauce is “to include experiences to match the caliber of an outdoor music festival” so that attendees know that they are getting more than a show – they are also reaping the benefits of a large-scale concert for free. This helped the festival look bigger than it actually was, and therefore attracted more attendees than usual.
Tips for event organizers hosting spring concerts
Courtesy of Associated Students Program Board, University of California Riverside
Do your research
Laura C. Hood, the Manager of Student Programs at the University of Maryland at College Park, puts on Art Attack every spring and has a great suggestion for discovering fresh ideas: “Attend another school's concerts.” Organizers can pay homage to other schools’ concerts while also witnessing first-hand what strategies work for attracting and engaging concertgoers. Write down ideas and share them with fellow organizers and your school advisors to gauge interest - be open to collaboration and think about joining organizer Facebook groups to discuss ideas.
Stick to a budget
Anyone can throw a successful event with an unlimited budget, but the best events shine when careful attention is paid to the college experience over flashy features. Francesca M. Leite at Fordham University admits that they strive to find a balance between “fulfilling the student body preferences while still staying within their given budget for the show.” That means being creative with your vendors by giving them value in exchange for lower prices; for example, you may feature a food vendor in a social post and provide a coupon, so you can provide lower prices for concert attendees at the event.
Source: Percentage of total marketing budget for events; Eventbrite blog
Start planning early
According to Bizzabo, 48% of event organizers typically start planning for their event 6-12 months in advance. The best time to start planning your next spring concert is right after the concert concludes so that everything will be fresh in your mind, and you can brainstorm over the course of the year. Being stringent with your budget from the jump enables you to research cheaper vendors or think of new ways to offer more value for brands and attendees alike, and it’s important not to stress attendance a year in advance.
Executing your spring concert with set goals in mind is of the utmost importance – without them, the event planning will be difficult if you’re new to event planning. Sponsorship platforms like Recess can help event organizers like you source and maintain solid relationships with sponsors. The more sponsors you have, the revenue you can generate and increase budgets for the following year. With larger budgets, more funds can be allocated to security, enhanced features or bigger and better talent. To sum it up, follow the best practices outlined above to achieve a successful Spring Concert:
- Ensure safety and security
- Secure the lineup
- Work with stakeholders
- Host pre-concert events and activities
- Keep up with student traditions
- Present the “WOW” factor
- Do your research
- Stick to a budget
- Start planning early
- Engage with Recess, the #1 college sponsorship platform
How Recess can help make your spring concert a success
With Recess, your Spring Concert will be exposed to hundreds of brands that want to pay you for a space to engage with students. We handle the dirty work, saving you time and helping bring in more revenue while you stay focused on other parts of your job. Judy Tu, Chairperson on the UC Riverside Associated Students Program Board, says Recess helped source “sponsors passing out free things including Colourpop, Pocky and Rockstar.” For Fordham University, Recess has “connected us with some great [sponsors], like Chameleon Cold Brew, through their platform” according to Francesca M. Leite.
The sky's the limit when it comes to planning for and hosting a memorable spring concert - and we can help you achieve success while having fun doing it.