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Opinion

If you bill it, they won’t come

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The Student Union Society (SUS) had high hopes for the start-of-the-year concert they were to host in Evered Hall last week, but a mere 24 hours before the event was to take place, it was called off.

According to the SUS, the concert was cancelled due to lack of interest. At the time of the cancellation, they’d sold only around 50 tickets. The SUS spent $20,000 on the event. At $15 per ticket, they would have needed to sell at least 1,334 tickets merely to break even — and according to the SUS’s website, Evered Hall only holds 500 people. The planners obviously thought this would be a very popular and well-attended event, and so they went all in. The SUS gambled on what they thought would be a sure thing, and were left in an awkward position when it turned out to be anything but.

The biggest problem here is that the stakes were far too high. Even in a best-case scenario, $20,000 is a lot of expense to make up for. The profit margins were never going to be big, if they existed at all. With interest so low, cancelling the concert was the right call, and so at least some of that money will be saved. However, in future, the SUS should be more cautious about spending so much money at once, even if returns are fairly certain.

Only looking at the issue in terms of dollars and cents is to miss the main point. The concert, and other school events, are never about making money; they are about giving something rewarding to the student community, something they will enjoy and find rewarding. For whatever reason, a concert (or at least this one in particular) did not capture the imagination (or the wallets) of enough students to make it worthwhile by any measure. There are variety of factors that may have pushed students to not buy a ticket for the concert. Perhaps the $15 asking price was a bit too steep. Perhaps students were unwilling or unable to make the long journey to and from campus. Perhaps marketing didn’t reach enough people, or failed to drum up enough hype for the event. The intention was to give the student body something they would enjoy, but the collective response was “I’d rather not.”

By no means should the school stop funding and organizing events, but in future it would be safer to put money and effort into multiple low-key events. We all have varying tastes and resources. For some, a concert is not as much of a draw as other types of event, and even if it is, not all of us have enough time, money, and energy to spare. To use a well-known metaphor, it is best not to put all of your eggs in one basket.

It also bears mentioning that we are still paying for the SUS’s projects through our student fees, ticket or no ticket. If the SUS is going to spend that money (and they will, and they should), then we would like it to be well spent. A concert can be good. So can a celebrity lecture, or a career fair, or an art exhibition, or a visiting theatre performance, or any number of things. Several less ambitious projects will better serve the UFV community than one big-ticket extravaganza. If you lose that first hand, you not only lose fewer chips, you get to stay in game and have fun longer, which is what it’s really all about.

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