Behind the Scenes: UPAC’s spring concert

Allison Mueller

Students buying their spring concert tickets during the first day of sales. (Photo by Lauren Reuteler)
Students buying their spring concert tickets during the first day of sales. (Photo by Lauren Reuteler)

Kaysey Price / Winonan

Just in case the news has not traveled far and wide enough yet, on Mar. 19 SoMo is headlining Winona State University’s annual spring concert. R. City will open up the show at 7:30 p.m. in the McCown Fieldhouse before the headlining band takes the stage at 8:30 p.m.

But how does all this come to be? How does Winona State manage to put on an annual spring concert? Well, it is all thanks to UPAC.

The process of bringing a band to the university all starts with money, as so many things usually do.

According to Director of UPAC Brittany Bieber, UPAC receives $95,000 every year.

This much money could probably convince the Backstreet Boys to get back together and come to Winona, but sadly, this entire UPAC budget does not fund the concert.

“Usually we’re given about a $30,000 budget for the artist,” Ashley Brotherton, UPAC concerts director, said. “This year we were able to get our person for lower than expected.”

Another $5,000 is doled out for the opening band.

“We did spend a little bit more this year on [R. City], but [they are] going to be playing longer than the normal time that an opener plays,” Bieber said.

UPAC creates a long list of bands they can afford to bring to the university and then surveys the students. The survey plays an important role in deciding the genre of the visiting musician.

Unfortunately, it is not always a clear-cut decision. According to Brotherton, the poll usually results in a tie between hip-hop/rap and country.

With the campus so divided, Brotherton looks at it this way, “We aren’t going to please every single person, but can we please the majority?”

A subgroup of UPAC then spends a couple of weeks narrowing down the list of artists in the chosen genre for the year and presents five to 10 musicians to the whole group. The members vote, and the negotiating begins.

As many people know, artists can be a finicky bunch. All requests, weird or not, are negotiated by the agents.

“We have an agent who deals with their agents,” Bieber said.

During the negotiation process, the hired agent discusses what Winona State can and cannot provide for the band. If the band decides they absolutely cannot play without their requests being met, the agent begins negotiating with the second band on the list, and so on and so forth, until an agreement is met.

As for any strange requests this year, Brotherton laughed and said not really.

“It’s a page and half of bullet points for hospitality,” Brotherton said. “Half the time there’s an alcohol list, and we have to cross out every single one because we’re a dry campus.”

During negotiations, UPAC tries their best to keep the concert from conflicting with other club events.

Then, once the T’s are crossed and the I’s are dotted, UPAC starts planning. It is a chaotic time for UPAC, and they do their best to stay on top of things.

“We’re in a big group chat, and it blows my phone up every day,” Brotherton said.

As for the actual set-up and production, UPAC is eagerly awaiting.

“The night before the event we will put up the stage,” Bieber said.

While negotiating with the band may seem difficult, setup is no easy task either.

“I don’t think anybody fully understands what we do because [the performers] literally come with one or two people and those one or two people help us unload three, four, five trucks – like big trucks – semis sometimes, and then they tell us what to do,” Brotherton said. “We’re there manhandling big platforms that [around] six of us need to carry.”

They have tried to get help in the past, but on a strict budget, they cannot afford to pay anyone for it. Last year, they tried to get the football players to come help, but it did not pan out, according to Brotherton.

While the negotiating and production can be a pain, the UPAC members are excited to put on a show.

“My favorite part is right before all the people enter, when the stage is fully set, the band’s doing their sound check, and you kind of just look at it, and you’re like ‘alright, here we go,’” Brotherton said.