MULVIHILL: Welcome Week concert fails to serve its most important purpose
By not offering free tickets, UPC has failed to organize an accessible alternative to Block Party
This fall, University Programs Council will host its annual Welcome Week. In the past, the event has served as an alternative to Block Party and has featured musical acts such as J.Cole and Smallpools. The musical guests serve as a way to persuade students to spend their first Saturday night at a safe, University-sanctioned social event, rather than the unpredictable environment of Block Party.
On May 22, UPC announced they had booked two of the biggest acts in hip-hop to serve as the Welcome Week performers. Future and Lil Yachty will co-headline the concert but, in contrast to concerts in previous years, students must buy their tickets. Last year, tickets were distributed through a lottery system, similar to that used by Virginia Athletics to give out basketball tickets. Tickets to see Future and Lil Yachty, however, start at $55 and must be purchased through Ticketmaster. Given that the past purpose of the concert has been to offer a free, fun alternative to off-grounds parties, charging for expensive tickets may hurt the event. Many students may be deterred by the initial price of the tickets and refuse to attend the concert altogether. Last year’s J.Cole concert was highly successful, due in part to its accessibility. Though Future and Lil Yachty are exciting new performers, the higher price tag will likely deter students from attending and could defeat the well-intentioned purpose of the Welcome Week concert.
Attaching a high price tag to the event entirely defeats the welcoming purpose of the concert. Students would have to be able to afford a ticket priced between $55 and $75 to simply enter the arena. Given the large expenses associated with attending college, many students may choose to forego the price of the concert and attend off-grounds parties where attendance is free. Furthermore, by shifting the purpose of the event from a free concert to a concert similar to all those held at John Paul Jones Arena, UPC cut out much of the allure of the event for students. The students who choose to attend the concert will likely be big fans of the group who are both willing to shell out the fees to attend, and can afford them. In contrast, students with less disposable income and students who are not as familiar with the artists will be less likely to attend the concert than in years past.
In the past, Welcome Week concerts have served as a way for students of all years to join together and celebrate the start of school in a fun and safe way. Particularly in the case of first year and transfer students, who start school with few friends, the concert served as a bonding experience for all of those involved. Additionally, it was an easy way to keep students away from more risky situations at parties on their first weekend. To maintain the success and welcoming nature of the Welcome Week concert, UPC should have followed the formula used in previous years. Though the lottery system did not guarantee every student a ticket, students had the option to wait outside for standby tickets if they were not picked in the lottery. Additionally, the tickets were free and no student was expected to shell out cash to see the weekend’s main event.
Though this year’s musical guests are certainly more high-profile than those in years past, their expense could ruin the true purpose of the event. If the purpose of the event is to keep as many students away from Block Party as possible, UPC has already failed by attaching a price tag to their concert. The easiest way to keep students away from one free event is to offer a better free event in its place, and the Welcome Week concert in years past has served that purpose. By cutting out a portion of the student body, the Welcome Week concert will not be able to fulfill its purpose as well as in years past. Last year’s J.Cole concert offered a large number of free student tickets, in addition to those available for purchase if one was not selected through the ticket lottery. This year, however, there is no sign that UPC intends to continue this policy. If the organization hopes to continue the accessibility which has made the concert such a success in the past, they should continue their policy of offering some free student tickets.
Carly Mulvihill is the Senior Associate Opinion Editor for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.