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The Undergraduate Council decided Friday to scrap plans for a concert by comedian Steven Wright after promoters asked for a higher price, which was more than the $12,000 the council had originally budgeted, council members said this weekend.
At the last meeting of the semester, the council considered a $10,000 bid for a performance by the deadpan comedian. But council members said that in later negotiations, promoters asked for more money, which was more than the council felt it could afford.
Council executives blame the promoter for misrepresenting the original price of the concert.
"It was a costly communication error by the promoter, especially in the wake of the Suzanne Vega concert disaster," said Eugene S. Kim '92, chair of the social committee. "Last year the council didn't have a lot of options, but this year we want to shop around for a good product at a good price."
Council Chair Guhan Subramanian '91-'92 said, "It's like going to a shopping market and trying to get the best deal. It's difficult to know, especially with such a wishy-washy business."
The council last year passed a resolution allowing the executive board to pay up to $35,000 for a concert. But since Wright is a comedian, and not a musical performer, the council did not want to spend the full amount on him, Kim said.
Kim said that the council has had bad luck with concert promoters in the past. The council is currently dealing with five or six promoters.
"We're working through several promoters to prevent such a harrowing effect as last year," Kim said. "We want to find a promoter who we can build a long-term relationship with...a good promoter who has good relationships with big name artists and agents."
The council is currently working with a promoter for reggae musician Ziggy Marley. "We did a lot of research into which group would be right here. This is the conclusion to a lot of hard work," said Kim.
Kim said that the council is considering plans to hold a free outdoor Marley concert, possibly on the North House terrace, with the council selling T-shirts and refreshments to cover some of the cost. "It's something the council would definitely be proud of," he said.
But David A. Battat '91, who chairs the finance committee, said hosting Marley might not be the best idea.
"There are a lot of problems [with Ziggy Marley]," Battat said. "He just fired his band a couple of months ago so things are a little shaky."
In addition, Battat said that the council should have learned from last year's Jimmy Cliff concert that reggae is not very popular at Harvard. "The Jimmy Cliff concert last fall lost the council about $8,000. Frankly, it's unconscionable that they would consider bringing an act that has already failed...There is no institutional memory."
"I think Ziggy Marley is too expensive. The council can't afford to lose that much when there are so few student organizations that get the money they need," Battat added.
Battat also said that although the council has wanted to hold an outdoor concert for several years, the administration and the surrounding residents would not approve.
Any concerts also may tend to run over any allotted budget, Battat said. "Concert promoters realize that they are dealing with amateurs. It's an absolute money pit. It's very easy for the concert to go way over budget: permits, security, artists, stipulations. Jimmy Cliff demanded special meals and hotelaccomodations. These things can't be forseen."Princeton held the same Cliff concert last yearfor $5,000 less than Harvard paid, Battat said.
Council executives say they will know by theend of the week whether or not Marley willperform
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