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The Concerts Are A-Changin'

The UC and the Concert Commission deserve a hearty pat on the back

By The Crimson Staff

Whether you waited in line to buy a ticket for Bob Dylan’s concert last week, or you sat in your dorm room lamenting the fact that this generation lacks a poet of its own, it is nearly impossible to argue that the Undergraduate Council and the Harvard Concert Commission (HCC) don’t deserve kudos for their accomplishment. True, some concert-goers complained about Dylan’s lackluster vocal abilities and less than enthused presence, but in the most important ways, this concert was a satisfying success—demonstrating without a doubt that the council and the HCC can successfully handle large venue events.

Most obviously and most importantly, the concert sold out—a major feat in its own right. Well-publicized both on and off campus—the concert’s organizers should be commended for a job well done. Even with the capacity crowd, there were no major incidents. Considering previous concerts held on campus, such as the infamous Verve Pipe show in 2002 and the numerous last-minute failures that never materialized at all, the council and HCC should be proud of the great strides made in planning and promoting this event—especially considering the short time-frame they faced after late in the summer Alicia Keys’ managers surprisingly backed out of an Oct. 2 benefit concert. By having a sound fiscal plan for the Dylan show and building on the successes of last November’s Guster appearance and Springfest’s Busta Rhymes concert, the council and the HCC have set the path and the benchmark for future concerts on campus.

Even more impressive, the council actually made $15,000 it had budgeted to lose—though to be sure, it did spend an additional $15,000 subsidizing tickets for students. Nonetheless, the financial windfall proves that these large concerts need not necessarily be viewed as a sacrificial trade-off for other events. If the council and the HCC plan carefully, they should be able to break even—if not turn a profit—on future concerts, and that money could be funneled back into other campus events and activities. Considering that tickets to campus shows are significantly discounted from those for public shows, we recognize that making a profit is an enormously lofty goal, but it is on the horizon—whereas just a couple of years ago, simply getting any concert to take shape seemed doubtful.

It is true that the council and the HCC made back much of its money from selling a great number of tickets to the general public at significantly higher prices, and that Dylan’s appeal with older members of the community had something to do with piquing outside interest, but this practice is by no means necessarily bad. The bottom line is selling more expensive tickets to non-Harvard concert-goers means cheaper tickets for undergraduates, and as long as the practice does not come at the cost of undermining the student-centric, community-building nature of the show, we see no problem. Provided that enough tickets are set aside for students at a discounted rate, the council and the HCC should sell tickets to whomever they want to make these events more profitable.

The council and the HCC have made serious headway in an area that has been an historical embarrassment for student planners in years past. The Dylan concert was an excellent event, and praise should be bestowed where praise is due. We look forward to seeing where concerts at Harvard can go from here.

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