Inside CUA’s search for acts and performances

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(from left to right) Sara Bailey, Kristen Meinhart, Justin Willman, Amber Krigbaum and Ben Shingole.

Ben Shinogle, CUA Director, explains the process of bringing performers to campus

The duty of the student-directed organization College Union Activities (CUA) is to provide William Jewell College’s community with events and concerts to attend throughout the school year. They are responsible for events like CUA Formal, Headphone Disco and S’mores night. They are bring performers to campus.

“[Picking performers] is a fairly organic process. We have a number of different things we turn to. First of all, if there is a sort of event we would usually have, we will seek people out to fill that. So we have lots of comedians throughout the year, we’ve opened up the category for hypnotists [and] we have a band every year. So we know to reach out to people to fulfill those quotas,” Ben Shinogle, CUA co-director, said.

Based on the past experience, in order to book quality performers,  CUA has to look for them proactively.

“The mechanisms we use to [search for acts] are through interacting with agencies, just like the Sprint Center would, and we have a programming trip we take every February called NACA [National Association for Campus Activities]. That pulls in lots of different performers and lots of different colleges of various sizes. At that conference, we interact with different performers where they showcase different events. You’re just bombarded with a litany of different types of acts, some of which are good, some that aren’t very good. But it gives you a slice of what you could have at your college,” Shinogle said.

After the group watches and judges the performances, they have the option to meet with the performers directly.

“[After viewing the acts], you go to this convention-style room in which you can actually interact with the performers you just saw and people like them. So it’s a really cool experience because you can interact with big bands and comedians that might be good main events, and then at the booth next door, hear about this thing called the ‘Headphone Disco,’ which is actually how the Headphone Disco came to be,” Shinogle said.

There is a competitive edge, though. CUA must navigate within the group, agree on a performer and then attempt to negotiate with other schools.

“At those conventions, when we want to book somebody, it starts off with us trying to persuade each other to book a certain event. Last year, I really liked this one comedian, so I was really encouraging everybody in our group to have him at Jewell. But then, after we decided we liked him, it moved on to persuading schools in our area, because if you book in a block, then you can get a discounted price. So what began as a simple conversation turned into this political game where we were interacting with UMKC [University of Missouri-Kansas City], MU [University of Missouri] and KU [University of Kansas] trying to see if they would agree to all book him in a similar area of time,” Shinogle said.

Shinogle notes, however, that the CUA budget is strictly regulated. The organization does not have the freedom to drop an enormous amount of money for any one act. It is a supply and demand system in which the money spent on a performer must be based on how many people are likely to show up and what has been successful in the past.

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