Frontier Fiesta explained: How Jeremih and past headliners were chosen
This weekend’s Frontier Fiesta concert will feature headliner hip-hop/R&B artist Jeremih, who is well-known for the U.S. Billboard hits “Oui” and “Don’t Tell ‘Em” from his 2015 sophomore album Late Nights.
The artist for the annual concert was announced less than a week before Jeremih will take the stage at 10 p.m. Saturday, but planning for his arrival started nearly a year ago.
The process for choosing each spring’s performer starts well before the school year begins, said Michelle Benjamin, the Student Program Board’s vice president of membership. SPB, a student fee-funded organization that plans programming throughout the year, starts planning for the Frontier Fiesta concert by evaluating its budget for the upcoming year.
First, the group discusses the price range of the options they want to consider, then sets out using a survey to probe students’ interest in potential artists. SPB officers factor in upcoming releases of would-be acts, the expected turnout to determine the event’s location, and since Frontier Fiesta is always free to attend, how to allocate funds toward the concert.
Because UH is located within the historically black Third Ward neighborhood and it’s popular on the radio and over streaming at the moment, most finalists end up being rap artists.
A couple of the runner-ups that SPB wasn’t able to grab were T-Pain, who had a scheduling conflict with this weekend’s In Bloom Festival at Eleanor Tinsley Park, and Cardi B, who was eyed early on, but due to a few successful collaborations during the summer of 2017, commanded an increased fee of “$30,000-40,000 more” than what the board was anticipating in a matter of weeks, Benjamin said.
The organization decided around Homecoming in 2017 who they would attempt to finalize for the concert. Because there will be no Homecoming concert for the 2018-19 school year, another event SPB usually organizes and funds, the organization went all in to get a signature artist like Jeremih for this year’s Frontier Fiesta.
Benjamin said that the process for procuring the artist works its way slowly through an exhaustive management and legal proceeding. First, SPB contacts an entertainment contracting company, which speaks to the artists’ managers, then it places a bid and the details of the final contract can finally begin.
On the University’s side, since SPB is a student-fee funded organization, the Center for Student Involvement and UH Business Services also need to approve any cost over $10,000, but Benjamin said that any cost below that threshold is typically easily approved.
Since the outside acts enter into an agreement to perform on campus grounds, among other things, both University and management company’s legal teams settle on the particulars of their performances.
During this process, even though SPB may know who has signed, it can’t release the artist’s name. At any point during the process, if something goes awry, then the entire contract is void, Benjamin said.
She said this year, SPB was ready to announce before spring break, but was forced to push the reveal back due to contract issues and ongoing discussions with Jeremih’s manager.
This volatility means that proceedings have to be under wraps for the University’s sake, and in the case of Cardi B, her overnight commercial success meant that she was opened up to new projects and performances at a high cost, Benjamin said.
Once an act has signed, Benjamin said, even if they have a rise in fame, or as was the case with 2016 Homecoming performers Nico & Vinz, promise to release new music ahead of the event but fail to do so, the fee doesn’t change.
At the end of the year, SPB’s budget will be released, and it will show how much Jeremiah received to perform, Benjamin said. The organization started with $100,000 to devote to its yearly events, and $20,000 was spent on the 2017 Homecoming, so the board had the remaining funds to work with, she said.