Pop concerts at CSF started off strong this fall with the Sweetwater rock group, reached a peak with the John Mayall presentation, dropped badly with the Grass Roots, and sunk dismally with the Joni Mitchell cancellation.
The sudden attack of bronchitis which felled Miss Mitchell, proved to be the fatal blow in the AS Pop Concert Series. The AS lost $3,500 on Miss Mitchell's last minute withdrawal, and she was the final pop offering of the fall semester.
What made the cancellation even more unfortunate, besides the damage to the AS treasury, was the fact that the advance ticket sale for the Joni Mitchell appearance had been going very well, and it looked as if there would be a full house in the CSF Gymnasium the evening of the concert.
When Miss Mitchell called off her performance the day of the concert, the backers of the pop series, the AS and Gene Simmons Productions, were forced under contract to pay the other performers who did not play as well as the set-up crew who had done most of the work already.
Also, all of the radio and newspaper publicity which is necessary to promote any successful concert had to be paid for by the AS and Simmons. Miss Mitchell lost nothing except her fee in canceling her appearance at CSF.
According to Bill Pollock, AS administrator, most major acts have a clause in their contracts which stipulate that the performer is not responsible for cancellations due to sickness or an Act of God. "Big concert promoters carry insurance to protect themselves from these mishaps," says Pollock, "but the premiums on this type of policy are too high to make them realistic for the AS Pop Concert Series."
Pollock had previously speculated with some of Miss Mitchell's agents that she would perhaps appear at CSF in the spring of 1970 for a minimal fee. "This would have helped defray some of the losses the AS incurred with her cancellation," said Pollock.
"It now seems unlikely she will ever appear at CSF," says Pollock, "As she has been rumored to have retired from the concert business. She feels no moral commitment to CSF for the huge losses it sustained by her last minute illness."
Pollock then gave an account of the profit and loss picture for each of the four fall pop concerts.
The Sweetwater and Taj Mahal concert, the first of the series, drew 3,000 patrons of rock to the CSF Gymnasium. The expenses incurred for this concert totalled $9,000 and the net profit to the AS was about $300.
The next pop offering was the John Mayall-Southwind concert, and well over 4,000 were packed into the Gymnasium. The expenses for this concert ran about the same as that for the previous one, but the net profit to the AS was $4,000. Pollock replied in reference to the huge difference in profits fro the two concerts, that "with 1,000 more ticket purchases at an average of $4 per ticket you will have a much larger profit."
The Grass Roots and Don Ellis were presented next by the AS and drew a very disappointing 1,100 people. The Roots had been promoted in the same manner the first two concerts had, but they had fallen from the grace of the area's young people and they just didn't draw as expected.
Rock groups can rise and fall in popularity in a very short period of time, and it is always a gamble deciding which group to book several months in advance to the concert. The AS lost $5,500 in this rock ruin.
The AS was still ahead in the concert business, though, going into the Joni Mitchell presentation. They had carried a $2,500 net gain from the popular (even among CSF students) concerts of last spring, which featured the rock group Spirit and the Mothers of Invention in that order.
As was mentioned earlier, ticket sales for Joni Mitchell were going strong, and CSF students were showing much interest in this concert. Traditionally, CSF students have comprised only 10 per cent of the audience at AS pop concerts. Many more than this were purchasing tickets for Joni Mitchell.
"With the $3,500 net loss after the Mitchell cancellation, the future of the pop concerts at CSF is uncertain at this time," says Pollock. "The AS budgeted $4,000 this year for the Pop Concert Series and this is now gone. Therefore, it doesn't look like there can be any AS concerts next semester."
Pollock said that certain California State Colleges have considered doing away with associated-student-promoted pop concerts in the near future, and this is being instigated by the problems inherent in staging pop concerts - the spiraling costs for the acts and the drugs reportedly in evidence at many rock concerts.
He hopes that despite its drawbacks, the concert series can be continued here, with fewer and better performers being booked to appeal to CSF students and faculty.
"It has to be fewer performers," says Pollock, "because the better entertainers demand much more to appear."
Divergence in the type of entertainment is important in booking concerts at CSF; widely different musical styles of the Mothers of Invention and Joni Mitchell have appealed to the CSF student, while the more "run-of-the-mill" rock sound of the Grass Roots bombed at CSF.
Asked about the overall issues of the series, Pollock replied, "If you're in the pop concert business and you sustain losses, that's show business. Other colleges in Southern California have done much worse in this area. In comparison, we have done quite well."
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