Cram Jam spending (and attendance) down

KSA executive suggests the event may need to be re-imagined in future years.

KSA executive suggests the event may need to be re-imagined in future years.

By Samantha Lego & Matt DiMera

Spending for the Kwantlen Student Association’s (KSA) annual back-to-school Cram Jam concert was way down this year. Costs plummeted by nearly 80 per cent from last year’s net of $127,982 to an estimated $26,000 in 2012. The KSA was unable to provide a final tally before The Runner’s deadline.

The concert took place at the Surrey campus on Thursday, Sept. 13, with events starting at 3:30 p.m and running until 11 p.m. Unlike last year, there was no headlining performance.

“This year, instead of having an international artist, we have local bands. We’re trying to promote local artists and different kinds of performances to satisfy different students’ needs,” said Tony Chiao, director of finance for the KSA.

Several cultural presentations by aboriginal and South Asian performers were followed by Vancouver-based rock bands Pedwell, Within Rust, Atom Atom, Grizzly Bones, and Cruel Young Heart.

The KSA saved a substantial amount of money using local artists, but the lack of both advertising and a big-name headline did little to draw out the student population. While costs were down, so was the attendance.

According to Amrit Mahil, the KSA’s Surrey campus representative and director of student life, at certain peaks there were 200 students in the audience and another 150 in the beer garden. Arzo Ansary, director of external affairs placed the peak number at 95. Runner reporters who attended various parts of the concert, counted far fewer attendees, estimating the total to be around 100.

“People were not there the whole time, but they were there a bit and they left,” said Mahil.

He argued that the event was a good use of student’s money.

“If you consider the population of Kwantlen, we hardly spent $1 per student,” he explained. “So we tried to come up with something new for the students and I hope they enjoyed it.”

Chiao attributed the lacklustre attendance to a lack of promotion and suggested that a Thursday concert would have been problematic for students with Friday classes.

“We tried our best. We had volunteers going to all of the campuses and distributing [leaflets] and we had the posters up as soon as possible,” explained Mahil. “That was the first time we had the rock bands [and] it didn’t work that well.”

All four members of the KSA executive committee agree that this year’s event was a qualified success.

“Well first of all we didn’t get revoked by the university which is a good thing and the city of Surrey allowed us to hold it, so overall I would say that’s a success,” said Chiao.

In 2011, mainstream artist Jay Sean performed off campus at the Royal King Palace banquet hall in Surrey, playing a show that ended up costing Kwantlen students 150 per cent more than the original $50,000 budget.

The 2011 concert was unexpectedly moved off campus, after city officials revoked the necessary permits and the university sent out a mass e-mail declaring Cram Jam to not be a university sanctioned event.

According to Mahil the KSA worked more closely with the university in the planning stages, holding occasional meetings for progress updates and providing a sponsored shuttle that brought students from other campuses to the Surrey campus.

As for Cram Jam in the future, Mahil notes that since this one was not as successful as hoped “[The KSA] will come up with another idea next year. We will try to engage as many students as we can and [learn from this year].”

“It was a mutual effort from the KSA and [the] university,” says Mahil.

Christopher Girodat, the KSA’s director of student services, said this year’s organizers faced new challenges.

“I know that the brand of Cram Jam needed to recover from some events from last year,” he said. “I think that put some obstacles in our way in terms of seeking sponsorship and in terms of making people believe the event would be something they would want to be at.”

When asked if he thought the event was a success, Girodat answered that “it depends on what you mean by a success.”

He explained that logistically, things went well, but “in terms of marketing and attendance, I think that’s where the event fell short.”

Girodat said the actual attendance numbers didn’t meet the KSA’s earlier estimated projections of 1000 students.

He suggested that the event “may need to be reimagined” in the future.

Ansary said the KSA learned a lot of lessons from this year’s event.

“How do you plan something this big while not having the experience in planning something this big?” she asked.