10 Questions With Movin’ On Executive Director Tara Bendler
Penn State’s annual spring music festival Movin’ On has been campus tradition since 1975, featuring famous musical acts like Fall Out Boy, Reel Big Fish, Run DMC, Ludacris, Jimmy Eat World, and Bowling for Soup to name a few. Entering its 40th year as one of the largest student-run music festivals in the country, Movin’ On celebrates graduating students with one final celebration before transitioning into professional and academic careers.
In anticipation of the announcement revealing the musical acts coming to Movin’ On 2015, we asked Executive Director Tara Bendler for some insight on how the event comes together before the artists take the stage on May 1.
Onward State: Obviously, there are a lot of students on campus with thousands of different tastes in music. How do you balance it all to please the crowd?
Tara Bendler: It is definitely a challenge to bring an act that everyone will love, which is why Movin’ On works so hard to have a diverse lineup. We try to make sure that no two of our acts in the lineup are the same, and we do our best to pick artists from as many genres as possible.
OS: How many responses did the survey receive? Any strange requests?
TB: The survey received around 2,000 responses, but I think one important thing to note is that we put a lock on the survey so that it could only be taken once by each student. We wanted to avoid people submitting the survey 100 times because they really wanted a certain act. In addition, it required a Penn State login, so only students could take it, not random Movin’ On fans in Philadelphia. So while the number of responses was not that large, I think it was a very fair and representative value of which acts students wanted to see at Movin’ On.
We always get a few strange responses in the open submission box. These are word for word requests that were written in:
- Mac miller – better be old shit
- Maroon 5
- MILEY CYRUS
- Voting for Trey Songz twice.
- GIVE US MORE ROCK AND ROLL
- Beyonce or I’m not coming
- DEAR GOD NOT WIZ KHALIFA AGAIN. WHATEVER YOU DO, NOT FUCKING WIZ.
- SUBLIME AND SHWAYZE!!!!!!!!! But Third Eye Blind HAS to be here
- Omg plz trey songz <333
- the Mountain Goats
- Something good plz
OS: Describe the process of booking an act. What do you and the organization have to do to compile the final set list?
TB: It’s tedious to say the least. We really start with our middle agent who tells us who is within our budget, who is available, and who is looking to play a college show. What most students don’t recognize is that there are a lot of artists that have no interest in playing a college show, especially a free one. Cost is also a big factor. Beyonce is never going to play at Movin’ On. From availability and cost alone, so many artists are knocked off the list. From there we create the survey, and we really look at who students want to see. We start with the headliner, and it can take months to hear from an act once an offer is submitted. Once the headliner is booked, we continue to book the rest of the lineup one by one. But again, each offer has to be negotiated, and sometimes acts don’t work out and we have to look for someone else. The process can be incredibly long, but we never know how long that will actually be.
OS: What’s the trickiest part about securing a big name artist? Does it take a lot of persistence, or is it just luck of the draw?
TB: Definitely a lot less about luck and more about persistence. There are really a few key things that go into this: cost, availability, and if they are looking for dates. If those three things match up, then it’s going to be a lot less challenging. You certainly have to be on the same page with how much you are willing to pay and how much they are looking for.
OS: What’s the most stressful part about the whole process? The most rewarding?
TB: I think the most stressful part is definitely waiting for an act to confirm. We don’t know if they are going to counter, or if they are just sitting on the offer waiting for another one. Obviously the earlier we have the lineup the happier we are, but it does take time. It’s incredibly stressful to think you have a great act and learn the next day it’s no longer an option. The most rewarding part is definitely the day of the festival and seeing everything come together. It’s incredible to see that stage and 13,000 students enjoying a day of music, and saying, ‘Wow, I planned that.’
OS: Describe what it’s like on the day of the concert. How much time does set-up take?
TB: With the event on Friday, set-up actually starts earlier in the week around Tuesday. The trucks roll in with the stage and some of production starts to come in as well. By Wednesday, set-up is in full swing with the stage starting to be built, and all of production coming in. On Thursday, it’s all hands on deck from early in the morning to production staying well past midnight. The day of the festival there is so much going on from the artists arriving to sound checks, and then the actual concert starting at 3:30PM. We work tirelessly to make sure that we stay on schedule that week so we are ready when students start arriving, but there a lot of different pieces that come together.
OS: How do the musical acts behave in State College? Do you have any stories about current/former acts doing weird stuff?
TB: I think it depends on the act. Some of them just want to stay on their bus and not be seen until their set, others are a lot more active. I remember Young the Giant went behind the stage and played frisbee for awhile, and Michael Franti went downtown to explore State College. And let’s not forget Wiz Khalifa went to the (Lion’s) Den last year after Movin’ On.
OS: Last year’s headliner was scheduled to be A$AP Rocky until he bailed at the last minute. How was it possible for you guys to get Wiz Khalifa on such short notice? Do you have a few backups planned just in case?
TB: We fortunately have a fantastic middle agent for Movin’ On, and because of his reputation in the industry and the agency in general, we were able to get Wiz very quickly, within just a few days actually. We absolutely do not have backups planned. What happened last year was a rare and unique case, and while it does happen in the music industry, we do not “plan backups.”
OS: What should students be looking forward to at this year’s Movin’ On? Anything new?
TB: I think that students will be really excited about the lineup and I can’t wait for it to be released! There’s also a possibility for some new vendors and food so it should be a great year!
OS: If you were a dinosaur, which one would you be and why?
TB: A velociraptor. Small and feisty. Enough said.
Photo: Mitchell Wilston/Onward State