10 Questions With Movin’ On Executive Director Jeremy Book
Penn State’s annual spring music festival, Movin’ On, has been around for 41 years now and it’s only gotten better since its inception. Artists have ranged from indie-electronic bands like Passion Pit to legendary rappers like Ludacris. Being one of the largest student-run music festivals in the country, the possibilities are almost endless for who will perform come May in Happy Valley. We sat down with the student running the show this year, Jeremy Book, to ask him about Movin’ On, what he does, and why this next festival will be the best one yet.
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?
Jeremy Book: This is probably the hardest part of booking artists. While we send out a survey that includes a favorite genre question, we are always concerned that we do not reach a specific demographic. Regardless, we always try to create the most diverse lineup we can. We make sure to consider what kinds of artists we have had in years past and how the crowd reacted to them.
OS: How many responses did the survey receive? Any strange requests?
JB: This year our survey received more than 4,300 responses, which is the most we’ve ever had and well surpassed our goal. We were really pumped about this. As a lot of organizations know, it’s difficult to get anyone to take a survey, so the fact that about 10 percent of Penn State students took it is something we’re very proud of. We had a few strange requests in the write-in boxes (yes, we read all of them) including your typical Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Kanye West, and Jay-Z (which are all extremely out of our price range, sorry). There were some other funny ones like Creed and some random ones like Lou Bega of “Mambo Number 5.” My personal favorite was that the same person wrote in both Willie Nelson and Diplo, which I thought was quite the combo.
OS: Describe the process of booking an act. What do you and the organization have to do to compile the final set list?
JB: The first thing we do is have the Movin’ On Executive Committee brainstorm a long list of artists that we think are popular, up-and-coming, or would just be a great fit for Movin’ On. Then we send that over to our middle agent, who books the artists for us. He’ll sort through that list and see who is within our price range and available and playing shows. Then we’ll trim that list down a little and put it on the survey. Once we have the results of the survey we’ll use that to decide who we’re going to give our first offer to. From there our middle agent and I negotiate a price with the artist and if they accept our offer we’ll begin the contract process. We’ll do that whole process again for the next artist in the lineup until we have all the bands booked and ready to go.
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?
JB: The hardest part is finding the best act for the least amount of money. We only have a certain amount of money to spend on all of our acts, so we want to maximize the talent without blowing our entire budget. Luckily, we have a great relationship with our middle agent, which has earned Movin’ On a great reputation in the music industry. A lot of talent agencies like to have their artists play our show, which is pretty cool. But for the most part it does take a good amount of money and persistence. Sometimes you can get lucky, like last year we booked Big Sean before he released his album and blew up.
OS: What’s the most stressful part about the whole process? The most rewarding?
JB: The most stressful part about the whole process of creating and planning Movin’ On for me is definitely booking the artists. The booking process requires a lot of back and forth with the artist/agent, as well as a lot of waiting to see if the artist will accept our offer. Then you have to worry about spending too much money on one artist and not having enough money to book the others. On top off all of that is the added pressure from the community to bring a lineup that tops last year’s, and you never want to disappoint. Once I know who we’re bringing and people start asking me who’s performing at Movin’ On, it’s so difficult not to tell people. The most rewarding part of the whole process will definitely be the day of the show when I can sit back and enjoy what I and the club have created. It’s also just really cool working with professionals in the industry, as well as my peers who are just as passionate about music and festivals as I am.
OS: Describe what it’s like on the day of the festival. How much time does set-up take?
JB: We actually begin setting up for the show the Wednesday before. We first lay down ground coverage to protect the field from the weight of the stages. Then, time and weather permitting, we can start unfolding and setting up the stages. Thursday is when most of the set up takes place, we load in all of the sound and lighting, set up the barricades, and test some of the equipment. The day of the show can be pretty hectic. Hopefully, everything will be set up by Friday morning and we will just be finishing up programming lights and putting up dressing rooms for the artists. Once we’re allowed to play music we are on a tight schedule to finish sound checks before people arrive. Then it’s just making sure everything non-stage and production-related is ready to go. During the show, Movin’ On members get to enjoy it for the most part. Once it’s over, clean up begins immediately, and we’re usually done around 2 a.m. or so.
OS: How do the musical acts behave in State College? Do you have any stories about current/former acts doing weird stuff?
JB: For the most part they typically arrive the day of the show and leave right after. Many of them have other shows they need to get to the next day, or they don’t care to hang around good old State College. However, two years ago Wiz Khalifa made a late night appearance at the Lion’s Den downtown. We’ve never had an artists sleep on a stranger’s couch like Steve-O.
OS: What should students be looking forward to at Movin’ On this year? Anything new?
JB: While we’re still about six months away, students should be looking forward to another incredible festival this year. We are working on some new initiatives and projects for this next festival, so be on the lookout for that in the coming months!
OS: What was your favorite part of last year’s concert?
JB: My favorite part of last years concert was meeting Big Sean and Big Gigantic, they were such genuinely nice people. It was not at all what I expected. They even took selfies on my phone to go on the Movin’ On snapchat (psumovinon). I mostly enjoyed sitting back and enjoying the show with my friends while knowing that I had a big hand in making it happen.
OS: And lastly, if you were a dinosaur, which one would you be and why?
JB: I’d definitely be a Deinonychus! While googling everything there is to know about dinosaurs for this question, I found out the Velociraptors in the “Jurassic Park” movies were actually modeled after these guys. Real Velociraptors were about the size of a turkey, but Deinonychuses were actually the badasses of the dinosaur kingdom.