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Did DNCE’s Surprise THON Performance Create A Precedent For Big-Name Acts?

Students filing into the Bryce Jordan Center Friday afternoon had no idea — come dark they’d see a Billboard Top-100 artist live at THON. After rumors started that there was a “big performance and I heard it was Joe Jonas,” people seriously entertained the idea that THON not only secured a huge act in complete secrecy but also was willing to let it perform.

Once we spotted Jonas in the BJC it was all but confirmed. But did this surprise, star-studded concert from a big-name celeb with a Penn State connection create a precedent moving forward? Will THON will feel pressure to bring in a big artist to perform every year now?

It’s still not crystal clear how the concert came to be, but in addition to the fact that I don’t see THON reaching out to and especially not paying for the show (or any act at THON), Jonas and DNCE made it sound as though it was their idea, at least to some degree.

“Penn State is a special place for all of us — me for sure, I’ve had many birthdays here and I have a lot of friends that went to Penn State,” Jonas said in an interview with THON. “This is something that I think is going to be really special for us to perform at and kick off. Obviously it raises so much awareness and money for a good cause and that’s something we’re happy to help with. We’re just so thankful to be a part of this.”

It’s certainly a good look for the band to perform pro bono at the largest student-run philanthropy event in the world, but it begs the question: Will THON try to secure other big-name acts in the future? Will other top bands come to THON and ask if they can perform for free during the weekend?

It’s hard to say. This is admittedly new territory for THON, whose biggest act is typically Go Go Gadjet. Most celebrities (besides Devon Werkheiser) show support from social media. It makes sense THON’s executives don’t want to see the weekend dedicated to celebrating all the hard work and money raised for childhood cancer turn into a free concert — that’s the most common reason I’ve heard as to why only a select few knew about DNCE’s performance. That was smart, and I think it would behoove THON to continue to keep any big performances a secret should it schedule more in the future.

Now that the barrier’s been broken, I see a headlining act becoming a part of THON weekend each year.

The question then becomes, should THON do that? Should it open its doors to the biggest act with a Penn State connection (or, in the future, without one) willing to pump up the BJC for free? It’s no issue logistically — the stage and speakers are set up to handle near never-ending performances over the weekend and the BJC brings in big names all the time. However, THON is starting to outgrow its current home and if these acts become an annual treat, attendance will likely reach capacity early in the weekend. THON will have to find a new place to go — and there isn’t really anywhere else to go.

But morally? I don’t think anyone should be up in arms. A big name performer raises more national awareness for the fight and For the Kids. THON will, though, have to keep whoever it is under wraps to avoid the “concert with a side of THON,” instead of THON with a special performance. I don’t see that happening anyways, because the dancers, families, and spectators are all (well, most) there FTK. Students aren’t going to base their decision to dance or join a committee on whether or not a huge act is performing and how close they’ll want to be — that’s not why they’re there. Spectators are another story, but I think THON’s executives would be able to mitigate people who are coming just for the free show by not advertising it.

I wager we’ll see another big act and surprise performance next year. Will it be as big as DNCE? That doesn’t really matter as much as the fact that it will likely be someone whose songs would be played at the BJC whether they’re there or not. Now that DNCE’s done it, it’s fair game.

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About the Author

Lexi Shimkonis

Lexi is an editor-turned-staff writer who can often be found at either Irving's or the Phyrst (with the chances she'll have her backpack being the same). Lexi is a senior hailing from Spring City, PA (kind of) and studying Civil Engineering. Please email questions and/or pleas for an Instagram caption to [email protected], or for a more intimate bond, follow her on Twitter @lexshimko.

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