Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

World's richest DJ performing at U of M

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When the world's richest DJ comes to Winnipeg, you don't expect him to perform at a university.

And after last year's Frosh Music Festival at the University of Manitoba, which had difficulty generating ticket sales, the push to nail down a bigger headliner for this year might be considered a questionable idea.

That didn't stop festival organizers, who've booked Tiesto, a Dutch DJ who plays electronic dance music (EDM) and is worth approximately $75 million, according to a 2013 article by music magazine NME.

Organizers hope Tiesto's appearance at the Sept. 14 event will help the festival rebound after last year, when it booked rapper Childish Gambino as its headliner. Gambino attempted to cancel his scheduled appearance about 10 days before the event, said Al Turnbull, president of the University of Manitoba Students' Union.

"Last year was obviously a kickstart year and this year, we're really seeing people know what Frosh is and get excited for it. It's really encouraging," Turnbull said.

In 2013, UMSU decided to extend the festival to two days to accommodate all of their previously scheduled performers and Gambino. They lost just over $150,000 in projected ticket revenue sales, but managed to balance the books by the end of the school year.

"That obviously was a circumstance that was unavoidable and we made the best of it we could," Turnbull said. "If we had cancelled the event altogether, we would have lost $300,000. So we decided to mitigate the losses, and everyone who showed up had a great time."

The majority of Frosh Fest's funding comes from UMSU's budget and the remainder comes from outside sponsorship deals. Turnbull said he could not disclose any specifics on the Frosh budget in order to not breach contracts with performers.

Part of each U of M student's tuition money goes towards paying UMSU fees -- $23.50 per registered student, says the UMSU website -- meaning they are contributing to the festival whether they attend or not.

Student ticket prices will be cheaper than general admission -- $45 rather than $60 -- and ticket sales began Friday. This year's Frosh Fest can accommodate up to 12,000 people, though the student union is aiming to sell 8,000 to 10,000 tickets, said Turnbull. Last year's Frosh Fest sold approximately 4,000 tickets.

Expect to see more acts like Tiesto at the Frosh Music Festival as it fills out its lineup.

"It's a lot more cost-effective to have hip-hop and EDM, as opposed to going between country (because) then you have to have all the back-line change over the stage," Matt Banville of Prairie Promotions said. Last year's Frosh lineup included country, indie, hip-hop and electro acts.

Safety is also a primary focus for this year's Frosh event. Tiesto's Winnipeg shows have a reputation for getting dangerous. There were bomb threats at Tiesto's 2007 show at the Convention Centre, prompting the building to be evacuated. In 2011, a security guard was stabbed at Tiesto's Winnipeg show in the same venue.

"There will be significant security, we're going to encourage people to get there early because there will be more than enough security," Banville said. Turnbull added that UMSU expects to have as many as six on-duty police officers at Frosh.

"This is the music that our generation is listening to and there is no act that we could have picked that would have been as inclusive to the demographic that I represent than someone like Tiesto," Turnbull said. "We're very excited to run this event as safe as possible."

 

jessica.botelho-urbanski@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 2, 2014 G3

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