WMLU Rethinks Bandfest after Steep Budget cut

What went wrong and what’s next

By Kiersten Freedman

Longwood University campus radio station WMLU is forced to adjust their strategy towards Bandfest after a 50 percent decrease to that portion of their budget this year. WMLU was allocated approximately $66,000 for the 2017 Bandfest, but only $33,000 for the upcoming 2018 Bandfest, according to WMLU General Manager Shannon Blunt. She, along with Sarah Banks, WMLU events chair, have been in contact with SGA Executive Treasurer Dustyn Hall regarding how they can allocate more money for Bandfest.

Immediately after the final SGA budget approvals in April 2017, “we (WMLU) went into crisis mode. We were at every SGA meeting, just so we could have a voice, trying to figure out if there was anything we could do to change their (SGA’s) decision,” said Blunt, “But because of the financial crisis our SGA experienced last year, they (the executive board of SGA) told us that (all clubs and organizations) experienced cuts to their budgets.”

Hall had a different explanation for the cut, “During budget sessions with the SFC (Student Finance Committee), there was a lot of discussion about Bandfest, and ultimately, we (SFC) decided that the presence they were maintaining was not worth it.”

Hall added that the issue was brought to SGA Senate, who agreed with the SFC. WMLU can expect a similar budget for the next fiscal year “until they (WMLU) can realign their purpose and…improve their services and direction to the student body.”

According to Hall, in 2014, SGA approved a bylaw that noted WMLU as “the first line of contact for (remote broadcasting) for campus events” and WMLU was “productive, but then fell short.” Hall mentioned that several remote requests from clubs and organizations were ignored by WMLU and because of that, the bylaw had to be eliminated.

It was both the previous Bandfest and inaction in response to remote requests that led to the SGA and SFC’s ultimate decision for a budget cut.

“Unfortunately, they can’t appeal the allocation of their budget because there’s nothing to appeal to,” said Hall. The only way for WMLU to receive more money at this point in the fiscal year is if they put in a request to the SFC.

photo courtesy of wmlu.org

“Bandfest is the Friday night portion of Spring Weekend, the biggest event WMLU puts on. We bring larger bands to campus and put on a big concert,” explained Banks. Started by the original Longwood University radio station, WLCX, in 1994, Bandfest is celebrating 25 years in 2018.

Banks and Blunt both expressed disappointment in the cut because they want to provide the best possible Bandfest, “we want to do that for the students, it’s not about WMLU, it’s about all for the students,” said Blunt.

“The cut to the budget is a challenge to us, but also provides a unique opportunity for us to find unique bands to bring to campus,” said Banks, “We’re making conscious decisions when it comes to planning and deciding on different events, (the budget) is something we’re taking into accounts.”

The most important part of Bandfest planning to Banks is that the budget adjustment is not reflected in the quality of the show and that the students do not notice the difference.

Banks noted that the cut to the budget was also a push to find “smaller, more eclectic bands and student acts, because Bandfest was becoming too similar to Lancer Productions’ (LP) Spring Weekend.” Hall seconded the statement, “we (SGA) expected Bandfest to be supporting upcoming and local artists, but (WMLU) was looking at bands as large as LP’s.”

“Despite the fact that we’re working with a different budget and it’s something new that we’re still adjusting to, we have really high hopes for Bandfest,” concluded Banks, “It’s still going to be a really fun event for the student body and…something the student body can look forward to.”