By Kat Worrall
When not promoting a sold-out rock concert that can seat tens of thousands, Baylor students, alongside their guiding professor, are gaining first-hand promotional experience through Common Grounds’ Friday night concert.
The Venue and Event Promotion marketing class is working alongside Common Grounds for this Friday’s concert featuring Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors with opening guest Judah and the Lion.
The class is structured to promote an event — any event — to help give students hands-on experience.
Dr. Charles Fifield, senior lecturer in the marketing department, has overseen the class for both semesters and calls it “hands on, collaborative learning.”
“For me, the best educator is experience with someone coaching you,” Fifield said. “To go out and do something without any knowledge of what to do — well that’s just the blind leading the blind and you end up having a horrible result. What do you learn? ‘Well, I don’t ever want to do that again.’”
Fifield works closely with the 23 students in his class, the majority of whom are business majors, who are split up into five teams to work together for the event.
Waco junior Trannie Stevens is the project manager in the class this semester and oversees each team.
“I have five team leaders that are constantly talking to me about what they’re doing, asking for approval, or asking for help,” Stevens said. “I have to be very available. I’m pretty much the liaison between Fifield and the class.”
The five groups include an event team, promotion team, social media team, media team and a street team.
The students’ responsibilities include everything from creating posters and social media graphics; speaking at organizations’ meetings and Chapel; and unloading and loading the bands’ equipment.
While Fifield is ready to step in to assist or take over if he fears the students will negatively affect the customer, he said he wants students to learn how to do it themselves.
“You can sink or swim on your own, but if you’re smart, however, you’ll get as much input as you can,” he said. “So I am trying to make myself available. I try to in class be there and make suggestions, but I don’t want it to come across as ‘you’re going to do A, B and C.’”
Fifield, who is one of the organization sponsors for Uproar Records, began the class when student activities, the primary funding source for Uproar, announced they would like to phase out of financially supporting the artists.
Student Activities now uses the class to promote events and raise money for Uproar.
Uproar artists then indirectly benefit from the class, since they often open for bands that come in.
“You could go out and do car washes or you could go out and sell Girl Scout cookies, but we don’t do that,” Fifield said. “We are trying to do it in a business sense, even though we don’t think selling Girl Scout cookies is below us. We just haven’t done that yet, but we might. We need the money to pay the bills for the student artists so we can record them and produce them and promote them.”
Instead of a typical class structure of reading textbooks and listening to lectures, the students spend their time preparing the event.
This past fall, they worked with student activities to promote the Switchfoot concert.
Boerne senior Andrew Hulett was the project manager last semester for the Switchfoot concert and said the class has given him the benefit of knowing what to expect when he graduates.
“Having that sense of ‘this is a real thing’ takes it out of the classroom and gives you true experience,” Hulett said.
Stevens said she has gained experience from the class.
“We don’t have tests,” Stevens said. “We don’t have assignments. Our grade is completely based off of what we can get done.”
Students interact firsthand with the artist, artist manager, agent, tour manager, venue, Baylor Bookstore, local radio, television and print medias and even nearby restaurants such as Pizza Hut to arrange free parking for groups that eat at the restaurant before the show.
“What we are trying to build, for our ultimate audience or ticket buyer, is an experience,” Fifield said.
“That’s what we want to build. We sell experiences — we don’t sell a performance. We sell an experience. Incorporated in that experience is not just the entertainment — the night or day of the event — but it’s also how you heard about it. It is getting the buzz going.”
The students also work with Common Grounds and its live event coordinator, Wes Butler.
Butler said working with the class, a first for Common Grounds, has been enjoyable as well as beneficial for students interested in this career.
“There are definitely some people who have shown that they have taken initiative to make sure things are in place,” Butler said. “It’s been as best promoted as it could be.”
The concert begins at 8 p.m. Friday with Judah and the Lion opening for Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors.
Before the show, Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors will be playing a free acoustic set at 6:30 p.m. in the Baylor Bookstore, as well as signing autographs and meeting fans.
As the concert nears, the class is working together with Common Grounds to sell the final tickets and help the artist produce a successful show.
“Every single person in the class contributes something to everything else,” Fifield said. “Does it directly impact them? No, quite often it doesn’t, but it does indirectly impact them because ultimately, the final grade is determined by how many people show up.”
Tickets for the show are $15 in advance at Common Grounds and $18 at the door, but Stevens and the rest of the class are offering a group rate of $12 for 10 or more people. For more information on the group rate, email Trannie_Stevens@baylor.edu.
The marketing class is open to upper-level business students.