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BCA poll results reveal rock as most popular genre

Students indicated an interest in mainstream rather than ‘indie’ musical artists

As students gear up for Spring Weekend with colorful tanks, kegs and perhaps — given Saturday’s forecast — rain ponchos, their attention is turning to the main event — a two-day musical extravaganza on the Main Green. This year’s lineup features DJ A-Trak and rapper Kendrick Lamar headlining among other performers. But students put forth a rather different body of desired artists for the concerts, according to a poll conducted last semester by the Undergraduate Council of Students and the Brown Concert Agency to survey student interest in potential Spring Weekend acts.

With over 700 votes, rock was identified as the most popular genre among poll respondents, closely followed by pop, hip-hop and electronic music, respectively. Country, jazz, jam band, soul and funk each received close to 120 votes.

The three acts that received the most votes were the popular foot-stomping British folk band Mumford and Sons, The Lonely Island — the comedy trio based on Saturday Night Live — and Macklemore, the up-and-coming rapper of “Thrift Shop” fame.

None of the acts booked for this year’s Spring Weekend made the top 10, though rapper Kendrick Lamar, who will headline Saturday night, placed 13th among surveyed students.


Mapping the rock diaspora 

Though a plurality of students identified rock as their genre of choice, most of the acts they actually suggested tend to fall more comfortably into the hip hop and electronic camps. Among the top 20 acts, only The Black Keys might be classified a rock act in the conventional sense, though Mumford and Sons and Of Monsters and Men have a rock sensibility with folksy underpinnings.

Emma Ramadan ’13, BCA Booking Chair, said it is difficult to book a suitable rock act given the constraints of the BCA budget and the disparate nature of the genre.

“With the rock genre there’s no in-between,” she said. “There are either these big rock names that everyone knows but are out of our budget, or there are these much, much smaller ... indie rock bands that could never headline a show.”

Olivia Petrocco ’13, music director at WBRU-FM, attributed the genre disparity to a shifting landscape of music distribution.

“The alternative radio panel sound that gets played has fractured a lot recently with the differentiation of where you can get your music from,” she said. “The Internet is such a dynamic channel for music to travel through that the alternative panel is not as definitive as it once was.”


Confronting the mainstream 

Though students indicated that Brown has a reputation for being a mecca for alternative music, this notion seems to stand in opposition to the top 10 acts, most of which enjoy regular airtime on Top 40 radio stations.

“The perception that people have of Brown of being this hipster school where everyone has these really (alternative) music tastes comes from a really small but really vocal minority,” Ramadan said.

On campus, preference for underground or unheard acts comes with a certain cachet, students said.

“People are very sensitive about it. It’s like your wardrobe. It says so much about you, and people make judgments about it even if you don’t want them to,” said Michelle Zheng ’16.

Others suggested that Brown students have more in common with mainstream culture than they think they do.

“It also could be the fact that we’re not as definitely hip as either we like to think ourselves to be or the world sees us to be,” said Lucy Stephenson ’13.


Hip-hop and electronic demand

The popularity of hip-hop and electronic music acts among respondents might correspond to a desire to dance and unwind during the concert, students said.

“The people that tend to be more passionate about their interests in music are the people that are associating Spring Weekend with an enormous party, the analog of Coachella at Brown,” said Clayton Aldern ’13, former editor-in-chief of post- Magazine.

The two genres with the most shared respondents were hip-hop and pop, with 300 students responding that they listened to both.

“Hip-hop and electronic shows are more conducive to the kinds of experiences people want to have on Spring Weekend,” Ramadan said.

“It’s more about what people are going to be engaging with in a concert. That will be very different from the experience that’s just delivered through an MP3 player,” Stephenson said.

“The same stuff’s playing at all the parties,” said Sasha Teninty ’14. “What people like to dance to is universal.”


Alternative Spring Weekend experiences 

The popularity of acts like The Lonely Island among poll respondents suggests that party atmosphere and communal value of Spring Weekend may be more important than the quality of the musical experience, students said.

“For me (the music) is not that important,” Perocio said. “I just go to participate in campus culture.”

“In some cases it’s the music, and in some cases it’s just about the overall experience, like being with your friends and having fun,” Ramadan said.


Correction: A previous version of this article's headline incorrectly referred to pop and hip hop as the most popular genres among students. In fact, BCA poll results showed rock to be students’ favorite genre. The Herald regrets the error.


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