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BCA addresses Spring Weekend funding, artist selection process

Concert Agency secured $405,000 budget for 23-24 academic year


Earlier this month, the Brown Concert Agency received widespread criticism for its lineup selection and poster design for this year’s Spring Weekend, which is set to occur on Sunday. 

The backlash also raised questions about how BCA allocated funding it received from the Undergraduate Finance Board and other University offices. Last year, UFB spent most of its $1.2 million surplus, leading to a funding crisis that has affected most student groups on campus. 

The Herald spoke with BCA Co-Heads Catherine Yang ’24 and Brian Wang ’24 about the agency’s behind-the-scenes finances.

This year BCA’s total Spring Weekend budget amounted to $405,000. Beyond the budget initially allocated by UFB, the agency also secured supplementary funding and a $80,000 grant from the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity. 


According to public UFB data, the concert agency received around $300,000 in funding from the board this academic year, compared to around $550,000 last year. Outgoing UFB Chair Arjun Chopra ’25 told The Herald that UFB has “always treated (BCA) a little differently” when allocating funding due to the scope of Spring Weekend.

Chopra added that, due to nondisclosure agreements BCA signs with artists, UFB exercises less oversight over the Concert Agency’s finances than other groups. “UFB’s only authority over BCA at this time is to decide upon a single-sum budget,” Chopra wrote in a message to The Herald. 

Like other student organizations, BCA is still required to provide UFB with a “very detailed breakdown of” their expenses, Yang said. 

Wang added that every expense must be approved by the Student Activities Office. 

The concert agency uses UFB funding to pay for larger costs — such as the stage — and smaller budget items like merchandise, marketing, artist hospitality and catering.

Historically, BCA has also aimed to allocate 10% of its total budget to an emergency fund every year, which allows the agency to prepare for any unpredictable circumstances like inclement weather or inaccurate financial estimates, Yang said. The emergency fund amounted to around $55,000 last year. 

Wang added that a “significant number of the costs that are involved with Spring Weekend are only calculated post-Spring Weekend” due to uncertainty in event planning.  “We can’t really pay for a lot of the line items up front,” he said.  

According to Wang, the agency may face discrepancies of thousands of dollars after the event. 

Remaining funds go to the BCA’s artist budget and to an external agency that helps the organization secure contracts with artists, according to Yang. Last year, the artist budget amounted to around $350,000. 

BCA leaders were also informed by UFB last spring that the concert agency would be responsible for covering emergency medical services and event support services costs, according to Wang. 


Last fall, UFB informed all student group leaders in an email that due to the funding crisis, there would be “limitations on what is automatically covered by UFB” for event operations, The Herald previously reported.

The email stated that groups would be required to use “approved UFB funds” or “raised funds” available in their accounts” to pay for services not covered by UFB. 

At the end of last school year, BCA worked with their SAO advisor — who left their position at the beginning of this year — to create a preliminary spending plan for their $300,000 funding. 

Yang said this initial plan allocated $20,000 to cover new EMS and ESS costs. After determining all other expenses, only $125,000 were left for the artist budget — a 65% decrease from last year.

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But the plan underestimated the new safety costs. “When we actually started to dig up the receipts along with our faculty advisor, we found that the total we should expect to pay for EMS and ESS was (actually) around $67,000,” Wang said. 

To cover these unaccounted expenses, BCA applied for and received $25,000 in supplemental funding from UFB in February. 

The agency also secured an $80,000 grant from the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity — amounting to its $405,000 in total funding for the year. 

According to Yang, the OIED typically provides funding opportunities for “identity-based groups” but “made an exception (for BCA) because (Spring Weekend) is for the entire campus, and the money was specifically for bringing more diversity to Brown.”

Yang added that BCA felt their goals of “making sure that we support diversity in terms of identity, background and genre (among) the artists performing '' align with OIED’s goals. 

The OIED did not immediately respond to The Herald’s request for comment.

This year, BCA was only able to allocate $25,000 to its emergency fund, approximately $15,500 less than their usual 10% threshold. According to Yang, other items “were more expensive than (they) anticipated.”

The emergency fund is “significantly less than it should be, but still enough to give us padding,” she added. “Our estimates are more accurate than they normally are, and we’ve been putting a lot of work and energy into making sure that they stay within budget.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, BCA charged students $50 to attend Spring Weekend, and ticket revenue accounted for 40% of their yearly funds, The Herald previously reported.

But in a decision proposed by UFB and SAO, BCA made 2022’s Spring Weekend free of charge for students, supplementing lost ticket revenue with additional funds from UFB’s budget surplus, according to a BCA statement to The Herald earlier this year.

While UFB hoped to sustain a free Spring Weekend “forever,” the board “made it very clear to BCA that (making Spring Weekend free in 2022 was) not precedent-setting,” Chopra said. “We could only support a free Spring Weekend for as long as we had the money to do so.”

When notified of this year’s budget cuts, BCA considered returning to a ticketed model for Spring Weekend, Yang said. But the agency is unable to predict its ticket revenue with enough certainty to book artists using those projections, she said.

As a result, “all of the money we would have hypothetically made from ticketing would only be allocated towards next year’s Spring Weekend,” Yang added.

According to Yang, BCA “tried working with different departments and organizations on campus to provide free tickets for people who qualify or need them.” But the number of free tickets that could be provided under these conditions would have been limited. 

As maintaining Spring Weekend’s “accessibility” was a “bigger priority” for BCA, the agency chose to stick with its fee-free model for this year’s festival, Yang said.

According to the BCA co-heads, the agency is unlikely to return to ticketing as a source of revenue.

For this year, BCA was left with a final artist budget of $150,000 to $160,000, Yang said. Due to confidentiality agreements with artists and agencies, BCA was unable to share any further specifics of the allocation of those funds with The Herald.

“The artists’ budget is the only place where we were able to cut corners and make sacrifices,” Yang said. “Everything else regards safety and infrastructure.”

While BCA has attempted to make its artist selection process more transparent — this year the organization circulated a campus-wide survey which garnered 764 responses — the agency must abide by nondisclosure agreements signed with artists and their managements as soon as price quotes are received. 

The NDAs make it impossible for more “democratic” student input on the artist selection process, Wang said. 

If BCA breaks confidentiality to share potential artists and costs with the larger community, they risk damaging relationships with agents and artists or facing a breach of contract, where an artist can choose not to perform and still charge their full fee.

Community members suggested on social media that BCA use their funding to secure one more popular artist rather than multiple smaller musicians. But this year’s artist budget would not be enough to secure a very popular artist, Yang said. 

Both Yang and Wang also noted that picking one artist could narrow the concert’s scope and appeal.

“Our goal, ultimately, is to represent diverse artists and showcase different genres and put on a really good performance and festival for everyone,” Yang said.

For future Spring Weekends, BCA aims to return to a two-day festival and increase transparency throughout its organizational process, the co-heads told The Herald.

According to Yang, the agency has created a communications team to “increase (their) communication with the student body.” BCA is also trying to work with the Undergraduate Council of Students to help make information about Spring Weekend and future surveys on artist selection more accessible. 

“We want to be a place where we feel that everyone is welcome and that everyone has access to,” Yang said. Spring Weekend “is one of the few events on campus that really, truly unifies everyone.”

Anisha Kumar

Anisha Kumar is a section editor covering University Hall. She is a sophomore from Menlo Park, California concentrating in English and Political Science who loves speed-crosswording and rewatching sitcoms.

Julianna Chang

Julianna Chang is a University News Editor who oversees the academics and advising and student government beats. A sophomore from the Bay Area, Julianna is studying Biology and Political Science on the pre-medical track. When she's not in class or in the office, she can be found eating some type of noodle soup and devouring bad books.

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