The Cornell Concert Commission has booked an increasing number of mashup artists and D.J.’s over the past four years –– an upswing CCC attributes to both the current state of the music industry and to the organization’s belief that these acts attract larger audiences than musicians of other genres.
From Girl Talk’s show in 2009, to Major Lazer’s appearance last semester, the trend is clear: Cornell’s concert venues have seen an uptick in mashup artists and D.J.’s in recent years.
“There are a lot of successful D.J.’s right now, and that’s just where the industry is today,” said Dave Rodriguez ’13, executive director of CCC.
The universal appeal of these artists makes them a great selection when trying to please thousands of Cornell students with varied tastes in music, he added.
“[With artists] like Avicii, it doesn’t matter if you’re into classic rock, indie or hip-hop. If ‘Levels’ is playing at a party, you’re going to be able to dance to it,” he said. “They’re all the songs that you already love, just reinvented in a different format, so it really is able to reach a wider audience than, say, a four-piece indie rock band.”
CCC has selected a mashup artist or D.J. for its free concert on the Arts Quad during nearly every Orientation Week.
Students’ opinions of the non-traditional performers varied.
Doran Kianmahd ’15 said that he would prefer if the organization stopped choosing primarily mashup artists and D.J.’s for concerts, arguing that their music lacks originality.
“The mashup artists are coming in and just pressing play. I think it’s stupid of us to pay money to bring these artists to campus when they don’t have as much talent to offer,” Kianmahd said.
Rachel Ellicott ’15 echoed his sentiments. Though she said she understands that bringing D.J.’s to campus is a safer move for CCC as they try to cater to a wide audience, Ellicott said she personally does not like the recent trend.
“I love live music and not pre-recorded and mixed music,” she said. “I like listening to mashup artists at parties.”
Still, other students, including Sam Dillard ’14, said they welcome the surge of D.J.s and mashup artists.
“I’ve always been more of a hip-hop fan, which has more produced beats, so I don’t have a problem,” Dillard said.
He added that these performers offer shows more orientated toward dancing than the performances of traditional bands.
“I’m not going to sit and appreciate the artistic merit of ‘Levels’ — but I’ll have fun listening to it, as opposed to some thought-provoking indie band,” he said.
Rodriguez said that as long as students continue to express an interest in these performers, CCC will continue to bring them to campus. But, in the interest of maintaining variety, mashup artists and D.J.’s will not be the only genre of music represented at concerts on campus this semester, he said.
“We’re going to try to get someone that plays instruments for our next concert in the fall,” he said.
A limited budget — his estimate puts an approximately $100,000 price tag on a typical CCC show — also influences who CCC decides to bring to campus.
“We usually try to set ticket prices so they roundabout cover the artist’s price. So we’re hopefully selling 5,000 tickets at around $20, and that gives you an idea of what we spend,” he said.
Availability of desired artists also poses another major obstacle when selecting musical acts, according to Rodriguez. He said music festivals on the West Coast proved a hindrance to CCC’s efforts to attract artists to Cornell last spring.
Additionally, “some artists just won’t play colleges, and there’s nothing you can do about it,” he said.
In the meantime, Rodriguez said, CCC is open to suggestions.