Frost Revival could show venue’s viability

Prospective freshmen attended a concert in Frost Amphitheater during Admit Weekend. Stanford Concert Network is hosting a Frost Revival on May 19 and hopes to use the facility more in the future. Event ticket sales broke even in less than 24 hours, and tickets are still available. (ALISA ROYER/The Stanford Daily)

The May 19 Frost Revival show may demonstrate that events at Frost Amphitheater are more financially and logistically viable. The amphitheater, which used to host such acts as the Grateful Dead, has seen less frequent use over the last decade, largely because of the high cost to operate the venue.

Stanford Concert Network (SCN) leaders, however, hope that the revival show can make this year a kickstarter for future events, according to Alberto Aroeste ‘13, co-director of SCN.

The concert will feature Modest Mouse, with opening acts Eyes Lips Eyes and Benjamin Francis Leftwich. SCN Co-director Stephen Trusheim ‘13 said the Frost Revival broke even in under 24 hours.

“We fundraised diligently and have been coordinating the revival for months now because our vision is to bring Frost Amphitheater to the forefront of people’s minds when they think of our school, both at Stanford and beyond,” Aroeste wrote in an email to The Daily.

He added that the vision of the SCN is to expand its presence increasingly each year so that it can create a sustainable model of using Frost from year to year.

Elaine Enos, executive director of the Office of Special Events and Protocol, which works with Frost, said that breaking even can be complicated for the venue.

“With Frost at its current ‘picnic’ capacity for this event (a mix of standing and sitting on blankets) of 5,400, it helps to have upwards of one-third to one-half or more in attendance with tickets reflecting general public pricing,” Enos wrote in an email to The Daily.

She added that it is not a one-size-fits-all process to hit a break-even point at Frost. “The idea is to get a band that people will pay to see, especially at general public prices, to help offset these expenses as much as possible,” she wrote.

Enos said that the process often becomes complicated because drawing artists of interest to students often costs more. Organizers have to weigh increased cost against increased student interest when determining ticket prices and projected sales.

“It deals sometimes with having to ‘predict the future’ in some cases,” Enos wrote.

Operating costs for Frost are not inexpensive, according to Enos. The cost of a high-profile concert with a very basic design that includes no video or lights, and the most minimal structural and staffing levels, runs from about $95,000 to $150,000, not including any artist fees.

“Headliner bands of interest and high popularity run into the six figures pretty easily now, plus travel expenses in many cases [can add to the cost],” Enos wrote.

Trusheim said that a headlining artist like Modest Mouse can cost between $80,000 and $120,000 depending on how much they ask for travel, food and other expenses.

She added that these bands tend to need or want more structural surroundings like lights or stage structures, which can potentially raise expenses.

According to Enos, many students have expressed interested in seeing more events in Frost. Such interest has been expressed on many levels throughout the undergraduate and graduate student population.

“The members of the Stanford Concert Network and other interested students have spent a lot of their personal time contributing and developing the look and feel that you’ll see at this year’s Frost Revival,” she wrote.

“We have not seen a concert of this size in nearly 10 years,” she added. “The last time there was a concert of any size in Frost during the academic year with students as the main audience was in 2006, and the attendance was extremely low.”

Mos Def was the headliner for the 2006 show.

Enos added that she expects to see well over 4,000 in total attendance for this year’s show, with the majority being students.

Enos wrote that Frost is not just used during Admit Weekend and New Student Orientation. The venue is also used for the Annual University Diversity Spring Faire, the GSB Students Annual C4C event and several other dinners and reception-style gatherings for very large events that departments or schools may sponsor.

“This year, Blackfest will be held for the first time in the amphitheater,” Enos wrote. “The event has been growing every year and is expecting even more students and general public this year, which creates a great opportunity to utilize space.”

She added that future events and other potential concerts are being reviewed and researched, but that it is important to be pragmatic about budgets.

“It’s about making sure that a proposed event is right for Frost as well,” she wrote, adding that some events are better served within smaller venues.

SCN is hopeful that it will be able to manage these costs to greatly expand Frost’s use in the future.

“Frost Revival will be the one event that started it all, the one festival that made it possible and paved the way for future large-scale concerts at Stanford University,” Aroeste wrote.